Put a Spark into your Presentations with Ignite

If you’ve sat through many presentations, you’ll know there are two common problems with them: over-long ones, and others where the speaker pauses and plays about with his Powerpoint slides before explaining each one in excruciating detail.

Both those problems go out the window in a format being celebrated across the planet this week. Ignite is a presentation style designed to make it easy to share ideas and passions through three simple rules: presentations are fixed at five minutes, they all have exactly 20 slides, and each of these slides are automatically displayed for 15 seconds.

The idea is that the format forces speakers to boil down their ideas into a clear and focused structure, using illustrative slides which convey concise messages: with just 15 seconds to display and explain each point, there’s no room for waffling. The speaker also needs to have a pretty strong idea about what they are talking about in order to keep to the rhythm and avoid getting thrown by the slides advancing.

The concept was developed and first tried out in Seattle in 2006 (having been adapted from a Japanese idea called Pecha Kucha) but is now used for events worldwide. While Ignite events can take place anywhere and at anytime, being locally organized, this week (March 1 through March 5) has been classified as Global Ignite Week, with at least 50 events taking place as far afield as Jakarta, Brisbane and Nairobi.

Event organizers are encouraged to film the talks and upload them to both online video sites such as YouTube and the Ignite website. The general principle is that all events should be free to attend and are being run on a voluntary basis, with the speakers being unpaid and motivated by their desire to share knowledge. (As the movement’s slogan has it: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

So what do people talk about at Ignite? Anything and everything, as long as it fascinates and excites the speakers, and hopefully the audience. But here’s a sample of some previous talks:

The secret underground world of Lego

I Speak Klingon: Love 101 for Uber-Geeks

Should you quit your tech job and join a rock band?

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8 Responses to Put a Spark into your Presentations with Ignite

  1. So this is Twitter for presentations?

    1) Not everything has to be over with almost as soon as it started.

    2) Some slides will still be more important than others, except in this case, you are actually FORCING people to display some slides for longer than others, resulting in 12 seconds of dead air when the point is explained in 3 seconds, and to skip over important information in the slides that should take longer to explain. This stilted presentation style is even worse than a droner. At least with droners you can zone out.

    • I disagree (not about the twitter part, this is *so* twitterpresentation): If your slide can’t stay up for 15 seconds, then you need a different slide, different organization, different emphasis on the message. You can double up a slide that should be there for 30 seconds.

      And, some of those slides had more than one part, they had transitions.

      About the twitter part – it’s sad that we can’t rely on the attention span of our audience to last more than 15 seconds, let alone 5 minutes.

      Though, on second thought, maybe it’s more like chatroulette for presentations.

      Ugh.

      • What I meant was that for something to auto-advance in 15 seconds, and EVERY 15 seconds, is a horrible idea.

        That’s just not how presentations work. Certain elements NEED a little more or less explaining than others.

        Say you have a list of three points. The first would normally take 20 seconds to explain, the second would only take 5 as it’s self-explanatory and the last would take between 10-40 depending on the audience’s understanding of the last two points.

        That’s how life actually works. Not everything is weighted exactly the same, however much you fudge and force it.

        And this WILL result in dead air or rushed explanations, which helps the audience in no way at all.

        Obviously the ones they release as promo material will be the best ones that appear to overcome the issue, but I’m guessing there’s another 100 or 1000 that were grating beyond annoyance simply because advancing every 15 seconds does no-one any favours.

  2. So this is Twitter for presentations?

    1) Not everything has to be over with almost as soon as it started.

    2) Some slides will still be more important than others, except in this case, you are actually FORCING people to display some slides for longer than others, resulting in 12 seconds of dead air when the point is explained in 3 seconds, and to skip over important information in the slides that should take longer to explain. This stilted presentation style is even worse than a droner. At least with droners you can zone out.

    • I disagree (not about the twitter part, this is *so* twitterpresentation): If your slide can't stay up for 15 seconds, then you need a different slide, different organization, different emphasis on the message. You can double up a slide that should be there for 30 seconds.

      And, some of those slides had more than one part, they had transitions.

      About the twitter part – it's sad that we can't rely on the attention span of our audience to last more than 15 seconds, let alone 5 minutes.

      Though, on second thought, maybe it's more like chatroulette for presentations.

      Ugh.

      • What I meant was that for something to auto-advance in 15 seconds, and EVERY 15 seconds, is a horrible idea.

        That's just not how presentations work. Certain elements NEED a little more or less explaining than others.

        Say you have a list of three points. The first would normally take 20 seconds to explain, the second would only take 5 as it's self-explanatory and the last would take between 10-40 depending on the audience's understanding of the last two points.

        That's how life actually works. Not everything is weighted exactly the same, however much you fudge and force it.

        And this WILL result in dead air or rushed explanations, which helps the audience in no way at all.

        Obviously the ones they release as promo material will be the best ones that appear to overcome the issue, but I'm guessing there's another 100 or 1000 that were grating beyond annoyance simply because advancing every 15 seconds does no-one any favours.

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