HR in 20 Slides and 20 Seconds

Paul Hebert Communication, Employee Communications, Employee Relations, Employment Branding and Culture, Good HR, Paul Hebert

This past week I’ve been putting some finishing touches on a Pecha Kucha presentation I’m giving at the end of the month.

Pecha Kucha – pronounced “pa-chok-cha” – is a style of presentation made up of 20 slides (predominately images) shown for 20 seconds each.  Originally devised by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in 2003 in Japan, it was created in order to limit presentation time.  During the presentation the slides are automatically advanced every 20 seconds.  After 6 minutes and 40 seconds you get the hook.  Period.

Initially created for the design and architectural community, the format has found fans in a variety of arenas.

And it’s much harder to do than it sounds.

Typically, someone who is prone to like the limelight and likes to present on their area of expertise (color me guilty) has a difficult time working within these limitations.  Once you get into it, however, you learn how to do two important things….

  1. Find your authentic message
  2. Remove what isn’t important

Authentic Message

What that means is the constraints of the process force you to really hone in on the one thing you really want everyone to walk away with.  You can’t meander.  You can’t bring in multiple messages and still be able to adequately communicate what you want.  Too much extraneous stuff and you end up spending more time introducing the various ideas than you do explaining each one.  20 slides just doesn’t give you time to introduce multiple topics and still provide quality information about each one of them.

Removing the Unimportant

Once you narrow down your talk to a specific message, you then have to remove extra stuff.  Even after you’ve narrowed it down to one specific authentic message, it is still pretty easy to pile on the supporting evidence, examples, ideas and thoughts.  All the stuff YOU think is important.  Except, when you only have 20 seconds for each of these points, it gets difficult to fit it into 20 seconds per point.  I know, I know – you’re an expert.  You’ve got tons of evidence and anecdotes to support your message.  But not every single one of them is important.  Which ones (remember 20 slides, 20 seconds) are the MOST important?

That’s the real work.  Removing what isn’t essential to get to the most critical pieces of information.

Why This Applies To HR

I was thinking of this process, when it occurred to me that many of the communications I’ve received in the past from my HR department were the antithesis of Pecha Kucha.  They were multi-page documents designed to communicate EVERYTHING and EVERY point possible.  It was as if the HR department wrote them so that they would never have to write another document about the subject ever again.  Whether it was the 401K plan, the Healthcare Plan, or the new “lunch in the refrigerator rules” memo… every communication I ever got from HR was long, multi-topic, and exhaustive in its supporting information.

I wonder – would we communicate better if we took the Pecha Kucha approach?

Sure, it might mean HR would have to send out more communications.  But would the audience get more out of them if they were laser focused and shorter?

Could you communicate the 401K plan in 6 minutes?  Probably not all the nuances, but you could communicate the real authentic message and only the MOST important bits.  Don’t panic – there would still need to be the “official” version on the intranet somewhere or worse – in a binder up on the top shelf.

But the idea of taking more effort to craft a more succinct and powerful message just might make it easier in the long run.

What say you – do we “over communicate” to cover all the bases?  Is it easier to do a brain dump?

Next time you’re going to send that memo to “All Employees,” see if you can do it in 6 minutes 40 seconds.