A beautiful testimonial by PechaKucha presenter Sonia Kar
So it began! The moment had come for me to take the stage. Rodrigo, one of the enthusiastic hosts of the evening, had started giving a grand introduction about what I was going to speak about in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds on PechaKucha Maastricht Vol 31, being held at the prestigious Sint Janskerk. What would I say? Would I be able to keep pace with the 20 seconds timer on each slide or would I just make a mess of it? Would I be able to convey my story effectively?
Actually all these questions crossed my mind some two months ago when I heard about PechaKucha 20X20 presentation format using picture slides. Bit intimidating that one has to convey adequately in 20 slides with a 20 sec/slide speed, but the concept was so terrific that I had to give it a try. My application as a guest speaker took some screening considering PechaKucha was celebrating the 40th anniversary of Maastricht University. However I handled the screening questions with the same passion as I would be doing while speaking (I in fact felt I was already on stage). To my joy, I was informed that the very talented PechaKucha team had selected me.
Next came the daunting task of preparing the slides – setting my story right, hunting for the appropriate pictures for the slides. That actually was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Though it called for some iterations, lots of “gentle” reminders and patience from PechaKucha team members especially Zhen (thank you for bearing with all the stupid questions which came your way). However, the issues were faced when I thought of practising. Just two days left for the event, I was making a mess. I remember the first time I practised – the entire 20 slides (each with 20 seconds) were over and I had not finished half of my story! I was always gifted with this art of talking a lot and not being precise. That would definitely be put to the test now. So then came the phase of cutting it short and making it just fit within 20 seconds. The next time I practised, I finished the story when I was in slide 10! The pressure of finishing the story was high so I missed mentioning half of the points which I had to. With some iterations I was ultimately there.
On the D-day, when we reached Sint Janskerk - it was a packed house. The stage was set and rows of chairs were placed perfectly surrounding the stage. There were at least 300 people. I was trying to find familiar faces (as that would boost my confidence– human psychology as talking to known people is less of a stress than addressing unknown people) but there were hardly any. Then came the reassuring words from my husband – “You have spoken at a gathering of 100 people before. Speaking to 100 people and 300 people will feel the same”. Feeling a bit relaxed by his remark, I went and chose a comfortable spot.
What I loved the most was the concept of starting with the programme at 20:20. All the speakers were outstanding, the topics and their stories were thought-provoking. There were a lot of ideas and energies which were brought in. The audience (I being a part of it too) was completely enlightened and very enthusiastic. The more I watched the speakers, the more tensed I became. It was already intimidating to match the standards set by the speakers. But I was banking on the audience, if I falter or forget something they will clap and cheer me for that too :)
Then came my turn. Rodrigo announced my name and yes, I was on stage. What was playing in my mind in the first two seconds – “Wow, that’s a lot of people looking at me, how do I engage with them? Oops, watch your posture, where are your hands, oh no, I have a microphone, what were the first lines? Ah forget it, just be yourself”. (Yeah, mind is faster than light, all this I thought in two seconds)
And that’s what happened for the next 6 minutes 40 seconds – I was myself. I spoke about how we had come up with HomeHandi, an online platform which connects passionate cooks to food lovers like us and provides healthy home cooked food options. The most interesting part of the talk was when I started speaking about our learnings. I could feel an immediate connection with the audience. The one on how we could empower most of the cooks who were women homemakers by boosting their self-confidence and making them financially independent was appreciated by everyone. By the time I spoke about how we realised that people from various cultures unite or bond together over food, I was completely at ease. “Food is a universal language and we see it as an enabler to connect people from various countries i.e. expats, students and locals together. That is exactly what we saw happening in our flagship event – International Food Festival held in Maastricht. Why not make Maastricht city as one of the pioneers in forming a culturally inclusive community?” While saying all this, it really did not hit me that I was at this grand location or event. I felt as if it was a normal chit-chat which I was having with a group of friends of mine (PechaKucha actually signifies chit-chat). I spoke without any inhibitions and my passion controlled my speech. I enjoyed thoroughly those 6 minutes and 40 seconds which came my way.
At the end of the event I was approached by many familiar faces – familiar as I had seen them from the podium so now they were no more unfamiliar to me. I felt that PechaKucha gave me that platform to bring out the confidence in me, helped me to approach and interact with so many people, gave me the opportunity to enlighten myself. The informal way of story-telling with pictures is something very unique and very heart warming. Thank you PechaKucha for my 6 minutes and 40 seconds :)
By Sonia Kar, HomeHandi