Ignite Talks – A new way to present

Logo-igniteAre you tired of sitting through boring Powerpoint presentations and wished there was a more exciting way?  Maybe you need to prepare a Powerpoint presentation and worried about operating the slides and boring the audience?

Welcome to the Ignite way of presenting with Powerpoint! 20 slides displayed for 15 seconds each and  advancing automatically. The presentation moves along briskly, the audience knows the speech only lasts for 5 minutes (300 seconds) and the speaker has to prepare well.

You might think that having such a rigid format of presentation is stifling. Breaking your presentation into 20 pieces with accompanying image and approximately 30 – 40 words (spoken in 15 seconds) forces you to think about your message, main points, key words and images. Five minutes isn’t a long time is it? It was long enough for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Sermon on the Mount!

I have watched many entertaining Ignite talks but I have never done one. I am preparing a talk at the moment to present at my Toastmasters club for the assignment on getting comfortable with visual aids. I have a topic in mind and will share a recording later on YouTube. Writing this article has crystallised my thinking about this format and energised me for preparing my talk.

Ignite Events

Ignite events are held regularly around the world where presenters share their personal and professional passions using this 5 minute format. The first Ignite was held in Seattle, Washington in 2006 and backed by the OReilly publishing company. Read more in the Wikipedia article.

An earlier format of Ignite is PechaKucha (Japanese for “chit chat”) and slides are displayed for 20 seconds each giving a total time of 6 minutes 40 seconds for each presentation. Pecha Kucha was launched in Japan in 2003 as a way of attracting young designers to meet, show their work and exchange ideas.  Read more in Wikipedia.

The only difference between Ignite and Pecha Kucha is the slide duration (15 or 20 seconds). Ignite talks are shorter by 1 minute 40 seconds, and consequently more people can speak in one hour.  Allowing for a brief speaker introduction, 10 people could present at an Ignite event in one hour. A Pecha Kucha event could probably have 8 speakers in one hour.   Faster paced means more energy and more variety!

I was going to attend the Sydney Ignite event in April 2013 but the tickets sold out very quickly. Fortunately the videos can be viewed online  and I recommend you watch some of these talks.

How to prepare?

I searched for articles on how to prepare an Ignite talk. A recommended method is to use Post-It notes for “chunking” your ideas then arranging them. The slides are there to support your talk and you shouldn’t be talking “to the slides”. You need to tell a story with a Beginning, Middle and End therefore you need structure.  Read these articles for advice.

Scott Berkun sums up why you should speak at Ignite (or any event, for example Toastmasters):

  • Speaking is Connecting
  • Everyone has a story – What do you love? What do you hate? What are you good at (and want to share?)
  • Do not fear the reaper (the automatic slide advance)
  • Practice is Everything

Some great examples of Ignite Talks

Joanne Chan – How to be awesome at Yum Cha

Alex North – October 2012 on Cryptic Crosswords

Peggy Kuo -How Language makes us see the world

Alex North – Decide later

What’s Next?

Watch as many Ignite talks as possible on YouTube, attend a live Ignite event, and to deliver an Ignite talk of my own.  I want to encourage others to explore this presentation format.

Be Ignited!

3 responses to “Ignite Talks – A new way to present”

  1. great post! How did your Ignite talk at the Toastmasters club go?

  2. I am giving my “Ignite” talk next week (14th May).

    Here are my bookmarks on Ignite:

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