Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #7

Edmonton’s seventh Pecha Kucha Night took place this evening at the Citadel Theatre in the wonderful Maclab Theatre. There were probably a little over 400 people in attendance, the vast majority of whom had never been to PKN before. I think I may as well just get right to it: PKN7 was a huge improvement over PKN6, and reaffirms to me that this event can be great!

All of the presenters brought their A-game tonight. In order of appearance, and with their topic titles:

  1. Gregg Oldring, Designing a Business
  2. Darryl Plunkie, Phobias
  3. Daniel Tse, Accessibility Technology
  4. Zoe Todd, Edmonton as an Aboriginal City
  5. Alistair Henning, Photographs Create Our Collective Visual Idea of Place
  6. Don Iveson, Brick by Brick: Lego & Urban Design
  7. Tamara Stecyk, Expressions of Hunger Online Photo & Poetry Contest
  8. Mack Male, Local Action Global Recognition
  9. Jason Openo, Leadership Edmonton
  10. Tad and Arlen, Improv!

It actually wasn’t Arlen (he couldn’t make it), but I can’t remember the name of his replacement. You can follow all of the presenters with Twitter accounts here.

After the debacle that was PKN6, it was refreshing to see 9 presentations with very little self-promotion. There were also very few umms, ahhs, and awkward pauses. I thought all of the talks were true to the spirit of Pecha Kucha – to share ideas that are inspiring or interesting or perhaps controversial, and that spark a conversation.

Pecha Kucha Night 7

Without a doubt my favorite talk of the evening was Don Iveson’s (and I think most everyone in the audience would agree with me on that). He used Lego to share some ideas about urban planning and the kind of built form that he would like to see in Edmonton. It was smart, funny, and well-presented, as expected from Don! A close second for me was Daniel Tse’s talk on accessibility technology. He did such a good job of relating it to the audience, and so many of the people I talked to tonight were excited to learn more and to get involved. He also tweeted during his talk using an automated thing he had setup before the event – such a great idea! I agree with John that Tamara’s talk was the most emotional – her passion really shone through. I think Zoe’s talk made me want to learn more about her topic the most. As for my talk, I thought it went quite well, and I received lots of positive feedback on it. More on that in my next post.

Some other thoughts on the evening:

  • Our hosts, Ryan Stark and Brian Murray, did a great job of welcoming everyone and keeping the evening flowing smoothly.
  • There wasn’t an official theme this evening, but the theme of “Edmonton” seemed to emerge. Either that or iPads (there were a lot of them in the audience, and Alistair used one on stage).
  • We trended to #1 in Canada on Twitter, this time for positive reasons!
  • Hosting the after-party at the same place as the event was smart. You lose less people that way.
  • The venue was great. I love that the stage was kind of in the audience, much more intimate than some of the venues we’ve had in the past (Myer Horowitz for instance).
  • I thought the start time of the event could have been a little tighter…it seemed to take a while to get going, and to restart after the break. No doubt because of all the great conversations that were happening!
  • The final presentation, the improv, was probably a safe bet (smart on the part of the organizers) but it worked really well and was quite funny.
  • Props to Stephanie Chan and Gabe Wong for the awesome PKN7 posters and graphic design.

Pecha Kucha Night 7 was organized by Edmonton Next Gen, and was sponsored by the City of Edmonton and Capital Power. The next event, PKN8, is scheduled for September 23 at the brand new Interdisciplinary Sciences Centre at the University of Alberta. Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter, or sign up for their excellent weekly email newsletter.

Thanks to Edmonton Next Gen for a great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen, and to my fellow presenters for delivering the goods!

UPDATE: Here’s a fun video montage of PKN7 made by Raffaella.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #6

Edmonton’s sixth Pecha Kucha Night took place tonight at McDougall United Church downtown, a really fantastic venue. It was pretty full, but I’m not sure what the final attendance numbers were. Pecha Kucha is always a great place to meet new people, and tonight was no exception. Many people in the audience had never been to a Pecha Kucha Night before, which was great to see!

True to its name, there was lots of chatter about PKN6 tonight, in person and online. At one point this evening, the hashtag #pkn6 was trending in Canada, but not for the reason you might expect.

In order of appearance, tonight’s presenters included:

  1. Mari Sasano, Winter Light
  2. Merna Schmidt, Outreach Coordinator of A Child’s Hope
  3. Rikia Saddy, Strategist
  4. David Demian, President of JCI Edmonton
  5. Jessica Roder, Urban Planner
  6. Ken Chapman, Cambridge Strategies and Reboot Alberta
  7. Chris Ford, Program Director for Action for Healthy Communities
  8. Matthew Capowski, Activist
  9. Liz Lepper, YESS volunteer
  10. Chris Moore, CIO, City of Edmonton 

Before I go any further, let me just point out a few facts:

  • It takes guts to stand up in front of a couple hundred people to talk for 6 minutes and 40 seconds, I get that.
  • Christmas and the New Year are probably not the most opportune times to find presenters, as everyone is busy with work and life.
  • You’ll never please everyone, because each person has a different set of expectations.

With that out of the way, I can honestly say that PKN6 was probably the worst of the Pecha Kucha events we’ve had here in Edmonton. I’m saddened by this, primarily because the main issue was not something new or unforeseen. Here’s what I wrote about PKN3:

Tonight’s event didn’t have a theme, but I think perhaps it should have. In comparison with the previous two Pecha Kucha Nights, I found the presentations this evening rather weak. There was far too much self-promotion going on.

PKN4 was better, except for the presentation by Edmonton Next Gen themselves:

Finally, some of the Next Gen members gave an overview of the organization. I’m not sure it was the most appropriate presentation, but it was probably good for those in the audience who were new to Next Gen.

At PKN5, self-promotion surfaced once again:

I thought all the presenters did a pretty good job tonight. I wasn’t as interested in Dawn’s or Jeffrey’s, but others in the crowd seemed to be. My least favorite was probably Nadine’s though. Yes most of the talks are self-promotional in nature, but hers really seemed like a commercial for the United Way (and their campaign is on now).

But tonight, at PKN6, self promotion was taken to a whole new level. With the exception of Rikia’s odd Canadian immigration history lesson and Jessica’s interesting discussion of evolution, all the talks were self-promotional. Ken’s is perhaps unfairly labeled as such; although it wasn’t overt, it was ultimately about Reboot Alberta. It was also probably the best talk of the evening, thanks in large part to how great and engaging a speaker Ken is.

An evening with less self promotion isn’t just my idea of a good event, either. Many people were chit-chatting on Twitter about it. Here are a few select tweets:

  • paulzy: I think I’m leaving #pkn6 less inspired than when I came in. Rally caps?
  • sarahdotb: The energy level in this room is nonexistant #pkn6
  • bingofuel: Too many of these presentations are like, "hey, check out my organization!" #pkn6
  • KendallBarber: Appreciate people’s enthusiam for own happenings, but too much promotion #pkn6 – there’s better things to say.
  • ALeNeve: A little disappointed with the shameless self promotional aspect at #pkn6 #yeg hope the 2nd half ISA bit more inspiring

And, here’s what the official Pecha Kucha: What is it? page says:

Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.

Enough about self promotion, let’s talk about the theme. I’m not sure why they bothered with one tonight:

PECHA KUCHA NIGHT 6 explores our City’s best and worst kept secrets, furtive futures, ancient enigmas, cosmic quandaries, unsolved mysteries and how-to-guides for pressing problems.

Only Liz from YESS attempted to highlight a best kept secret in our city. Maybe the theme was kept secret from all the presenters? The theme of PKN4 worked amazingly well, and I think future Pecha Kucha Nights should also have a theme. Something must have happened for that event (ICLEI?) that didn’t happen this time, however.

Another thing that obviously didn’t happen tonight – screening of presenters. Maybe there weren’t enough submissions, or maybe they all did a good job of convincing the selection committee, but something clearly went wrong. There were two main issues, in my opinion: the order of the presentations, and the quality.

Mari’s presentation was funny at times, even if it was a giant commercial for Winter Light. But it was immediately followed by Merna’s depressing presentation about less fortunate children. It’s an important subject, absolutely, but the difference was extremely jarring. It happened again in the second half. Ken’s presentation was energetic, and really got the crowd into things (finally). That was followed up by a bizarrely bad presentation and then an extremely abstract talk on thought. There was absolutely no rhythm to the evening.

As for the quality of the presentations – Chris Ford’s was probably the worst I have ever seen at Pecha Kucha. Totally disconnected images, long awkward pauses, extremely overt marketing of the organization and its upcoming event, a clear lack of preparation…it was brutal. I’m sure Chris is a great guy, and his organization does good things, but his presentation just completely missed the mark. Compared with previous events, I thought the presenters tonight were clearly nervous, at times quiet, and mostly unenergetic (the notable exceptions being Chris Moore and Ken).

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At the end of the evening, Cary asked me to come up to the front to be the “celebrity” who drew tickets for the prize giveaways. I joked afterward that he asked me to do that so I’d stop Twittering about the event! My tweets and this post are my initial thoughts on the event, and I’ll absolutely give it more thought so that I can provide more concrete, constructive feedback to Next Gen.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from checking out the next Pecha Kucha Night either! I attend a lot of events, so perhaps my expectations aren’t average. And despite all of the negative things I mentioned above, PKN is still an awesome way to meet new people and to reconnect with old friends. As the saying goes, don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Finally, please fill out the survey for PKN6. It won’t take very long, and it’s a great way to provide Next Gen with some feedback they can use when planning PKN7. Let’s hope they take note of some of the things that were highlighted tonight!

You can see a few more photos here.

UPDATE: When I originally posted, I had the order slightly incorrect – fixed now.

UPDATE 2: I should mention that there was an after-party at Red Star, which sounds like it was fairly well attended and lots of fun!

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #5

Edmonton’s fifth Pecha Kucha Night took place tonight at the Myer Horowitz Theatre at the University of Alberta (you can read about PKNs here). The theme this evening was “Old School” – presenters were meant to take a look back and then push forward in the areas of design, science, art, and sustainability. They had a large audience to present to! The entire lower section of the theatre was full, and there were quite a few people seated above as well. Great turnout for the event, though I don’t believe it sold out.

Tonight’s presenters were (in order of appearance):

  1. Yuri Wuensch, Senior Advisor, Corporate Communications, and Michael Malone, Corporate Communications Coordinator, Edmonton Airports
  2. Dawn Doell, Green Communities Guide Project Coordinator
  3. Jeffrey Klassen, Designer
  4. Michael Janz, Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL)
  5. Christian Nelson, P.Eng, Co-chair, dEdmonton, Canada’s Halloween Festival
  6. Isha Datar, Researcher
  7. David Cournoyer and Diane Begin, ChangeCamp Edmonton
  8. Shafraaz Kaba, Architect and Josh Kjenner, Engineer, Manasc Isaac
  9. Nadine Riopel, Campaign Manager, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
  10. Aaron Pedersen, Photographer, 3tenphoto
  11. Tad Hargrave, Co-Founder of e-sage.ca and Marketing Consultant for Hippies

Pecha Kucha Night 5 EdmontonPecha Kucha Night 5 Edmonton

Yuri and Michael did a fine job of getting things underway, leading us through some of the Edmonton International Airport’s history. That was the old school part – the new school part was Expansion 2012, EIA’s ambitious expansion program. Dawn highlighted some examples of the Green Communities Guide in action. My favorite old school-new school reference from her presentation was wildlife crossings on highways: old school is to put up a sign, new school is to build a green wildlife overpass. Next up was Jeffrey, who focused on virtual environments for learning. What I found interesting was the notion of virtual worlds as “old school”, as they are stepping stones to other technologies such as augmented reality. Michael gave a great overview of EFCL, touching on some of its storied history (the old school part) and identifying the challenges ahead in reaching a younger demographic (the new school part). Fun fact: the first community league hall in Edmonton was built in King Edward Park in 1923. Last up before the break was Christian, who pretty much stole the show with his talk about modeling Edmonton in 3D inside Google Earth. He has created models for around 200 local buildings, including some that no longer exist (old school) and some that are yet to be built (new school).

Pecha Kucha Night 5 Edmonton

First up after the break was Isha who talked about in vitro meat production. Raise cows for meat? That’s so old school. Isha explored growing meat in the lab, and she had the science to back it up. The audience gasped more than once! Next was Dave and Diane talking about ChangeCamp. They highlighted some of the old school ways that citizens have gotten involved in government, and brought us up to present day where new school tools like the Internet make events like ChangeCamp necessary. Shafraaz and Josh then talked about the old school land use policies the city has, notably related to parking, and highlighted the need for some new school thinking in order to achieve goals such as increasing density. Next was Nadine, who talked about how service agencies have improved over time, bringing us to new school things like Homeless Connect. Despite having his slides all out of order, Aaron did a fantastic job of exploring the iconic image. Old school images are iconic, new school ones not so much! And finally, Tad shared his thoughts on the trend back toward supporting local businesses.

I thought all the presenters did a pretty good job tonight. I wasn’t as interested in Dawn’s or Jeffrey’s, but others in the crowd seemed to be. My least favorite was probably Nadine’s though. Yes most of the talks are self-promotional in nature, but hers really seemed like a commercial for the United Way (and their campaign is on now). Worse than that, her presentation made it seem like the United Way is the only agency making a difference. She didn’t mention a single partner agency, even when citing Homeless Connect, though there are dozens of them who work hard to improve the lives of so many.

I think my favorite presentation was Christian’s. He’s a great speaker, and I’m a sucker for cool technology applied to Edmonton. It’s amazing that he’s created so many 3D models of local architecture. His work is a really great resource for all of us. I also really loved Isha’s presentation, because I think it embodied what Pecha Kucha is all about – an interesting, thought-provoking idea introduced in six minutes and forty seconds. She left me wanting to learn more and wanting to talk to others about it!

A couple of other highlights:

  • I really liked Tad’s “triple bottom line” – people, profit, planet.
  • Aaron had the best line of the evening: “Here is Ernest Hemingway. If you don’t know who that is, get a library card.”
  • I learned a new word: Xeriscaping.
  • Josh hit all the major points on parking minimums/maximums, but had to concede at the end of his presentation that City Council recently took a step in the right direction.

Pecha Kucha Night 5 EdmontonPecha Kucha Night 5 Edmonton

The door prizes tonight were pretty amazing – some expensive theatre tickets, lots of Transcend Coffee, and a $1400 bag (seriously). Councillors Iveson and Henderson helped with the prize draws, and Councillors Batty and Leibovici were also in attendance. Even David Swann was spotted in the crowd! Pecha Kucha was definitely the place to be tonight.

Kudos to Edmonton Next Gen on another great event! They’re already working on Pecha Kucha Night 6. If you want to be the first to find out about it, sign up for the Next Gen newsletter. You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #4

Bigger, better, longer – tonight was Edmonton’s fourth Pecha Kucha Night (if you’re new to Pecha Kucha, read this). Held at the site of the ICLEI World Congress 2009, the Shaw Conference Centre, tonight’s event featured twelve presentations related to the theme of “inspiring sustainability”. More than 600 people attended, making PKN4 the largest yet in Edmonton. I’d say it was a major success!

In my review of PKN3, I mentioned that a theme might have made the event better. Tonight proved that a theme can indeed have a significant impact. I thought the presentations flowed much better and were more accessible, largely because they were part of a cohesive overarching topic. I hope Next Gen applies tonight’s lesson to future PKN events also.

Cary & StephaniePecha Kucha Edmonton 4

Tonight’s presenters were (in order of appearance):

  1. Jordan Schroder, Futurist
  2. Myron Belej, Urban Planner
  3. Simon Wunderli, Architectural Technologist
  4. Zoe Todd & Keegan McEvoy, Bicycle Commuters
  5. Natalia Pakin, Interior Design Technologist
  6. Liz Lepper, Edmonton Timeraiser
  7. Trevor Anderson, Artistic Director, That’s Edmonton For You!
  8. Pamela Wight, Conservation Planner
  9. Sherrilyn Jahrig, Light-Efficient Communities Consultant
  10. Lori Billey & Paige Weir, Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, AB Chapter
  11. Stephani Carter, LEED Accredited Professional
  12. Next Gen

The presentations were all really strong tonight, with only a few weak moments in my opinion. Kudos to Jordan for going first in front of the packed audience. I really liked Myron’s presentation on murals. He said “murals enhance our social sustainability”. Simon’s presentation about a super-efficient house in Switzerland was something different and intriguing. Fans of cycling would have loved Zoe & Keegan’s ode to the bike. They said that to make Edmonton great, “active transportation must be prioritized.” Natalia had some good points about marketing and overusing the word “sustainable”. Finishing off the first set of presentations, Liz introduced the audience to Edmonton Timeraiser, a silent art auction where you bid time instead of money (volunteers should check out CivicFootprint). The first such event will take place on October 17th at the TransAlta Arts Barns.

Jordan SchroderMyron BelejSimon WunderliZoe Todd & Keegan McEvoyNatalia PakinLiz Lepper

Trevor AndersonPamela WightSherrilyn JahrigLori Billey & Paige WeirStephani CarterNext Gen

First up after the break was Trevor Anderson, artistic director for That’s Edmonton For You! I loved his approach – he asked the audience to say “that’s Edmonton for you” whenever the slide changed. Trevor said “make art for your neighbours” and that you value an artist’s work the same way you value a lawyer’s, “cash money”. Pamela’s presentation introduced me to EALT. Sherrilyn started off a bit slow, but ended up sharing some great points about light pollution. Paige & Lori delivered my least favorite of the presentations, attempting to focus on paper waste. Stephani was bold and went with a spoken rap for her presentation on inspiring change. Finally, some of the Next Gen members gave an overview of the organization. I’m not sure it was the most appropriate presentation, but it was probably good for those in the audience who were new to Next Gen.

I think there was some concern going into the event about the scale, but everyone seemed to be having a great time – maybe size doesn’t matter! One interesting thing during the intermission was the “ideas on twine” wall. Attendees were encouraged to write their suggestions for future PKNs on a card and attach it to the twine. Creative way to solicit feedback! They gave away a bunch of door prizes too, including the grand prize – a bicycle courtesy of redbike, highlevel diner, and the sugarbowl.

Pecha Kucha Edmonton 4Pecha Kucha Edmonton 4

It was great to see lots of familiar and new faces tonight! The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton will take place on October 2nd at the Myer Horowitz Theatre at the University of Alberta. Don’t forget, we say it “peh-cha-koo-cha” here in Edmonton! You can see the rest of my photos here, and you can subscribe to the excellent Edmonton Next Gen newsletter here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #3

Tonight was Edmonton’s third Pecha Kucha night. Around 300 people attended the event at The Matrix Hotel downtown, and like PKN #2, it was completely sold out. There wasn’t even a waiting-list or at-the-door ticket sales this time! There’s clearly a lot of demand for this event, and I don’t think that’s going to change in the future. Make sure you pay attention if you want to have a chance at getting tickets for PKN #4!

For those of you new to the concept – Pecha Kucha was conceived in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. Presenters are given 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide, so each presentation is 6 minutes and 40 seconds long. There are no formal Q&A periods, but everyone is encouraged to chat at the breaks. How to pronounce “Pecha Kucha” is a common question here in Edmonton. Is it “pet-cha-koo-cha” or is it “petch-ach-kah”? Edmonton Next Gen decided it was the former and started with an exercise to get everyone to say it aloud:

Mayor Mandel also said a few words (his attendance meant there were dozens of cameras and a couple video crews present), and then it was on with the presentations.

Tonight’s event didn’t have a theme, but I think perhaps it should have. In comparison with the previous two Pecha Kucha Nights, I found the presentations this evening rather weak. There was far too much self-promotion going on. There’s nothing wrong with talking about your work/projects, but I think focusing on the ideas/concepts is much more interesting. It would have been nice to see more diversity too – tonight was fairly academic. As Sharon remarked to me, the presentations at PKN #2 were more accessible – you didn’t have to be an architect or industrial designer to “get” it. Also: two of the presenters were from Calgary, apparently. Could they really not get two other Edmonton presenters?

Pecha Kucha Night 3Pecha Kucha Night 3Pecha Kucha Night 3Pecha Kucha Night 3Pecha Kucha Night 3

The first two, Ben King and Tobias Olivia, felt almost like pitches for their respective organizations. Al-Arqam Amer was third, and gave an interesting talk about how architects should do away with floorplans and 2D representations and should instead make use of photorealistic 3D models. Cezary Gajewski then talked about communicating industrial design. The final presentation before the break was by Ron Wickman, who talked about designing with accessibility in mind.

Pecha Kucha Night 3Sharon, Peter, Cam

After the break Amber Rooke from The Works Art & Design Festival gave the oddest presentation I’ve seen to-date. She spoke about the festival, but I don’t think anyone was listening to her. Instead, they were focused on the mostly naked man posing on stage. Everyone in the audience was given a pad of paper and a pencil, and were asked to draw his various poses. Amber concluded by saying “6000 drawings were made in six minutes, imagine what we can do in 13 days.” I think the shock-value worked against her though.

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Romy Young was up next to share his thoughts on photography – again, way too much “I” in his presentation. Milena Radzikowska followed with a presentation about a GIS-related project she’s leading with Mount Royal and Alberta Parks. Robert Lederer showed a bunch of random designs during his six minutes. The second last presenter was Thomas Gaudin, an industrial design student from the U of A. I thought this presentation was one of the best. He talked about Modernism and Postmodernism, and suggested combining them to result in something called Interface Architecture. He also said that South Edmonton Common is a worst case example of design, much to the delight of many in the crowd. The final presenter was Ryan Stark from the City of Edmonton, who talked about EXPO.

Once again there was a DJ, food, and a cash bar. I thought the seating took a step backward this time – we were spoiled by stadium-style seating at the TransAlta Arts Barns at PKN #2. Everyone seemed to be having a good time though, and the quality of the presentations notwithstanding, I think the event went really well. It’s great to see such a large group of passionate Edmontonians come together. I look forward to PKN #4!

You can see more of my photos here, and you can subscribe to the Edmonton Next Gen mailing list here.