Saturday, May 02, 2015

There's This Thing Called Ignite

Most people I know have watched at least a few Ted Talks, wherever they would have been recorded. They are usually 18 to 25 minutes in length, and can cover any number of topics. The ones I've seen are really powerful and often moving.

There's also a format called Ignite which is much shorter, but less forgiving. Ignite talks are only 5 minutes long; each speaker provides 20 slides which automatically advance every 15 seconds, whether or not the speaker is ready for the next graphic. So while shorter, they require more planning, less extemporaneous speaking, and really, really good graphics.

The event takes place in a theatre in Minneapolis to a live audience of 600 people and is live streamed to hundreds online. Tickets go fast -- the first wave of tickets sold out in less than a minute. Audience members are encouraged to tweet throughout -- the Twitter handle of every speaker is given at the beginning of their talk, and social media is a big component of the event.

I've gone to a few IgniteMpls talks and have enjoyed the variety of topics and the bravery of those who have given them. I've also seen how forgiving the audience is. A few haven't gone off as planned, and the audience has been nothing but encouraging and supportive, which is pretty impressive considering how nasty people can get on Twitter.

After attending my first, I thought I could see myself up there. But what topic? Well, if the theme of the event is "pick your passion," then I know exactly what I'd talk about: inline skating.

It's my passion, it's something most people don't even know exists, and there are tons of different ways to go with it as a subject.

I had submitted that topic for IgniteMpls last fall and it wasn't accepted. However, I re-submitted it for the spring event and it was accepted.


I spent the next few weeks working on the outline, writing, re-writing, getting graphics help, revising graphics, and practicing practicing practicing.

The night of the big event arrived. I had invited my friends to attend, and they turned out in full force -- 10 in all. I was so grateful and appreciative of their support. Wayne and I had special VIP seating for speakers, while everyone else found seats elsewhere.

It was such a trip to see my photo on the speaker placard in the lobby. Sure, I've spoken at industry conferences before, but never to a crowd this big, or had my talk recorded, produced and put on YouTube for all to see and judge for years to come.

It was supposed to be funny, would they find it funny? My friends promised to laugh if no one else did, so there was that.

I was third from last in the line up, which meant that while I enjoyed the talks before mine, I was also nervously awaiting my turn. I most feared that the talk before mine would be incredibly emotional and that I would need time to compose myself before taking the stage. Luckily the one before mine was funny and sweet, so I took to the stage with confidence.

People laughed when they were supposed to laugh, which was a great sign. I had great feedback via Twitter, which was also cool.

When I was done I sat down in my seat and got a text from our babysitter who had let the girls stay up and watch it online. "Way to go!" it said, "They loved it!" Whew, I'm glad I edited the "f" word out of my talk.

Friends make trying new things less scary.
The next day I got an email from the organizer thanking me for speaking, that my talk was fun and engaging and I would be welcome to submit a talk again anytime. Maybe he wrote that to everyone, but I'll take the invitation as a compliment. topic?

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