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Experimenting with my comfort edge....

Playing with Pecha-Kucha: 5 min presentation with 20 slides moved automatically, as a series of provocations to a room full of HR professionals

In adult learning we know emotional experiences can enhance learning and memory, and in September 2023 I tested that theory by speaking at an event hosted by Hult DisruptHR that was, for me, a new (and rather terrifying) format... 'PechaKucha' as a format was new to me, but I learned it meant a series of speakers each giving 5 mins talk with 20 slides which move automatically every 20 seconds (or 15 seconds in our case!)), and at various intervals the audience connect with each other, the speakers and the topics.

What drew me was the sense of connecting a diverse set of both people and ideas in a short period of time, some thing that felt both relevant and critical in a more complex and interconnected world rife with siloes and fragmented groups. I will be honest though and admit I found the idea of the format equally intriguing and terrifying - the pace and automated slide movement in particular - but I was also curious that I felt strangely willing to challenge myself to try something new. 

I love the concept of sharing short soundbites, and seeing how they resonate or connect with other soundbites, and in a big group trying to reflect and make sense through a myriad of conversations. And after that night I also know what it takes to put yourself out there to offer one something new - which felt both brave and exhilarating, but I think important that we each step in to experiment with what connecting in different ways might look and feel like to better enable cross-fertilisation of many different ideas and people.

As you might expect, I learned there is a way to do these type of events well and I took away several lessons, particularly around simplifying my approach were I to do a similar event in future. Many of the other more seasoned PechaKecha speakers understood the power of imagery (over text), and particularly caricatures, more than I'd anticipated! Next time, I would pick only one or 2 points given the time.

I chose to speak about power, and my experience of how it shows up in conversations that matter in our organisations today - conversations that involve some degree of trasnformation, such as sustainability, equity, the economy and cost-of-living challenges. I also spoke to the importance of HR and our senior leaders in helping close what I perceive as 'gaps' in power - that make these conversations even harder.

For those that are interested in how it went, here's the link. It took me months to bring myself to watch it (hence so late in publishing this blog!) but with the gap of time I can appreciate this more than I felt on the night. It was gone in a flash which meant it was hard to process in my body or my brain at the time. Certainly the experience is logged as an emotional one, but I think my memory may have gone offline with the adrenaline!

Thanks to those that joined in the audience, and who have since watched it online - I feel a little less cringey watching it back now and I'm also proud that I pushed myself. What I really enjoyed were the conversations before and after with the audience as we reflected on how power shows up in organisational life.

We had some great speakers and a really varied set of topics relevant to HR and organisations - from AI, to future of organisations, climate & sustainability, and questions that enable innovation, amongst many others. There was even a dog and a reflection on HR through the analogy of wrestling training 🤼 (with costume :))

Thanks also to Steve Foulger for such a positive and warm welcome, and to Bill Banham and Siân Harrington for organising the evening, hosted by Hult International Business School.  Oliver Anderson and Laura Buttigieg persuaded me to try the event and I'm glad I did - so thanks to Ollie and Laura for nudging me!

Well done to all the speakers and thanks for the invite - it was a night I won't forget anytime soon!


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