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The only subjects that are off limits, according to Schaffer, are sales presentations and porn. “One company sent us what was literally their sales pitch. We said, ‘We’re sorry, that’s not what PechaKucha is about.’ We don’t want to have advertisements.”

“The presentations that are sales pitches never work,” says McCullough. “People see right through them, even when [presenters] are trying to be creative. A while back, we had a guy from a reprographics company present on the use of color in graphic presentations so they print well. I found it fascinating and helpful, but the bottom line was that he was trying to sell his print services — people saw it as sales-pitchy. That kind of stuff flops.”

When pressed to pick her least favorite presentation, Schaffer recalls one that came across as “condescending.” The talk, given by Felena Hanson, was about social media, her slides mostly composed of snapshots taken from various personal profiles on social-media outlets like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Dave Brown, who emceed that night, remembers Hanson’s presentation. “Why make it about yourself?” he said. “It should be about giving to others, not scoring new leads for your business. When people use Facebook, or any medium just to promote, that’s not someone I would want to work with. I applaud her for having the balls to get up there. But I do remember that presentation and feeling, like, ugh. It wasn’t interesting, and the intentions were weak.”

I contacted Hanson, who happens to be among my Facebook friends. “I had never been to an architectural-foundation meeting or any PechaKucha event,” she said. “It’s not a community I typically run with.” It was McCullough’s wife who asked Hanson to present. “The architectural-development community is weighted toward the male population.” McCullough’s wife told Hanson that she had been charged with finding a “smart woman” to present. “I don’t want to say I was the token woman, but I kind of felt like that.”

Hanson found presenting on anything to be a challenge. “I went online and watched YouTube clips to try to get a better idea [for topics]. One guy [a previous presenter] got in a car accident and shared pictures — they were very off-topic presentations, which I thought was kind of odd. If someone’s going to go to that type of event, you want to get some value out of it.”

Hanson profiled her prospective audience based on what she knew of her friend’s colleagues. “In general, in the development and architectural community, it’s an older segment — you need a considerable amount of education to get into that field.” Hanson assumed the majority of her audience would be ignorant of the importance of online branding, a relatively new concept, so she decided to present some of the tips she might give at one of her local networking groups. “In my business, I meet men and women in their 40s and 50s, and the classic comment is, ‘I don’t get all that [social-networking stuff], what is that.’”

When teaching at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, or presenting for the SCORE Women’s Breakfast, Hanson can expound for up to an hour; she prefers to make presentations interactive. “In PechaKucha, you’re unable to do that. I struggled with what value I could provide these 100–150 people in six minutes — something they can learn from and take from, as opposed to ‘my car accident.’”

The automatic timing of the slides proved difficult for Hanson, who had wrongly assumed she’d have control over the mouse. “I thought I was going to be able to advance faster on one, maybe spend 25 seconds on another,” she said. “It’s easier when you’re presenting to control that timing, to be able to tell a quick story before you have to advance to the next slide. That was the biggest challenge — it was 20 seconds and you’re on to the next slide. When I was done, I was, like, that was terrible, I totally hated it. It wasn’t comfortable for me, but I had people approach me after and say they enjoyed it.”

Hanson does not expect to return to a PechaKucha night. “For me, and I hope it doesn’t sound selfish, but I’m always making sure that where I’m spending my time is going to be valuable for making any kind of connection.”

Back at the Whistle Stop, I spotted Stacy Keck, who was in line to present that evening, and waved. A budget analyst, Keck hopes one day to be supported by her budding side gig as a photographer. “I can’t stand my job,” she admits. “I stare at spreadsheets all day, it’s kind of torture. That’s why I search out things like PechaKucha, to supplement and inspire my creativity.”

Keck learned about the event from Dave Brown, who is both a friend and her “creative mentor.” She’s attended nearly all the presentations since Brown’s first night emceeing in April 2009.

“Sometimes it’s a great collection [of presenters], sometimes not,” Keck said. “One that stands out was an engineer, a woman who spoke about ten seconds per slide — you’re supposed to speak for 20 seconds — and she just kind of stood there, and there was all this dead air. It was a little uncomfortable for everybody, secondhand embarrassment to the max. My goal is to not do that.”

When we first spoke, Keck had yet to choose her topic. “It will definitely have something to do with photography and things that inspire me,” she said. “I’m not big on tooting my own horn, especially since I’ve only been doing this for about a year. But I’d like to show other people’s work that inspires me to go out and make some awesome.” Keck’s biggest concern? “Filling that 20 seconds.”

Though Brown had tried to get Keck to present before, it wasn’t until his going-away party at the Starlite lounge (a few days before he moved to New York to head up the social-media department for the internet craft market Etsy) that Keck, prodded by Schaffer, finally agreed. Now, with a drink in her hand and a few friends beside her, Keck didn’t seem nervous as she awaited her turn onstage.

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Comments

InOmbra Jan. 12, 2011 @ 2:41 p.m.

Blackson, a nice, chubby, friendly neighbor, lives and works in North Park, not South Park. He makes money by selling urbanization plans. Google him and "Ramona," for an idea of what he does in these lean times for architects. You might not find it so cool.

For two reasons, he has inserted himself in the Greater Golden Hill Community Plan Update, even though he doesn't live in the district.

1) He has joined a group of SP and GH realtors, developers, and business owners south of Juniper who support and promote the City's pending change of Land Use Code that allows building of second units on single-family residential parcels. Good business for them, bad for the rest of us who don't want infill and density in our quiet neighborhoods.

2) He has joined with the SP Business Group (realtors and business owners) in asking the City to take a part of Greater North Park (where Blackson lives) north of Juniper and place it in Greater Golden Hill, so that the SPBG fans can be said to be located in "South Park" (they already claim that, when they can, but they are all North Parkers)- mainly to create a Business Improvement District along 30th, that certain SP people can control.

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Barbarella Fokos Jan. 12, 2011 @ 5:47 p.m.

@Sara, thank you! The next PechaKucha event is NEXT THURSDAY at Quality Social downtown. I'll be on NBC/KNSD News in the Morning tomorrow at 6:45 a.m. to discuss this piece and offer a taste of what it's like!

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myles Jan. 13, 2011 @ 9:09 a.m.

I came across this story after Googling my name...

Sorry that Ms. Barbarella didn't enjoy my presentation. Speaking isn't my strong suit, at least it sounded like you enjoyed the images. You left points of my presentation that I felt were more personal & story telling in the presentation– such as my head being split open by my water housing or the pain and fear of swimming out in 48 degree water at dawn on a cold winters morning. Oh well, maybe next time you can interview me as you did for some of the other participants. It's all good. Cheers and good on ya.

Good to go- Myles McGuinness

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Ponzi Jan. 14, 2011 @ 5:48 a.m.

I read this long story and I want at least my 6 minutes and 40 seconds back. If people can't sell something at these, why bother? Sounds like a waste of time. A mutual admiration society for bored people who want to meet, share photoshopped power-points and have an excuse to drink on a weeknight.

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fhanson Jan. 14, 2011 @ 7:14 a.m.

I'm sorry some felt my presentation at PechaKucha was condescending or self promoting. My intention was in no way to drum up business, but was simply to present a concept that I thought would be helpful: the importance of building an online presence. My slides were meant to demonstrate that through telling my personal story of online branding… the message being - be passionate about what you do, get involved in your local community, and your brand will build from there. Welcome to take a peek at http://slidesha.re/hhSZs9

Clearly I was not able to convey that message in 6 minutes, which perhaps means I’m a bad presenter… so be it. I was sort of thrown into the line-up last minute and was unsure what content would be valuable to the community. Obviously I should have attended an event before agreeing to present.

Perhaps I might be invited back some day (doubt it) to present on a project I’m also passionate about… http://www.ArtMeetsFashion.org.

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Nikki Jan. 20, 2011 @ 9:35 a.m.

Felena, I was at the Pecha Kucha where you presented, and thought that you had the right kind of energy. My friend even commented to me how although she's tech savvy, until seeing your talk, hadn't realized how many social networking and marketing outlets exist.

I didn't feel like your talk was simple self-promotion. Rather it was more telling people "this is the world we live in now, and (whether you like it or not) you have online presence so you may as well manage "you" as a brand." Designing "you" is design even if it doesn't involve architectural structures, and therefore topical to the content of Pecha Kucha.

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Ponzi Jan. 14, 2011 @ 8:41 a.m.

Felena, I'd like to look at your presentation. But when I cliked on your link it directed to a log-in for LinkedUp. I don't use LinkedUp. Is that the only way to view it?

Also, I wouldn't get too worked up over "PechaKucha." Many Japanese fads wash ashore in the U.S., few (like karaoke) stick around.

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SDAF Jan. 16, 2011 @ 11:18 p.m.

Ponzi - We encourage you to attend a PechaKucha Night, and bet you'd find that passion and creativity are much more compelling than sales pitches.

Felina - haven't had time to respond to your note but have most definitely not forgotten. For now though, thank you. We'd be most pleased to have you back to hear about Art Meets Fashion!

For everyone interested in checking it out, here's the 411 on San Diego's next PechaKucha Night, Volume 10, coming up next Thursday night:

Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=174021009302506.

For info on presenting, etc.check out the PKN page on San Diego Architectural Foundation site: http://www.sdarchitecture.org/pecha-kucha-night

International PKN site: http://www.pecha-kucha.org/night/san-diego/10

Hope to see you there!

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Ponzi Jan. 17, 2011 @ 8:32 a.m.

Leslee, you might be right. I used to enjoy bowling. Got to hang out with friends. The best part was the game. Throw the ball, sit down have a beer, throw the ball again, sit down and have another beer. At a PechaKucha Night I don't even have to stand up and throw the ball, just sit there and drink beer.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 17, 2011 @ 3:38 p.m.

Leslee, you might be right. I used to enjoy bowling. Got to hang out with friends. The best part was the game

When I was going to school in East Lansing MI, the big thing to do on the weekends (zero degrees outside and 5 feet of snow) was go bowling, 20 or 30 of us- we loved it, so much.

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