20×20: Tell Your Abroad Experience in 400 seconds

From what I can tell, 20x20s were first done in Japan at an event called Pecha Kucha where young designers could show their work. To keep the event at a reasonable pace, each designer could show 20 images and had 20 seconds to describe each image. Now this same format is being used in a variety of venues and it’s one of my favorite ways to talk about an experience abroad.

In my time working with study abroad students, I noticed two things that happen when I  ask a student about their experience.

  1. They have the short one sentence response, “It was great”, or
  2. They ramble on in a story that can be hard to follow.

The 20×20 is a great solution to help anyone put into words what being abroad was like, what it meant to them, and what the highlights were. We all know that slide shows can be boring, disconnected, and drag on far longer than most people’s attention spans. The 20×20 nips that in bud and instead helps make the presentation dynamic and fun. Here’s how I think it works best:

1. Think about your experience abroad and jot down 20 to 30 highlights such as your housing, host family/roommates, courses/projects, favorite restaurants or food, sights that amazed you, people you connected with, funny stories, lessons learned, etc.

2. Put your highlights in an order that you would want to tell them. Make sure to have a beginning and conclusion.

3. Go through your pictures and see if you can find a match for these highlights. Also feel free to use quotes or maps if you want. They don’t have to be perfect matches. They just need to go along with the idea.

4. Select the top 20 of the highlights/pictures to put them into a PowerPoint presentation, one picture per slide.

5. Set the PowerPoint to automatically change slides every 20 seconds.

6. After a little practice, press play and tell your audience in 20 seconds about each highlight. When the slide changes, you have to stop your story and go to the next one. This often provides for a few good laughs.

7. Open up for questions in the end (2 minutes max)

The 20×20 format can be great for a variety of events like:

  • Study abroad presentations (recruitment or pre-departure orientation)
  • Mission trip report at a place of worship
  • Fundraising events for international aid projects
  • School presentations
  • Get a group of friends together and all do a 20×20 over dinner

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