I was warned. It wouldn’t be easy. But what I experienced in that space shuttle would teach me one of the most valuable life lessons.
PeCHA KuCHA: The sound of “chit chat”
Originating in Japan, and taking place in cities all around the world, speakers share their stories with a slideshow of 20 photos, each showing for 20 seconds. In April I had the pleasure of participating in this unique event with my story entitled “What I learned from my mission to Mars.”
I volunteered to speak because I saw it as an opportunity to stretch – to practice and grow in a few different ways:
The most valuable skills, regardless of your job or environment, involve communication. The 2 most universally valuable are persuasion and public speaking. In order to continually improve, I’m always looking for opportunities to speak. When I’m at the front of the room, I’m usually leading a training or workshop, so PechaKucha allowed me to have a little more fun and flexibility, and to get out of my comfort zone a bit. I got to choose the topic and the message with only 2 restrictions: It had to match 20 slides at 20 seconds each (6min 40sec total), and it couldn’t be a sales pitch.
Those of you who know me well know I’m an introvert who rarely shows much enthusiasm, so I purposefully chose a story that would not work unless I told it with enthusiasm – forcing me to stretch and get a little uncomfortable.
One of my favorite things about NLP is the study of language patterns – using certain words and phrases, and structuring your message to communicate with the subconscious mind, as well as the conscious. While the average listener will say “Oh, it’s about roller coasters… but not really. It’s about a lot of things, I guess,” NLP nerds and students of my Influence & Impact course will be able to spot a some of those patterns in my story.
I’m constantly playing with those language patterns, working them into my speech intentionally so that they start to come out automatically and effectively, and I thoroughly enjoyed planning this talk around them.
It’s a personal hangup I’ve had… Whether it’s a 2 minute talk, or a 2 day workshop, the only thing that gets me nervous around the idea of public speaking is the timing. I never know if I’m going to go over, or way under, and I haven’t yet figured out how to tell by the content I have planned. The only way I’ve had any certainty with this ahead of time was if I had every word scripted, and tested for timing… but every scripted or written word costs you connection with the audience, so I knew I would have to overcome my timing anxiety a different way.
This event was a great opportunity to work with that – Not only did I have to finish right at 6:40, but ideally I also needed to keep pace with the changing slides every 20 seconds. I won’t say it was easy… I spent half a day trying to figure out whether to put the slideshow together first, or figure out what I was going to say first. I eventually settled on the slideshow, because it would be just enough structure for me to improvise the rest around.
Once the 20 slides were set and submitted, I loosely outlined what I wanted to say. Then I memorized the order of the slides, and then just practiced telling my story in the order of the slides. Eventually, after I got the big pieces in place, I started practicing with the timing. I got an app on my phone called Tabata Timer which gave me audio cues every 20 seconds, and just told the story. Every time I heard a beep, I knew it was time to move on to the next slide, and that allowed me to practice without script or notes, allowed the story to change with each run-through, and gave me an unconscious sense of the timing.
Making a mark in London
I knew I would only be in London for a short while. Being around amazing people, being involved in the local community, I saw this as a way to leave something behind, to give some kind of positive message, and to be remembered. Maybe it comes down to some deep desire to satisfy my ego, some need for significance… but it’s also about connection, and being a part of the family – and I definitely felt all of that as a result of participating.
FYI – You can see past and upcoming Pecha Kucha events in London HERE.
This post is part of a series on my experiences in London Ontario. Click Here to see the rest.