Friday, April 24, 2009

How to Give an Ignite Presentation

What is an "Ignite Presentation" and how do you give it? Ignite talks are a style of presenting where people speak on a subject of their choice for five minute accompanied by 20 powerpoint slides. The slides are automatically changed every 15 seconds. At the end of five minutes, the Ignite talk is over - that's it; fini; done.

On Wednesday, I gave a five minute Ignite talk at Ignite Minneapolis. It was a boisterous crowd, 500+ people strong, and many of them a little tipsy after having a few glasses of beer at the free social hour that preceded the event. I've done Ignite before and I'd do it again because I find it a lot of fun to get up there and talk about something for five minutes.

Reaction of the crowd? It was positive; they laughed at the appropriate places and I got a sort of a boozy roar of approval at the end.

I encourage everybody to give it a try. As far as public speaking goes, it's a good place to start. Here's why:
  • Like karaoke, even if you suck, no one really cares.
  • It only lasts five minutes.
  • Most people come to ignite to be entertained. It's a pretty non judgemental crowd. (But there may be some troglodytes or hecklers out there - just ignore them since they're idiots anyway.)
Convinced? Okay, if you're going to do it, here are some tips:

  • If you write out your talk in advance, figure that you can speak about 20 to 30 words per 15 second slide. That's not a lot but you can do a lot with that if you're good.
  • You have five minutes, that's it. So, you're really limited to how much you can say. Don't try to explain global warming. But you can tell people how to plant a tree and why that's a good thing. Have a single concept broken into 3 to 5 subparts (and keep those subparts SIMPLE)
  • Use as few words on your slides as possible. Most of my slides have no words at all, just a single photo or graphic. The slides should reinforce your words, not vice versa.
  • You need to connect with your audience using your voice. Modulate it. Talk fast then slow. Loud, then soft. Sound sarcastic then sincere. It keeps people interested.
  • Figure out your natural style and go with it. I tend to talk fast. It works for me. But your natural style may be completely different. Your style will become apparent when your practice your talk. Once you figure it out, go with it.
  • Humor is terrific. A few funny pictures will hold the audience attention.
  • Speakers get energy from your audience. Look for a few people in the crowd who like what you're saying and speak to them.

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