Non-Pharmacy “Chitchat”: The Pecha Kucha Presentation as a Communication Tool for Student Pharmacists

By Daniel T. Ilges, Pharm.D. Candidate 2019

I remember feeling puzzled after first reading about a rotation assignment in the syllabus for my advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE) in ambulatory care. It outlined a “Pecha Kucha” PowerPoint presentation due by the end of the first week. The criteria were specific – exactly 20 slides, paced at 20 seconds per slide. The topic was entirely up to the student’s preference, but could not be directly related to pharmacy.

These basic instructions provide the framework for all Pecha Kucha presentations. The style was popularized in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of a Tokyo architecture firm.1 Translating to “chitchat” in Japanese, Pecha Kuchas make for energetic, fast-paced, and engaging presentations.2 Moreover, the structure demands planning and rehearsal, essential skills for students and pharmacists alike.3

My initial skepticism of the assignment rapidly dissipated after witnessing the power of this newly discovered Pecha Kucha. Our group’s presentation topics varied widely, covering “cycling 101,” cosplay (a portmanteau of “costume” design and “play”), LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan as the GOAT (greatest of all time), and – as I’m sure you could have easily guessed– New Orleans burial traditions. Within a half hour, the six of us (four students and two preceptors) achieved a high level of mutual understanding and respect. We had fun while getting to know one another.

After this experience I now see how assigning the Pecha Kucha presentation in the classroom or on rotations can offer many benefits to both students and preceptors, including:

1. Breaking the ice on the first presentation
APPE students deliver many high-stakes, graded presentations throughout rotations, including journal clubs, patient cases, in-services, and pharmacy practice projects – typically on topics that must be extensively researched and prepared. Having the opportunity to “get loose” with a short and sweet non-pharmacy presentation on a topic with which I was the expert helped me establish a baseline comfort for the remainder of the rotation. Any anxiety associated with presenting to the group later had subsided, allowing me to deliver my formal case with ease.

2. Allowing students a chance to self-identify
This is especially important during a time when students are working to reconcile their identities, both personal and professional. The Pecha Kucha blends these seemingly opposite worlds of personal and professional with ease, providing a simple yet effective platform for students to share themselves with other members of the team. Having the opportunity to share my passion for cycling allowed me to feel closer to preceptor and student colleagues for the remainder of rotation. I felt understood.

3. Encouraging creativity
I think most of us would agree that, in general, pharmacy is not ripe with opportunities for creativity. Reading guidelines, studying algorithms, and interpreting lab values aren’t typically activities that inspire our inner child. The Pecha Kucha presentation helps to reinstate the creativity too often overlooked in our field.

4. Providing practice prioritizing information
Time is precious. Students, preceptors, and generally all other healthcare team members can fully appreciate the value of cutting to the chase. Students often engage with this struggle while working up patients. An efficient student seeks out the most important information and prioritizes a patient’s needs; however, this skill can be difficult to teach. The Pecha Kucha presentation style demands the prioritization of information and can fulfill this critical gap in pharmacy education.

5. Emphasizing strong communication skills
Strong interpersonal communication skills are the bedrock of team-based medicine. Practicing these skills is essential to preparing students for their future in an integrated practice and pharmacy school curricula have been evolving to meet this need for the past fifteen years.4 The Pecha Kucha presentation represents an additional platform to enhance didactic communications training. In fact, it has already been successfully integrated as a unit within a third-year practical course at the School of Medicine of Miguel Hernandez University in Elche, Spain.5

In summary
Pecha Kucha presentations represent a unique opportunity for pharmacy students, in the classroom or on rotations. Through their specific yet simple structure, they provide valuable, low-stakes practice with themes essential to both being a successful pharmacist and a more holistic individual. So, which topic would you choose for your Pecha Kucha presentation? 20 slides. 20 seconds each. Ready, set, go!

Thank you to Lara Kerwin for introducing me to the Pecha Kucha presentation and providing guidance on the writing of the blog, and to Jamie Voightmann, Bryce Barnes, and Brittan Rosch for allowing me to share your wonderful Pecha Kucha topics.


1. Pink DH. Pecha Kucha: Get to the PowerPoint in 20 Slides Then Sit the Hell Down. Wired Mag. August 2007.

2. Johnson ML. Engaging Students Through Pecha-Kucha Presentations. Techniques. 2012;(6):8-10.

3. Masters JC, Holland BE. Rescuing the Student Presentation With Pecha Kucha. J Nurs Educ. 2012;51(9):536-536. doi:10.3928/01484834-20120822-02

4. Wallman A, Vaudan C, Kälvemark Sporrong S. Communications training in pharmacy education, 1995-2010. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013;77(2). doi:10.5688/ajpe77236

5. Ramos-Rincón JM, Sempere-Selva TS-S, Romero-Nieto M, et al. Pecha Kucha presentations by medical students in Spain. Int J Med Educ. 2018;9:244-245. doi:10.5116/ijme.5b92.52e3

Dan IlgesDan Ilges is a fourth-year student pharmacist at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include infectious disease and acute care. In his free time, Dan enjoys playing the drums with his band, Dingus, and cycling with his pharmacy friends, the Drug Peddlers.

Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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