Make your charts more like maps

Pecha Kucha is Japanese for “chit-chat.” I’ve talked about the presentation style on my personal blog.

In a Pecha Kucha, the speaker is restricted to just 20 slides, and only 20 seconds per slide. It’s a 6 minute, 40 second burst of information. As for the one embedded below, here’s some context: Think of the various maps in your life. Mine come to mind easily. I see one every time I go home.

I have a map of the world on the wall of my apartment, with pins showing places I’ve visited and others for where I’d like to visit next, once this Covid nightmare ends. As you can imagine, it drives decisions and actions.

Another map is one we all have. It’s the small map in our phones, powered by GPS. That map drives decisions and actions every day.

But if you’re responsible for helping your bosses or clients understand data, what about those data dashboards or charts easily leads them to take action? In my experience, truly actionable charts are few and far between!

All too often our charts do not drive action

Why is that? In this Pecha Kucha, I explore that question, and show you how you can drive more consensus and action with your data visualizations by choosing and customizing charts to be more map-like. I pull two examples from my decades of experience as a marketing analytics consultant.

The data is all made up, but reflects real life business challenges, and how making your charts more like maps can help to bring your bosses or clients to decisions. And isn’t that what data-driven decision making is all about?


Pecha Kucha Milwaukee stages another successful event

Roughly 200 people attended Tuesday night’s Pecha Kucha Night, at Milwaukee’s Hi Hat Garage. I was one of them, and had the honor of being one of the presenters.

If you don’t know what a pecha kucha is, you should find out. Here’s a post about the evening (pre-event) on the blog of the Milwaukee organizer, 800-CEO-Read. It includes links to help explain what it is and why you should care.

This YouTube video of my presentation has just been posted:

Special thanks to Jon, Kate and everyone at 800ceoread for making this event, and the follow-up videos, such a terrific success.

You can see others from that night by reviewing this list on YouTube.

The evening was an absolute blast. I’m definitely going back. If you’re in the Milwaukee area, I hope to see you there.

Hey, Milwaukee, it’s pecha kucha! Let’s all go watch a slideshow!

The media have called pecha kucha — that unpronounceable presentation format created by two Tokyo architects — a poetry slam for designers. Except it’s not just for design folks.

Writers, photographers, and just about every other member of the creative class have devised and shown these six-minute wonders. Shown where, you ask? Over 100 cities around the world have conducted public pecha kucha nights. And this summer Milwaukee will be added to the list.

I created my first pecha kucha in October and became immediately hooked. I dare you to attend its official Milwaukee debut and not be bowled over by its power.

An audience at a recent pecha kucha event

You’ll find more details at the official site, but here are the basics:


Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
8pm; $10 register online or buy at door 


Hi Hat Garage
1701 N. Arlington Place
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 


  • Corey Canfield | Milwaukee Recycles (Kind Of)
  • Erica Conway | How a Woman Runs a Business
  • Tom Crawford | Kaszube Ornithological Concern International
  • Peter Exley | Growing Up in a Black and White World
  • Daniel Goldin | Dead Department Stores
  • Nicolas Lampert | Meatscapes: A Travel Log
  • Faythe Levine | Craftivism & Community
  • Aaron Schleicher | The Making of a True American Record
  • Jolynn Woehrer | Unwrapping Chocolate for its (Dis) Contents:
    A Feminist Analysis of its Fetishisms and its Fair Trade

Hosted by 800ceoread at The Hi Hat Garage
Promoted by 91.7 WMSE and Schwartz Bookshops
Founded by Klein Dytham architecture

Thank you Jon Mueller of 800CEOread for helping to bring this form to Milwaukee!

Jeff’s first Pecha Kucha

It was actually Charles Dudley Warner — and not Mark Twain as is commonly thought — who first quipped, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Boring slideshow presentations come in a close second behind the weather for producing the most heat for the least real flame.

As I’ve noted here before, Edward Tufte is that rare exception. He’s written extensively on alternatives to the presentation status quo.

On the other hand, the inventors of Pecha Kucha tell the press that they have no goal more lofty than putting butts in seats at their Tokyo performance space. But I really think they’re onto something.

[youtube C_5l6hXwzUo]

As I mentioned a few days ago, I presented my first Pecha Kucha on Saturday, to support the discussion of a new web metric called the Content Interest Index. Today you can find it posted on YouTube (embedded above), to make viewing and sharing a little easier.

I hope to soon attend my first Pecha Kucha performance event in Chicago (the date is TBD), where I know the quality of the presentations will make me glad I didn’t quit my day job. But until I see what a real Pecha Kucha can do, I’m fairly happy with this quirky way to explore an otherwise “bland” topic. I’m also glad to do my part in “doing something” about the scourge that is SDD (Slideshow Deficit Disorder).

How well are you feeding your web site’s antlions?

Earlier today I spoke at a conference for web marketing professionals in Jacksonville, Florida. My topic was web analytics. It was a well-timed opportunity for me. I used the talk to do these two things:

  1. Discuss the new web metric my team has innovated, called Content Interest Index
  2. Try out a form of condensed slideshow presentation called Pecha Kucha

As I described in a prior post on Pecha Kucha, this is to slideshows what the haiku is to poetry, and Dogma 95 is to film making. It has strict rules designed to bring out the soul of a presentation — especially if you subscribe to the phrase “the soul of brevity.” The rules are that you have exactly 20 slides, and each is up for exactly 20 seconds. That means after 6 minutes and 40 seconds, you come to a full stop.

For those of you as nutty about films as I am, you know that Dogma 95 was borne out of the desire of a handful of directors to treat their audiences like grown-ups. Pecha Kucha may not pretend to be anything loftier than playful fun, but it does respect the audience’s valuable time. How refreshing!

My presentation needed a “hook.” I chose a doozie. I compared a web site’s conversion funnels to the lairs that are built by antlions. These critters were an obsession of mine when I was 10 years old (I even kept one as a pet, in a sand-filled coffee can in my bedroom!).

I frankly could not resist using graphics of the antlion’s traps as ways to illustrate aspects of measuring web conversion. In this elaborate comparison, ants unwittingly encircle the antlion’s lair and some tumble to their doom, in the same way that web visitors cruising around a site’s pages are attracted to offers (the “mouths” of conversion funnels).

Hey, no one ever said marketing was pretty.

The Antlion’s Lair

Yes, this comparison is a bit of a stretch — if not downright grisly — but I do believe I got my point across. Especially with the help of a supplemental presentation, given in mind map format (here is the map, in Acrobat format … watch out, it’s a quite large file at 2,310 KB). My presentation included excerpts from the CII case study that you can download from this blog entry.

Why don’t you be the judge of the job I did in milking this helpless metaphor until it mooed in pain? Download this podcast of my Pecha Kucha (1,724 KB in MP3 format), and check out this PowerPoint player file (324 KB in PPS format) for the visuals. You have to sync up the audio and visual files, but it’s hopefully well worth it. Updated 10/9/07: You’ll find the Pecha Kucha on YouTube.

Let me know what you think, and more importantly, if you think the antlion should be some sort of Web 3.0 mascot. What’s the reasoning behind that suggestion? None whatsoever, except the antlion is a very clever creature.

And hey! What the heck. A creature looking this monstrous really needs a break.