After hosting almost 30 Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton, NextGen has seen close to 300 Edmontonians from all walks of life get up on stage to speak their mind and share
an idea. For many, it’s their first attempt at public speaking. Others come with some level of experience, whether it be in front of a huge crowd or even at a board meeting. Regardless of experience level, speaking at PKN tends to be a memorable experience.
For Matt Roper, Pecha Kucha Night 27 was a milestone in more ways than one. On that February evening, Matt presented his idea on bringing connectivity, design, and warmth into our river valley in the form of Winter River Pavilions. These pavilions, he argued, could provide active programming for those spending an afternoon in the valley or become warm respites for those passing through. He imagined that they could be created and selected as part of a design competition, inviting all Edmontonians to imagine their own piece of river valley architecture.
According to Roper, who is an architect and Senior Associate at Stantec, the idea had been percolating for some time among colleagues and in board rooms within the design and engineering firm. When they had decided to finally put the idea out of the office and into the public eye, they applied to present it as a session at the Winter Cities Shake-Up. When it wasn’t selected, Roper found a suitable substitute in the winter-themed PKN 27, conveniently presented in partnership with the Shake-Up.
“I had been to a number of Pecha Kuchas in Edmonton and in other cities over the past few years and I find it really an interesting format because they’re often loosely themed around a certain idea, but you can get very different takes on a particular topic,” Roper said in a recent chat.
“I was, I’d say, equally excited and terrified when I found that I had actually made the cut to present my idea in that format.”
Aside from being the point at which he would share his idea public, standing on stage for the 6 minutes and 40 seconds would also be a life milestone for Matt Roper — a daunting task he had always wanted to accomplish, being somebody who stutters.
“Back in grades three and four, I could barely speak to my family, so I spent many of my summers in speech therapy lessons,” he says. “I think because I’ve always been actively trying to work at my speech in general, I’ve always really admired those who can stand up in front of a crowd and actually freely talk about their ideas.”
“So I took this on as a little bit of a challenge to myself, knowing that it was going to be a large crowd, and I’d be up there on stage.”
With a boost from the conference delegates who would be attending, PKN 27 saw more than 600 guests in attendance. Matt recalls the feeling of arriving to the venue and first seeing all those seats lined up for the first time, sending a photo to his wife and asking himself, “what the hell have I gotten myself into?”
What he had done was reach a pretty significant life goal while getting the ball rolling on an idea that now has a very real chance of becoming reality. The Winter River Pavilions is one of two ideas to come out of PKN 27 to go on to become a Top 10 finalist for the Edmonton Project. On March 6th at their Idea Den Event, the finalists will once again pitch their ideas, this time to a panel of judges who will decide which one will get the green light.
The last year has been a massive opportunity for Matt to develop his long-gestating idea further and confront some the perceived barriers and assumptions around what it takes to create change in Edmonton. “Whatever happens on March 6th,” he says, “whether it’s selected or not, I think there’s been more attention put on it, more rigor put into developing the idea, and a large network of people who have now come around to this idea.”
And he’s quick to highlight how impactful the simple act of boldly and passionate speaking out to your community can be. For those who may be hesitating, whether it’s lack of confidence in the idea or in their own voice, Matt has some words of encouragement.
“As small as you think your idea might be, or if you think you don’t have a unique perspective, just talking about it, I think you’ll find there’s a lot of support,” he says. “Speaking directly to the PKN crowd environment, it really did feel like a safe space you can get your thoughts out there.”
“You’re not up on stage feeling like the crowd is there to see you fail; you feel like they’re there to see you succeed.”
Watch the video of Matt Roper's PKN presentation below, and for more information on the Winter River Pavilions idea, visit the Edmonton Project website.
Learn more about Pecha Kucha Nights in Edmonton and how you can get up on stage with your idea here.