Ambassador Spotlight — Miguel Vazquez, AICP

The Activity

As part of National Community Planning Month (NCPM), I organized a Pecha Kucha Night in Riverside, California. Pecha Kucha Night is a global network of cities hosting events under the PK brand in which presenters have six minutes and 40 seconds to present 20 slides (20 seconds each). The audience typically is over 21 years of age as beer is part of the attraction. For this APA Ambassador activity we had to modify it and no beer was involved as we conducted the activity as part of the city of Riverside's Long Night of Arts and Innovation annual event geared to students and parents who are interested and involved in various aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).


What was the goal of your activity? What did you want participants to come away with?

My three goals were to conduct an Ambassador activity during National Community Planning Month, kick-start a Pecha Kucha Night in my own town, and to take advantage of a major community event that was already taking place in Riverside.

My hope was that the audience would learn basic aspects of urban planning and its connection to public health with short PowerPoint presentations.

Pecha Kucha Night in Riverside, California, was part of the Long Night of Arts and Innovation, annual event geared to students/parents who are interested and involved in various aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Structure and Flow

The activity was designed to meet the Pecha Kucha Night basic guidelines — each presenter's talk is given through 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This dynamic model lends to keep the audience engaged with information and stories presented from various individuals. Although we created a flyer to announce it, we relied on the marketing done through the Long Night of Arts and Innovation organizers who promote heavily in local high schools, universities, and community-based organizations.

Hundreds of people came to the event at the downtown pedestrian mall from 5 p.m. to midnight. The area we were given for the performance was designed as a small outdoor auditorium with about 20 chairs and a stage. All the equipment was provided to us, including stage, lighting, speakers, mic, screen, and projector and also a staff member to assist us. The original concept was designed for 10 speakers, but we were given only 30 minutes, so we had time for only three speakers, including myself, my friend Monica, and Macy, who is someone I had never met before. She actually responded to a LinkedIn message I posted in which I invited anyone to present with us.

We started promptly at 9:30 p.m. with two introductory videos about Pecha Kucha. My presentation consisted on sharing eight components of urban planning based on the Governor's Office of Planning and Research' s Guidelines for preparing General Plans. Monica and Macy focused on themes related to design and health equity in Colombia and the eastern Coachella Valley respectively. About 10 people sat and listened to our presentations.  From the look on their faces, they seemed pleased with what we shared that night. The fact that the presentations were short and that each complemented each other made the program engaging.


What challenges did you face during your activity? What were your learning moments?

The major challenge we faced was competing with other ongoing performances from other groups. We were across from a larger stage that had a singing troupe performing at the same time as our Pecha Kucha Night. Although we had a microphone, the adjacent music precluded us from projecting our voices and messages to the max.

We recorded the audio, but the result was of low quality because of the background noise from the other stage, and were unable to upload it with the presentations in our website.

Learning moments include:

  • Knowing exactly the layout of our site (venue) beforehand.
  • Setting attendance goals. Leaving the number of people attending by chance could have resulted in zero audience. In the future, it will be valuable to get commitments from a key target audience to attend to fulfill a minimum number of attendees.
  • Investing in good quality recording equipment.

Tips for Other Ambassadors

What advice do you have for the Ambassadors who may be reading this information as a source of reference? Tips for starting or executing this type of activity?

If you have a story to share, find opportunities and venues like Pecha Kucha night. If your city does not have one, consider starting it as there are many benefits to it such as connecting with the local creative community including architects, designers, artists, and other planners. This activity is ideal for young planners' groups who may like to chat about planning with other folks while enjoying a pint.

Other tips:

  1. Check out the Pecha Kucha Night website and videos.
  2. Share it with friends or colleagues who would want to be co-organizers with you.

If public speaking is not your thing, join a Toastmasters International club to learn how to develop fun and concise presentations on any subject.