Wednesday, February 9, 2011

7 Tips for a Great Ignite Talk

I attended my first Ignite event this week with Dan Callahan at the Microsoft NERD center in Cambridge, MA. I was excited to see what one of these events is like and it was held in the same building where we will be having our EdCampBoston Unconference on May 7th.
What is Ignite?
"...It's a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea—and the guts to get onstage and share it with their hometown crowd." -From the Ignite Website
Presentations are all 20 slides which auto-advance every 15 seconds. This event did not have an education focus and the talks included a wide variety of topics:
  • Conception, Pregnancy, Labor, Delivery, and Infants (for Geeks), Jacob Buckley-Fortin, @jakebf
  • How Freestrapping Is Killing Our Start-Ups, Bobbie Carlton, @bobbiec
  • Code for America: Education and Technology in Boston, Max Ogden, @maxogden
  • How to Start a Summer Camp, Katie Gradowski and Will Macfarlane
  • The Real "MobileMe" How Smartphones Are Enabling a World of "Augmented Humanity," Joseph Flaherty, @josephflaherty
  • Social Media Science, Dan Zarrella, @danzarrella
  • The Future of Search Is Context, Mark Watkins, @viking2917
  • Trolling for Data, Courtney Stanton, @kirbybits
  • Social Enterprise: What Works, What Doesn't, Why It Matters, and Why You Should Hate Oprah, Meaghan Cassidy, @mcassidy8
  • Pure Imagination: How Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Is Really An Anti-Drug Parable, TC Cheever, @cheever
  • Compost Your Dishes: Better than Washing, Heather Gilmore, @ecoMV
  • 5 Things You Didn't Know About Beer, Sarah Hastings, @beeriety
What I learned:
While there were a few things I took away from each of these, my biggest take away was the qualities of a good 5 minute talk. I think this is a skill that our students are going to have to have and it isn't easy to present a message in such a short period of time. I would like to try to give one of these presentations someday. Here are some of the things I will think about when I start to structure my talk:
  1. Keep it super simple - 5 minutes is really, really short. There is only time for one idea. If you try to cram too much in, your audience will not be able to digest your message before the next talk starts.
  2. State your message clearly - Actually write it out in words for your audience. Say what you want everyone to take away. It is way too quick to expect that people will be able to figure that out for themselves. You might feel like that is condescending, but it isn't in this context.
  3. Repeat yourself - Tell your audience more than once what you want them to know. Say it at the beginning, in the middle and definitely again at the end.
  4. Use more than one slide per idea - You don't need a new slide for each idea. You only have 15 seconds per slide, that isn't much time. If you try to include something new for each slide you are trying to do way too much. Also, there is no rule against repeating your slides. You can show the same image more than once. That gives you 30 seconds to get your point across.
  5. Think about your audience - When you choose a topic, think about what the audience probably knows already. If you are going to an actual Ignite event, the people there are pretty technically savvy, but also come from diverse professional places.
  6. Tell a Story - Think of these as a 5 minute story, try to include a beginning, middle and end.
  7. Have fun - This event was pretty low key. Everyone was supportive and receptive to all of the presentations. The Twitter stream was very respectful and positive. So don't worry too much about it.
I'm not sure yet what my topic will be, but I am definitely challenging myself to try this out. Have you ever done a talk like this? Have you been to an event? Do you have any advice to share or questions to ask? Let me know.

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