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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Guildford Pecha Kucha Night 3

Pecha Kucha is a simple concept. The speaker prepares 20 slides, which advance at 20-second intervals throughout his or her talk.  No going back, no over-running, just 6 minutes and 40 seconds to get your point across.

It sounds a simple-enough challenge; until, 2 days before your speech and after you've submitted your slides you fire-up PowerPoint and attempt a dry run in the comfort of your own home...

As it turns out, there's no substitute for the adrenaline of a live audience to get you through!

Several failed attempts to avoid stumbling or losing my train of reasoning in the lead-up to last night's event at Guildford County School melted away as I launched into my rambling monologue; questioning why our education system encourages students to specialise in either arts, humanities or science - overlooking those who want to remain more rounded; pertinent, given a rise in multidisciplinary careers.

Benjamin Ellis:
- on computers and natural language understanding
In fact, speaking to some of the other speakers afterwards, I wasn't alone in my pre-show worries.  A tip for anyone attempting Pecha Kucha: assuming you know your subject, come the night, you'll be fine.

Your rehearsal may go appallingly, but once you're up in front of the friendly and supportive crowd it just happens, and it's a real buzz!

Multidisciplinarity was my chosen subject, which was somewhat fitting, since Pecha Kucha nights are excellent forums (yes, forums, not fora, since my first language is English, not Latin!) for those who want to learn a little bit about a wide range of subjects without the risk of being bored for hours as a speaker goes into great detail on a topic you have no interest in.

Last night I heard 7 truly excellent talks on a wide range of subjects.  All the speakers had put a great deal of care into their slides and clearly had a passion for their chosen topics, which made for a really entertaining evening for all. 

We heard, in (approximate!) order of appearance:
  • Ilse Howling, a trustee of Unicef, with an emotive talk about Namibia, poverty, orphans and a generation lost to Aids
  • Professor Dick Moody on palaeontology, and how he has recently had time to re-discover his passion after a spell working for big industry
  • Shaun Kenyon, talking about budget satellites and his contribution towards a mission to put a communications satellite in space for the benefit of UK schools and other scientific and educational purposes
  • Sam Milletti on film-making, and how despite being a generally happy person, his films tend to focus on darker themes
  • Me, on the need for multi-disciplinary skilled people, especially in emerging technology jobs, and how it isn't always a good idea to encourage children to focus on either science, art or humanities at A-level
  • Rob Anderson, with a light but pertinent take on the dire state of mainstream music and lyricists, drawing distinctions between the works of great poets and  Bruno Mars
  • Jules Carter, on life in Tokyo. From Japanese culture to love hotels and public indecency on the underground; suicide, to unlocked bicycles, to a love of a city
  • Benjamin Ellis, describing some of the challenges a computer faces when tasked with deciphering many of the ambiguities of natural language, together with an interesting slant on how marketing companies are "fishing" to retrieve and make sense of personal data posted on social networks
A big thanks and congratulations to everyone, in particular our host and organiser of Guildford PKN Simon Strong from Human Zoo.  The next Guildford PKN will be held on 10th May 2011, at The Refectory, Guildford Cathedral.  Sign up here.

In addition, Digital Surrey will be hosting a separate one-off "Digital" Pecha Kucha night on 20th April, with the kind help and support of Simon, Human Zoo and pecha-kucha.org.  If you want to pitch for a slot in this please get in touch.


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