The average human attention span weighs in at a mere eight seconds – down four from the 12 we supposedly boasted back in 2000. Even goldfish have longer attention spans than we do these days.
As WOAI-TV News 4 San Antonio Anchor and Emcee Randy Beamer quipped, the Japanese architects who conceptualized PechaKucha’s format certainly took that factoid into consideration when they capped presenters’ time at six minutes and 40 seconds.
The more than 600-person crowd at 2016’s last installment of PechaKucha San Antonio Tuesday evening at the Witte Museum‘s Mays Family Center couldn’t have been further from the notoriously feeble-minded goldfish. From the moment Beamer took the stage and started spouting off quick-witted puns, PechaKucha SA Vol. 24 attendees found themselves spellbound by the words, visuals, and surprises the night’s presenters decided to share.
By the way: being the subject of Beamer’s jokes should make anyone with a sense of humor and an understanding of San Antonio proud as a peacock. We at the Rivard Report love it, so you just keep ’em coming, Randy.
The evening began with a happy hour that featured craft cocktails shaken and stirred by mixologists from the Last Word. Audience members tucked into bites from local vendors like Bakery Lorraine, The Good Kind, King’s Highway Brew & Q, Pharm Table, Say.She.Ate, and Sweet Chela’s before taking their seats to take in the night’s main acts.
First up – a veritable firecracker starting the night off right – was Pearl Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Fauerso. As amicable curse words started flying out of her mouth, the crowd noticeably relaxed, both parties signaling, “We’re among friends here.” Fauerso’s tongue-in-cheek rhetoric was effective, to say the least. Her topic: marketing. Her question: Does marketing add or detract from our life?
The winner of the “San Antonio Visionary Award” told the crowd that there is, indeed, a way to market without being “a lying, soul-crushing a**hole,” and everybody bought it. How do we “cut out the bullsh**t,” veer away from commodities and transactions, and dig into to the meat of it, she asked. By being instead of doing; by allowing conflict, for without conflict, there are no heroes and no stories; by being complicated and interesting and authentic, for that’s how human beings are.
The “verbose architects,” who Beamer said inspired PechaKucha founders to speed up presentations, were represented by Overland Partners Principal Architect Bob Shemwell – although eloquent more accurately describes Shemwell’s thoughtful presentation.
Potential, he said, changes meaning and dimensions in relation to time. Only in the present can you grasp potential and leverage it for your future, so unlock it, embrace it, and utilize it. Oftentimes that requires or leads to collaboration, he added, which would be “really great if it wasn’t for all those darn people” you have to deal with in the process. All jokes aside, Shemwell’s call to not leave the Mays Family Center without a new idea or friend did not go unheard.
Veroniqe LeMelle, executive director at Artpace, dove into management across generations. The woman who fired her mother, dubbed Generation Y “Generation Whyyyyyy?,” and swapped out goldfish for gnats in her assessment of attention spans, said Millennials and Baby Boomers have a lot more in common than most would assume.
“We believe we make a difference and we all want respect” – a valuable takeaway for today’s diverse and multigenerational workforce.
If interdisciplinary studies is one of those terms you read on your undergraduate curriculum years ago, but never really bothered to fully understand, anthropologist Adam O. Aguirre is the guy to get the scoop from. The Northwest Vista professor said that in order to understand humanity, you have to look at it across multiple disciplines – the arts, biology, psychology, behavior – the list goes on.
He echoed Fauerso when he said, “we are complicated,” but that’s exactly why we need to ask and eventually answer certain questions: Who are we? What are we going to do? What is the goal of education? What kind of community do we want to create together? Liberate yourself from the boundaries and the norms, he said, and take risks.
That’s exactly what Aguirre did at PechaKucha San Antonio Vol. 15 on Aug. 26, 2014 at the Carver Community Cultural Center. Egged on by none other than Randy Beamer, he had worked up the courage to engage in conversation with a young woman named Debbie. After images of the two had fluttered across the screens at the Mays Family Center and Aguirre had sang the praises about “the new friend he didn’t leave without,” as Shemwell had previously put it, he suddenly abandoned the microphone and rushed into the audience. The crowd immediately leapt to its feet as Aguirre knelt down and proposed to Debbie, who – you guessed it – said “yes” amid roaring applause.
The excitement merited a beer break, and when audience members returned to their seats, it was time for Beamer to get to work and former Spur and current NBA TV analyst Brent Barry to take the mic.
A successful proposal is a hard act to follow, but Joan Cheever did just that with an abundance of grace and heart. The Chow Train owner, chef, attorney, journalist, wife, and mother dedicated her talk to “the Good Samaritans of San Antonio,” adding that Good Samaritans cannot and will not be bullied.
“Hurricane Joan” has gained national recognition for defying local law enforcement and forging ahead in her mission to care for the “invisible people of San Antonio.” She shared touching stories of the human beings she’s come in contact with through her culinary philanthropy, both her guests and her supporters. “It takes a village to feed a village,” she said, and Barry was certainly not the only one who was audibly choked up with emotion when he thanked her.
Odie to the rescue: simply listed as “a human being” in the program, musician Odie Cole took the stage and immediately frisbeed packets of tissues into the crowd to combat the tears that Cheever had conjured up in many audience members’ eyes. An initially cheerful tone turned reflective when Cole’s PowerPoint slides started to roll and he began to chronicle his family history that originated in Japan and eventually lead to the United States.
Being bicultural isn’t always easy, he said, citing “Pearl Harbor beatings” and social boundaries that once tore his family apart. But humans are resilient creatures – a point that Cole drove home when he, like Cheever, tore at his audience’s heart strings and revealed that his family members were reunited after 42 years of separation.
His ebullient tone returned when he called his family’s reunion an “Oprah Winfrey special” and turned the microphone back over to Barry, who introduced the last speaker of the night – a man with whom he sweated it out on court for many years.
Rob Wicall was not a Spurs player, but he was undoubtedly one of the most loved figures in franchise history. He earned Barry’s nickname “my smelly friend” by infusing the team’s mascot – the Spurs Coyote – with his own big personality for a whopping 16 years. They key to his success? Preparation, for success is where preparation and opportunity meet.
His love for performing started early, he said, as images of him as a caterpillar, a T-Rex, and, of course, the Coyote flashed across the screens. His penchant for being prepared led to some of the greatest moments in sports mascot history – take, for example, his epic bat capture in 2015 – a moment he had planned for for more than a decade. Life, with all its ups and downs, makes us a success, Wicall said, so be impactful, shower often, and always go out with a bang.
And with that, he shot a confetti bomb into the crowd and ended the night just as it had started – with a bang.
PechaKucha is not about shoving facts and figures down people’s throats. It’s not about disseminating information or pushing an agenda, and it’s certainly not about speakers convincing their audience that they are right about something.
PechaKucha is first and foremost about humanity. It’s about telling stories, sharing a broad bandwidth of emotion, and about promoting interaction. It’s about inspiring one another to unlock potential, to liberate ourselves from boundaries, to make a difference, and to grow – maybe even one’s attention span.
PechaKucha Vol. 25 will showcase six minutes and 40 seconds of some of San Antonio’s most exceptional human beings on Feb. 28, 2017 at the Pearl Stable.