Talk of the town

San Antonio Botanical Garden makes presentations cool again with return of PechaKucha Night

San Antonio Botanical Garden brings back in-person PechaKucha Night

A flyer for PechaKucha Night at the San Antonio Botanical Garden.
The 40th volume of San Antonio chitchats spans food, religion, community, and identity. Image courtesy of the San Antonio Botanical Garden

It’s been a while since most San Antonians attended a show-and-tell. A lot of us sat through Zoom presentations recently, but we all know that’s just not the same as making in-person connections. Luckily, there’s a local cure for Zoom fatigue — and it aims to be the talk of the town.

A social practice by way of Tokyo called PechaKucha is returning to San Antonio on Thursday, March 3 after a year and a half off — enough time for participants to gather brand new stories to tell at the San Antonio Botanical Garden for the city’s 40th “volume.” The material is on screen, but the presenter is finally back in front of the audience.

The storytelling exercise was developed by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, just as a way to make design presentations a little more bearable. It follows an easy 20-by-20 rule: The presenter shows a slideshow of 20 images, speaking for 20 seconds about each. This makes for good chitchat, or in Japanese, PechaKucha.

There’s just enough structure to encourage anyone to break down a complicated story into pieces they feel confident telling over the otherwise daunting six minutes and change. Topics can be comedic (“Random Slides Improvisation” by Michigan’s Jerry Price and Dave Krock), analytical (“Saving the Ocean with Law and Science” by Marcel Jaspars of the University of Aberdeen), inspirational (“Life Lessons from Trail Running” by Colorado’s Sarah Lavender Smith) or anything else that gets people talking. A huge segment of the PechaKucha library teaches listeners skills like baking and pursuing more sustainable lifestyles.

In San Antonio, the top-trending PechaKucha is presented as a how-to and delivered more like a memoir in a Texas accent that is rare among similarly high-performing recordings on the site.

From PechaKucha Night San Antonio Vol. 6, “How to be an Independent Farmer in Central Texas” details Linda Perez’s personal journey on her ranch, punctuated by emphatic crowd support. Judging by the regional callout in the title, Perez probably put her presentation together in the hopes that curious non-Texans would listen to the recording at home. Still, Perez’s charisma and the audience’s excitement douses the presentation in hometown pride.

San Antonio’s 40th volume will include presentations by seven locals: Maeve Bassett, an applied ethnobotanist at the Botanical Garden; Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, owner of the wildly popular Asian fusion restaurant Best Quality Daughter; Heyd Fontenot, a queer artist who was raised Catholic; Mara Nathan, a pioneering female Rabbi; Erika Prosper, first lady of San Antonio; Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, the city’s first Black poet laureate; and Tyler Ybarra, owner of coffee shop and roaster Cafe Azteca.

Alyson Alonzo, a local musician and former presenter will return as the night’s emcee, and DJ Anita Boogie will bring the beats for the welcome reception. For $7 online or $10 at the event, visitors will see a combined 47 minutes of presentations, nibble bites by local restaurants like Jardin and Bakery Lorraine, and enjoy some greenery on the lawn at the Betty Kelso Center.

For more information about the March 3 event at 6:30 pm, visit the Eventbrite listing.

Inspired listeners can create their own PechaKuchas and compose and publish their own presentations using PK Create, a builder in its beta stage on pechakucha.com.