Millions are using this Japanese-inspired technique to radically improve their presentations—here's how it works

Adi Prasetyo | Twenty20

Too many slides, the wrong kinds of slides, rambling and a lack of direction. These are just a few of the most common PowerPoint sins.

But a Japanese-inspired presentation technique has become increasingly popular in the past few years. The PechaKucha (which means "chit-chat" in Japanese) technique was created in 2003 by Tokyo-based architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham.

Since then, it has been used by millions of people all across the world, according to the creators. The message of PechaKucha is simple: The less you say, the more valuable your presentation becomes. And it's not just for business purposes — speakers, elementary schools and universities also use PechaKucha as an educational tool.

The format forces you to speak more concisely and clearly by allowing just 20 slides and just 20 seconds to present each slide. That won't be easy, but the technique forces a new way of thinking that eliminates the excess and leads to shorter, more creative and highly polished presentations.

What's your presentation style?

The best presentations have a clear style. Before you start, determine what your presentation style is.

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Are you a Data Scientist (you use facts and analytics)? Are you a Storyteller (you create emotional connections)? Are you a Closer (you cut to the chase and deliver the bottom line)? Or, are you a Director (you only stick to the script)?

It's also important to consider your audience and the nature of what you're presenting. For a deeper understanding of the presentation style that best fits you, take the quiz here.

The 5 rules of PechaKucha

1. You only get 20 slides. That's it.

For each slide, ask yourself, "What will the audience learn from this slide? What questions might they ask? Is this topic relevant to the main objective of the presentation?"

If you can't fill in the blanks for a given topic or slide, don't include it.

2. You only get 20 seconds of commentary for each slide.

You don't have to speak for all 20 seconds. For some slides, you can simply leave it on display and allow the audience time to digest.

If you have trouble cutting down the script, try describing the slide in 30 seconds. Then, turn it into a single sentence, and then down to three words.

Finding your objective can be the hardest part of preparing a presentation. By not putting time and effort into this, you're almost guaranteed to wander off course and lose your audience.

3. Your words should be visual.

As you develop the language you'll use in your presentation, choose words with high imagery value. Forget about corporate gobbledygook, and don't fall for the misguided notion that the more abstractly you speak, the smarter you'll sound.

When your audience actually understands what you're talking about, both you and your presentation will appear absolutely brilliant.

4. No complex diagrams and text-heavy bullet points.

Overdoing it with the text and complex diagrams will cause your presentation to wander off course, and your audience will lose interest. Keep text to a minimum and give every image or graphic a discernible "holy mackerel" point that's easy to digest.

A good rule of thumb is to use words and visuals that complement, not mirror each other. You want your audience to think, I get exactly what this person is talking about.

5. Practice until you get it right.

Finally, it's important to practice getting to your point in 20 seconds while speaking with ease and flow. Practice in front of a makeshift audience and ask them what they learned.

Mark Murphy is a NYT best-selling author and founder of Leadership IQ. He has been ranked as a Top 30 Leadership Guru and his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes and Bloomberg. He has also appeared on CNN, NPR and CBS News Sunday Morning. Follow him on Twitter here.

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