On PechaKuchas & Competitions & PowerPoints




Given that the PechaKucha competition is new to RTC, I thought it would be good to BLOG a bit about the particulars to help get you started.

There are some guidelines to keep in mind

Select your topic well: It needs to be exciting enough to really grab people’s attention. Of course the over-arching topic is chosen for you for our competition, but how you approach the theme of (inspiring) Collaboration will be the thing that sets you apart.

Select your images well: Your images are really the centerpiece of any PechaKucha. Use them to make a point, tie a story together, or establish a theme.

Avoid text, and especially bullet points: Yes, you are using PowerPoint as a container for your images, but a PechaKucha is not a PowerPoint “presentation”. Use text sparingly to make a point, and use bullet points even more sparingly or not at all.

Memorize your key points, not a script: A PechaKucha is an “off the cuff” presentation, not Shakespeare. If you try to memorize word for word what you are going to say, almost certainly you will make mistakes, and it will take a lot longer to prepare as well. Instead, know your material well and memorize your key points & about where you need to make them.

I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise that these key points also apply to presenting a full session. In many ways, a great RTC session is just a great PechaKucha, with some “demonstrations” thrown in to replace some images, or some extended dialog with your audience that you don’t have time for in just 6:40.

You can find some good examples at PechaKucha.org, and a search for PechaKucha on Google turns up some good resources about making them, as well as good examples. And Vimeo offers even more examples.


Lastly, we are asking for you to provide a PowerPoint with included audio, which may be something many of you have not done before, so lets look at the technical aspects in a little more detail (using PowerPoint 2013 here, but other versions will also work).


Image size

Starting with the images themselves, you want them to be 1920×1080. Any larger is wasted and slows down your slide show, and any smaller doesn’t look good when scaled up for the projector . You also want to give some thought to what file format you use. For photographs and photo-real renderings JPG is a good choice. But JPG is a “lossy” kind of compression, so images with large areas of single color can get blurry. This makes JPG a bad format for line work, screen captures and most non-photo real images. For these you will have better results with PNGs. And indeed, if you just use PNGs for everything you’ll probably be fine, just realize that converting a JPG to a PNG doesn’t magically bring back lost information.

Also, if you are going to include any text, it is better to do that in PowerPoint, not in your images themselves. You are likely to find yourselves removing text as you go along (see point 3 above) so doing it in powerPoint is much more flexible.


Slide size

Once you have all your images, start a new PowerPoint from the Blank Presentation template and make sure it is in 16:9 format by going to the Design tab and checking Slide Size. It should be Widescreen (16:9).

One thing you will notice is that powerPoint assumes you will be doing lots of text, in the usual PowerPoint format of a header and bullet points. But again, for a PechaKucha you want the image to be the focus, so I typically just delete the text, then add it back in later in the rare cases I really need it. I also like to copy this empty slide so I don’t have to delete the text over and over.

Now drag & drop your first image on the first slide, and it should fit perfectly. Sometimes having text there makes this troublesome, so another reason to just delete it first. Different versions of PowerPoint can behave differently in this respect.



If you are choosing to keep the text for now, you will need to send the image behind the text. Simply select the image and use the Send to Back option under Arrange in the Format tab. Or right click and Send to Back.



Once you have all your slides built, you can select all of them, go to the Transitions tab, and set Advance Slide to After 00:20.00. You can also chose a transition type, but again, to keep the focus on the images themselves, you may want to avoid the temptation of using specialized transitions. I find None or Cut work best, or perhaps a Fade. You can do some subtle things, like using a Fade to transition between big ideas, with a Cut between images that are part of a single idea. Just don’t let the transitions become the focus.


Now you have a PechaKucha ready PowerPoint, but there is one more step to have an RTC PechaKucha competition entry. We need to have your spoken presentation too, for determining the three finalists.

Insert Audio

You have two options here, both found in the Insert tab, under Audio. If you select Record Audio, you can record your Voice Over right here in PowerPoint. However, when you do that you don’t get the benefit of following your slides. I prefer to record the sound separately using Sound Recorder, which is found in the Accessories folder of the Start Menu. Just start the sound recording, then immediately start your PowerPoint as a slideshow and proceed with your PechaKucha. When done you stop the recording and save it do the desktop, then drag and drop the file on your first slide, or use the Audio on My PC option in the menu.

And, I should mention the issue of microphones here. For some uses you might want to get a really good external microphone and be concerned about audio quality, but here we really just want to hear what you have to say and see how you handle the pacing and format of a PechaKucha. The only people who will ever hear this audio is the Committee as we decide on finalists, so as long as we can understand you, the audio is fine. When the finalists present to the Delegates they will do it live, with this audio removed.

At this point you have an audio file associated with the first slide, which be visible in your slide show, requires that you start it, and stops when you move to the next slide. All in all not very useful.

Audio settings

To fix this, select the audio icon on the slide, then choose the Playback tab under Audio Tools and ensure that Start is set to Automatically, Play Across Slides is set, as is Hide During Show, all of which are toggled on by selecting the Play in Background Audio Style.

You can also trim the ends of the audio, if you took a bit of time to get your slide show started or stopped after you started recording.

Now you have a PowerPoint ready to ZIP up and upload to your competition entry Dropbox folder, which you can request with the link at the bottom of the competitions page.

I hope this rather wordy post has been helpful in getting you started. Now, go out and make an (awesome) PechaKucha!

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