On May 26th, I had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Seattle 30. If you’ve never heard of it, Ignite is an event where speakers are selected to present on any topic of their choosing. Each speaker has five minutes to present 20 slides. Hence the tagline, “Enlighten us, but make it quick.” One catch—each slide progresses automatically after 15 seconds. Starting in Seattle in 2006, the Ignite series has now grown to over 350 locations across the globe.
Ignite is a truly remarkable and unique experience and if you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. You never know what you’ll learn (bees, smart homes, being a foster parent, for instance), who you’ll meet (yes, a couple met at an Ignite talk and subsequently said their ‘I Dos’ on-stage), or what interesting yet dormant ideas in your mind that will be unlocked. It’s this last point that happened to me while attending Ignite 29. For whatever reason, the topic of stock photography popped into my head which ultimately led me to submit “What if life were like stock photography?” that very evening.
I’ve attended four Ignites (two in Boise and two in Seattle) and have spoken at two of those. I often get asked why I do it. “Don’t you get nervous?” My answer: yes, hell yes, but that’s all part of what makes it so amazing.
Below are just a few of the reasons I think everyone should do Ignite:
1. It’s challenging
In 2013, I submitted my first Ignite talk (see below) because I wanted to challenge myself. Public speaking is something I wouldn’t say I necessarily fear, but that’s easy to say when you aren’t in front of 1,000 people. I figured that if I could get up on that stage, public speaking from there and out would be a breeze. For the most part, I was right.
Another challenge is to take the kernel of your idea and expand it into a five minute presentation. That presentation has to be engaging, informative, thought-provoking, and factually accurate. It takes a lot of research, preparation, and an ability to give a new point-of-view to a topic that people think they know about.
Maybe the biggest challenge, however, is the format itself. When you are on stage, it’s an incredible phenomenon how incredibly fast and simultaneously how incredibly slow 15 seconds can feel. It challenges even the most gifted speakers. It takes practice. A LOT of practice.
2.) It’s a hell of an adrenaline rush
I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of an adrenaline junky. That can manifest itself in many ways—skydiving, competition, horror movies, etc. Being up on stage really plays to that pursuit… only on steroids. After my first talk, I didn’t sleep that night. I was euphoric and amped for days after. It was a unique feeling that is hard to describe. Here’s an attempt: it’s like hitting a game-winning shot while winning an Oscar after drinking a nice glass of scotch.
3.) You gain a community you never knew you had
Once you speak at Ignite, you join a Tribe of people who you've shared a unique journey with. You cheer on, empathize with, and congratulate your fellow speakers and they likewise.
And the crowd? Many people don't see themselves speaking at Ignite because they fear the awkwardness associated with screwing up in front of so many people. First, the crowd probably doesn’t realize a screw up as much as you think. Second, when somebody does screw up, that’s when the crowd becomes electric, rallying behind the speaker and cheering them on.
If you would like more information about Ignite Seattle check out their website or YouTube Page. If you have a topic that you wouldn’t mind sharing with the world, go here to submit a talk.
Do it. You won’t regret it.