by By Michael J. Shapiro | October 01, 2009

1009SC Percha KuchaSometimes self-imposed limits can stimulate creativity, not hinder it. Consider haiku, for example -- or Pecha Kucha, a constrained, quick-draw presentation format now gaining popularity.  

Developed in 2003 by two Tokyo-based architects, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, Pecha Kucha (pronounced "pe-chak-cha," the Japanese equivalent of "chit-chat") has hard-and-fast ground rules: Each presentation must consist of exactly 20 slides or images, with each slide shown for 20 seconds. Therefore, each presenter has just six minutes and 40 seconds to deliver the message.

What began as a quirky way for architects and designers to share their work with colleagues has since spread among countless disciplines in 226 cities around the globe, according to, which helps facilitate the organization of regular Pecha Kucha nights. Such evenings can be beer-fueled affairs featuring graphic designers, punk bands, scientists and businessfolk on the same bill. But the unconventional approach can be equally successful in the boardroom.

"I think it's a great way to run meetings," says business coach Jeff Sansone, who participated in his first Pecha Kucha night this summer in Portsmouth, N.H. "It turns the rules of business presentations upside-down." Sansone, who formerly was a corporate trainer for a high-tech firm, points to the traditional workplace presentation guidelines: "Our rule of thumb was one slide for every five minutes. This totally breaks with those conventions -- get to the point, then open it up for discussion. A six-minute presentation offers a much greater opportunity for discussion."