As I prepare to speak at tomorrow’s Pecha Kucha Night (PKN) event here in Edmonton, I can’t help but reflect on my first Pecha Kucha talk 3 years ago.

I was working for a charity at the time, and my speech was about homelessness and the work of my organization to address it.

There was a lot of negative reaction on the web. My talk, it seemed, had struck many people as being too self-promotional; too much about the charity and not enough about the issue. They felt I had taken unfair advantage of the forum to push my fundraising agenda.

Several months later, the next PKN had a lot more self-promotion than had ever been seen before. I’m sad to say that I may have inspired some of this. Soon after, new rules were introduced by the PKN organizers. From that point on, it was imperative that the talks be about ideas, and not overtly try to drum up support, or money, or customers.

When I did that first speech, I thought I was doing good – I was following the usual practices of my organization and of charities everywhere. My intentions were pure, but it didn’t matter.

The haters were right. I had taken something that was supposed to be about meaningful content and made it all about my organization. People wanted to hear about the issue, and about the work underway to address it. They did not want to hear about how great my organization was, or how our particular operational model was the bomb.

Looking back, I see that talk as a turning point in my outlook on how charities seek support. I now completely sympathize with those who felt that my approach was self-centered and innappropriate. Charity is not about charities – it’s about the change we all want to bring about.

Tomorrow night’s talk will be different. I promise not to say a word about myself. And I look forward to the reviews – good or bad!