I did my first Ignite presentation earlier this month. It was a great experience and a classic example of volunteering for something without really knowing all the details. This was not my first time presenting at a school-based session, but the structure of an Ignite was something entirely new to me.
When doing an Ignite, you have 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. This makes for a quick 5 minute presentation. This also means that slides cannot be too wordy, and usually contain more images than words. The images are usually a variety of pictures, gifs, or memes. The explanation of the topic and the slides comes more from the speaker than the text. For me, this meant more rehearsal than usual in order to get a feel for what 15 seconds per slide feels like, and how much can be said for each slide.
The biggest challenge I had with this type of presentation was staying on topic for each slide and not changing what I wanted to say each time I rehearsed. This link is an article by Laura Foley and gives 6 steps for creating an Ignite. If this is your first time doing this, it is well worth taking the time to read. Be sure to pay particular attention steps 1 and 2. Writing an outline and a script is essential. I wasted a lot of time trying to jump right into making the presentation only to go back and do the first two steps.
The other challenge I had was that I felt limited with how much I could write on each slide and what media I could use. Even though this was not my first time presenting, I feel like it never gets easier. I always feel nervous getting up in front of people, especially when there are colleagues in the audience with much more experience than me. With other presentations, I’ve been able to add sound or video clips, and also use fancy transitions so I am not constantly talking. With an Ignite, however, the text and images need a quick, concise explanation from the presenter. There is no time to ramble and get sidetracked. This is where preparation and rehearsal plays an important role.
Preparation and Presentation
As I was working on this presentation, I was reminded of the saying, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” I felt this was really the case here. The outline and script took me the most time, but when they were done the rest moved very smoothly. Designing the slides was probably the easiest for me and took the least amount of time. I used Google Slides and wrote the script for each slide in the speaker notes section. I went through the presentation a couple of times without the 15 second limit just to practice what I would say. After this, I published the link to the slides and set the transition time for 15 seconds. I then began practicing the presentation from start to finish. The topic I was speaking about was a project I was working on since January, so it was very familiar to me. I had written some paper notes out to guide me and keep me on topic, but after a couple times through the presentation, I no longer needed them.
There were five presenters doing an Ignite and I was third on the list. Listening to the first two was very nerve-racking, but when it was my turn it felt like the fastest 5 minutes of my life. It was over before I knew it and I was surprised at how smoothly it went. All the practice and preparation was well worth it.
Along with the article link above, this Ignite link has a great collection of Ignites from all over the world and on a variety of topics. It also has links to help you find an Ignite near you or Google Form link to start an Ignite in your city.
Note about the images
All of the images above were done through a Google search with the image settings on “Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification”. Why the Rocky images? I traveled with my family up to New Jersey and Philadelphia for spring break. One of our stops along the way was the art museum and the Rocky statue. I grew up there, so it was not new to me, but I guess it has made me a little nostalgic.