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XML 2006 Conference Boston - Pecha Kucha

xml2006.jpgWe went to Boston for the XML Conference 2006 from December 5-7. I got invited by Michael Smith from Opera to do a co-presentation together with him and so I prepared a talk on the Mobile Web and XML, mostly focusing on Mobile AJAX, but more on that in a separate post.

The first day of the conference featured a Vendor PechaKucha Night, which Michael had proposed to the conference committee and which he moderated together with me. I want to share some insights to this experience here.

The concept of Pecha Kucha is pretty simple - it is a special type of presentation where every speaker brings 20 slides and gets 20 seconds to present every slide. This results in 6 minutes and 40 seconds of presentation time and thus helps to keep the audience interested - add the fun the audience has when the presenter runs out of time on a slide and some free beer sponsored by JustSystems and you have an interesting and funny night.
Many of the presenters handed in their slides in the last half hour before the presentations started, there were also some last-minute changes to the order of presenters. As a result the first presentation started and ended after 10 seconds, because the presenter had handed in the wrong slides - we continued with the second presenter - it was really funny.
Unfortunately we did not know what an effect 3 presentations from the same company in a row can have, especially being vendor presentations. So we ended up loosing many people in the audience because it got a little boring.

I found it particularly bad that the presenters pitching their company’s products to the audience this way were leaving after they were done with their talk. So the audience, that initially was about 60 people (the event started late and after free beer), had shrunken almost by half at the end of the session.

Another lesson learned was that it is just ideal if presenters set up their slides so that they skip to the next one automatically after 20 seconds, this saves a lot of hassle for the moderator who otherwise has to make sure that he changes slides every 20 seconds manually.
Also it should be made sure that there are really 20 different slides in a presentation and not 10 slides with headings and content appearing every few seconds - this can lead to unexpected skipping of content, as it was the case with the last presentation of the day. The presenter there ended up having only about 4 minutes in total, because I manually changed slides and did it in a way so that every 20 seconds there was a complete new slide, not just a new element on one slide.

There were some highlights in terms of the way people did their presentations. Especially Ken Holman of Crane Softwrights managed to grasp the audience’s attention by demanding that everybody say “ping” whenever a slide changes, so he didn’t need to look back to the screen.

Overall the Pecha Kucha night was a cool event. The format of the presentation really keeps the audience interested and there are many laughs and funny situations only because 20 minutes appear much longer when creating the presentation than when you actually do it. It was too bad there were not many more people attending.

I really hope I will have a chance to do another Pecha Kucha event sometime.