PechaKucha you betcha.

A fast-track presentation about good.

I was recently invited by AIGA Chicago to take part in a PechaKucha evening. Nope. This is not a hot tub or hookah affair. PechaKucha (pe-ka’-koo-cha) is a Japanese-influenced presentation style based on storytelling and speed. Twenty slides. Twenty seconds per slide. And all you can utter in between. Six minutes and 40 seconds of planned chaos. I was to use this format to promote my design-based social service organization (which of course deserves more…).

I’ve been writing and giving presentations for years, but nothing like this. A truly different animal. Mr. Crafty here thought to approach it storyboard-style in a one-slide, one-blurb format. But even this tried-and-true method had me culling down phrases, rousting five words to make two. Don’t tell anybody, but I rehearsed and rewrote for a week, each time paining to be more audience-friendly, more story-oriented, setting key words as cairns. All to make the end result look totally effortless.

Showtime came. I was speaker number six out of 10. As I watched the first five presentations, it occurred to me how to do this right. Nice. Then it was my turn. Another thrill: touch the start button and off you go. No pauses, no stops. Your slides march along while your talk high-steps out front or gets trampled underfoot.

Six minutes and 41 seconds later: applause. My talk was history. Game, set, match. I’m told it was quite good. Yeah, thank you, fine. But I was left with this: I want another shot. I still can’t pronounce the thing, but I want to try it again. It didn’t let me be boring, smug, telling the same old story. Which made it quite thrilling. And it made me a much better speaker in that moment.

As for my insight into how to do this right? Sorry. You just have to do it.

The presentation: an EPIC perspective on social good



Once upon a short time ago, a young South Side organizer named Sheldon Smith started The Dovetail Project, a nonprofit that teaches young African-American dads how to be better fathers to their kids. His work caught on. But Sheldon needed help.



Sheldon needed brand help. Communications help. Then, a band of generous creatives connected with Sheldon to rebrand his nonprofit. They saw that Dovetail’s website was not a go-to place for the news media, who were suddenly interested in Dovetail’s success. And that logo? Mmm, no.



So they updated Sheldon’s brand, starting with the personality, then reworked the mission statement. Then they redesigned the identity to convey pride and protection in a way that young, street-savvy dads could relate to — and maybe even wear with pride.



Finally, they overhauled that website to be clean, simple and responsive. And they wrote a media packet that positioned Dovetail for the future. So when CNN showed up with Sheldon’s very own Hero Award, he was ready. And all this creative work was done for free. In eight weeks.



Once upon another time, Sally Hazelgrove wanted to give a future to at-risk youth in her community­, Englewood, where gang activity and murder rates are high. She decided to teach them boxing. And so Restoring the Path was born. But to reach more youth, Sally needed brand and marketing help.



Another good-hearted creative team stepped up to help Sally promote the dynamism of her work. They started by renaming the group Crushers Club to appeal to young men and give it more punch with donors. Then they got to work with rebranding to attract sponsors.



The team created a full card of communications. But let’s focus on the new identity. Two adjoining initial “C”s, for Crushers Club, that look like boxing gloves touching, which is what fighters do before each bout as a sign of respect. Beautiful.



But why stop there? The team also created a new web presence that demonstrates the group’s mission, four videos that address the club’s principles, new messaging and a ton of promotional collateral. Today, Crushers Club is going stronger than ever.



These once-upon-a-times aren’t fairy tales. They are EPIC stories. EPIC. Chicago’s own social-good organization that matches big-hearted design and ad creatives with needy, local nonprofits to make pro bono communications that make a big difference.



Our creatives join rallies because they want to share their gifts in ways they can’t on the job. We match every talent type from the agency or freelance world — doing big-agency work for after-school programs, homeless shelters, reading services, women’s centers and more.



EPIC is a numbers game, starting with this one: zero. That’s the number of rally teammates you know upfront, how much the creative director knows of his or her team and how much you know about the client at first. Until you dig in. Then you all make it great.



Three. That’s a number that represents EPIC’s focus areas. We’ve taken our talent to where we can do the most good. And that’s with nonprofits working with children, or those that offer family services, and those dealing with some form of education.



Eight. Each EPIC rally lasts eight weeks. Seems like all the time in the world, until you get into it. Teams keep a tight schedule, meet weekly and get stuff done in between. Then we present it, show the client how to use it and off they go. Perfect.



This number’s our pride and joy: 52, as in 52 rallies completed since 2009. Mostly in Chicago, but some in our new Minneapolis chapter. EPIC is such a cool idea that it’s spreading. Who knows where to next?



One last number: 78. As in $78,000. That’s what the average rally would cost in staff hours. If you multiply that times 52 rallies, that’s over $4 million dollars in social good marketing. But for them, it’s all pro bono.



So what does the rally member get out of all of this? Well, you get great work for your book, work you wouldn’t do on your own. Like this: an award-winning video for Illinois Safe Schools Alliance on the effects of bullying. Look at the client acclaim. Brilliant.



And EPIC is the ultimate social and networking scene. You meet and work with folks from agencies all across Chicago. We throw great rally parties, at least two per year. And you meet even more folks if you join an EPIC committee.



But here’s what you really get out of EPIC. A chance to give your gifts and make a difference to someone. That’s my buddy Scott. He’s a designer. He’s got a great job, but it doesn’t bring him this. That’s what giving back can give back to you.



There is a path for you to give back to your community and see your work make a difference in people’s lives. Or maybe help a giving organization like EPIC give even more by simply joining a committee. We’d love to hear from you. Go to



Finally, here’s a quote from a rally member. She nails it. EPIC work is the kind creatives wish for. We do help those who are improving the world to succeed. EPIC wants your talent. This city needs your talent. This world craves your talent. Come join us. Thank you.