So…raise your hands if you’ve heard of Ignite? To those of you with your hands up: well done. To the rest of you, I have to say…Get yourselves on Twitter. Yesterday.
How Ignite works
So here’s what I’ve found through my delving: Ignite is a global event organized by volunteers interested in what passionate people have to say…about anything really. You can pitch pretty much any topic you can dream up.
The event’s tagline is “Enlighten Us – But Make it Quick!”. Presenters have 5 minutes each to deliver a talk set into a narrow format: exactly 20 slides that automatically change at the 15 second mark.
Ignite Fort Collins has people submit topics and 6 people are chosen through public votes, while 8 others are chosen by the committee. Once presenters are chosen, they have about a week before their slide deck is turned in and a few days before they go live on stage and enlighten a full house.
The whole experience evokes anxiety in just about anyone and, for me, that was blended with a strong note of nostalgia, since I chose to share stories of growing up in a Korean/American household.
In the end, I survived, I had a great time, and I took away these 7 key elements to giving an Ignite presentation that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family on social media outlets.
1. Be genuinely passionate
The point of Ignite is to “ignite the audience” and stimulate thought. In order to get people to really hear ya, your presentation must be passionate. Like I said, I chose to speak on my Korean culture, but one of the most inspiring presenters was Kathleen Baumgarder who spoke on the development of a non-profit cafe here in Fort Collins.
FoCo Cafe’s mission is building community by providing nutritious and delicious meals using local, organic, and sustainably grown ingredients to the people of Fort Collins regardless of their ability to pay.
Kathleen shared some staggering statistics on the Fort Collins homeless population and encouraged audience participation throughout her presentation. By the end people were shouting out questions like, “Where is the cafe’s location?” and “When will this open?” I personally found myself wondering when and how I’d be able to donate items and time. Now that is a spark.
I bribed the Mack Web team to my home with the promise of a taco bar and margaritas in order to practice my speech. I also used a window in my guest room that showed my reflection. I must have practiced 5 out of 7 days.
Because I practiced I knew that it is best to use at least 2 slides per idea. I was able to weed out different stories so my presentation had a natural flow and I hammered out my transitions.
Come time for the presentation, I had excited butterflies soaring inside my stomach, but as soon as the lights hit my face I was on.
3. Wear a comfortable outfit
Now, this one may sound silly or superficial or girly, but it’s important to feel good when you are on stage. I picked out an outfit that spoke to me. It said, “BUY ME.” So, naturally, I did. I was intentional with my shoe choice as well. Normally I wear heels, but I didn’t want any freak accidents so I wore some flats that still made me feel fierce. Men may not have this shoe issue, but please make sure you will be able to look back at the presentation and not be embarrassed of yourself.
4. Connect with the audience
At the venue for Ignite Fort Collins #12 we were fortunate to have the Lincoln Center as our stage.
This was an amazing location and made me feel like I was doing stand-up, so I cracked more jokes than planned (um, no I am not a comedian, but I have been reliably informed that I am a ham). Fortunately, all my jokes landed and provided a much-needed point of connection with the audience.
The spot light was bright and it would have been so easy to ignore the nerve-inducing presence of the audience altogether, but that is a big no-no. Instead, I scanned the room and found someone’s eyes to catch and hold onto. Make sure you connect with the people who are spending their time to hear you speak.
5. Pace yourself
The rate of the presentation is 20 slides at 15 seconds a pop so don’t try to stuff each slide with too much information. When you have too much to say in 15 seconds, naturally you talk fast. People won’t be able to soak in what you are saying.
Pace your talk with your slides and please, oh please, don’t stand there waiting, telling your slide to hurry up or wondering out loud where your slide went. It’s awkward for the audience, so instead, just ad-lib rather than mumbling to yourself.
6. Have good visuals
There were people at the Ignite talk who had amazing slides. Josh Awtry, editor of the Coloradoan, was one of those people. He had some great images and memes.
I, on the other hand, had slides that were minimalistic. Next time, as a seasoned presenter, I will definitely be upping my slideshow game.
7. Don’t drink too much
Ignite Fort Collins had drinks available for the speakers and for the audience which was great. (They also had a band to play before the talk began and during intermission).
Thanks to the ADD butterflies in my stomach, it was tempting to indulge in the bar scene, but I also didn’t want to make a fool of myself so I opted out of the “drunk” speech. Now, no one at our Ignite was intoxicated, but I did hear horror stories of past presenters so…keep it classy, folks.
If you haven’t been to an Ignite presentation, do it. Either attend one or submit a pitch to be a presenter. It’s a fun experience that gives you a platform to set fire to a willing gathering of minds with your passions, your experiences, and your causes.
And, as an added bonus, participating in Ignite can help you get over the fear of public speaking, become a better story teller, or provide evidence to potential audiences that that you are a capable and engaging presenter. (Which is not what my purpose was at all. Nope.)
On a totally unrelated note, I am available for speaking…and, believe it or not, I can speak on more than the topic of the Korean culture. I already have requests for an Ignite talk on recessive genes. (Gotta start brushing up on those Mendel squares). You can check out my presentation to find out why, it’s only 5 minutes long!