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Top 10 Tips for LexThink.1 from Ignite Phoenix

Stephanie Horn at Ignite Phoenix #7 by MoLo_trash

Ignite Phoenix is one of the best events I’ve ever participated in. Each Ignite features a series of presenters and each one has 5 minutes and 20 PowerPoint slides that advance every 15 seconds to share one of their passions. LexThink.1 is based on Ignite, except each presenter gets 6 minutes and 20 slides that advance every 18 seconds.

I’ve been involved with Ignite Phoenix for over two years, and it’s been one of the best experiences of my life. I had the pleasure of speaking at Ignite Phoenix #5, and I’ve volunteered at eight other Ignite Phoenix events. My usual volunteer role is assistant stage managing. I help wrangle and orient the presenters before the show and make sure the presenters are on the stage at the right time with the right microphone attached to their body.

Here are my top 10 tips for presenting in an Ignite-style format.

1.  Wear Clothes that Accommodate the Microphone: Wear an outfit that has a structured shirt that can handle having a microphone clipped to it. Wear pants or a skirt so there’s a waistband or back pockets to attach the transmitter to. At one Ignite event, we had a presenter wear a dress. I had to go up the back of her dress and clip the transmitter to her bra.

2.  Limit your Message: When you’re watching the clock, 18 seconds seems like a long time, but it’s not when you’re speaking. I recently watched one of my favorite Ignite Phoenix presentations. On average, he said 3-4 sentences per slide. Don’t try to say more than that.

3.  Use Awesome Pictures: Your voice provides the words of your message. Your slides should enhance it, not simply repeat it. Choose interesting photos that embody the message or emotion behind your verbal message. Don’t use bulleted lists and avoid superfluous words. Seth Godin recommends using 6 words or less on each slide.

4.  Have Permission to use every Image: Make sure you own or have permission to use every image in your presentation. Select images that have Creative Commons licenses that allow you commercialize and modify the original work.

5.  Allow Time for Laughter when you have Hilarious Pictures, Stories, or Ideas.

6.  Memorize your Presentation: You don’t have to memorize your presentation word-for-word, but you should not need notes on stage. Your slides should be a sufficient guide. One of the worst Ignite presentations I ever saw was one where the presenter read his entire presentation off his phone.

7.  Practice, Practice, Practice:  You cannot practice your presentation enough. Go through it multiple times per day, out loud, with the slides set to advance every 18 seconds. There is no other way to get comfortable presenting in the Ignite format.

8.  Turn Off your Phone: You don’t want your phone to ring during your presentation. You don’t even want you phone in your back pocket set on vibrate because you may have friends who are evil enough to call you while you’re presenting just to see the look on your face when your butt starts vibrating.

9.  Have Fun: Ignite Phoenix has one of the best audiences to present in front of. They are so supportive and excited for each presenter. I hope the LexThink.1 audience is the same.

10.  I purposely left tip #10 blank. Dozens of people have graced the Ignite Phoenix, Ignite Phoenix After Hours, and Ignite Food stage. If you have presented at any Ignite event, in Phoenix or elsewhere, please leave a comment with what you think the tenth tip should be.

I’m very excited to present at LexThink.1. See you in Chicago!

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  1. Tim Giron says:

    Another tip: give people a means to contact you for more information – devoting your last slide to website address, email, etc.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Yes! Very good idea – thanks Tim!

  2. Jay Thompson says:

    Great “Top 9” Ruth!

    10. Don’t try to make your slides too specific to a moment. It is VERY easy to get ahead (or behind) in your speech, and if there is a specific line in your speech that needs a specific slide, you may find yourself at that awkward moment where you are ready to deliver the line and your slide isn’t there (or has already passed). It’s really cool when a presenter has the timing down and nails every slide, but far more often you see presenters get flustered when the slide they need isn’t there at the moment they need it. Remember, you’ve got 20 slides and five minutes. If you get 3 seconds behind on each slide, you’ll be a full 20% off… If you want to hit slides specifically, put them in the beginning where you are more likely to be on time. And practice. And HAVE FUN. It’s a BLAST presenting t Ignite!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Jay! You bring up a really good point – you can always get a little ahead or behind due to nerves, audience laughter, etc. I learned you don’t have to make the specific point that goes with a slide the first second the picture appears. You just have to make it before the slide changes again.

  3. Kade Dworkin says:

    Solid list.

    As a two time presenter and having done both fully scripted and a nearly on-the-fly presentation I have a bit of a different perspective on this. So here’s my tip:

    10) Tell a small story about yourself and why you love what you’re talking about. The human brain is built to remember story and story elements so much more than dry facts. Test your story elements and specific word choice on different people….friends….family….random people you meet. Listen to their questions in response because it will tell you where there are holes in your story or how you’re telling it. Move those story elements that work to your presentation preparation and you’ll see that the iterative experience of telling the story will allow you to create a much stronger connection with your audience when you’re actually on stage.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Kade! Telling a story is a great way to deliver an Ignite-style presentation – take the audience on a mini journey!

  4. Susan Baier says:

    Great post, Ruth — I agree with all of it. My #10 would be — don’t try to memorize any type of long list. I spent much of my time and anxiety trying to get that one element down, and ended up flubbing it anyway. If I had to do it again I’d make it easier on myself — the time goes so fast, trying to shoehorn something really specific in there can really do you in. And I could really have done without the extra anxiety. 🙂

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Oooh – good tip! I think if there’s a list, a generalization or examples will suffice for most situations.

  5. Evo Terra says:

    SLOW DOWN! Most people talk fast when they get nervous. You probably will to. So rehearse yourself talking S L O W E R than you normally do. It’ll sound funny. And that’s OK. What sounds funny to you will sound perfect to the audience.

    Oh, and SPEAK UP! Microphones can only do so much. Try and project your voice as far as you can (without shouting, obviously). The sound crew will like you better!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Evo! You and the audience will be better off if you slow down and enunciate your words. I can tell when experienced podcasters are on the Ignite stage because they speak clearly, slowly, and project their voices.

  6. All good tips, Ruth.

    If while you are practicing you have a slide that you always need to zoom through to make time… you should probably rethink what/how you are communicating – your exposure to risk will be too high and you will be more likely to get tripped up.
    I’m sure you have a super-clever thing you are trying to communicate, but your wordplay and slidecraft need to submit to the overall message.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Krys! Your presentation was particularly brilliant in communicating a message and timing the message with your slide image. We could tell how much planning and practicing went into your beat box presentation:

      1. Thanks Ruth. by 2:30 you can see that we got a couple seconds behind, but it still works 🙂

        and yes, we practiced the timing a lot 😉

  7. Matthew Petro says:

    Ignite presenting is a unique combination of improv and delivering a prepared speech. You need to know the main points you want to hit on each slide, but you can’t memorize the whole thing and deliver it word-for-word. You gotta leave some room to just let your presentation flow. If not, your passion doesn’t come through as well as it could.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Matt! I think you’re right – You have to know what you’re saying, but you don’t want to be so married to your verbiage that it interferes with delivering the message.

  8. Debbie says:

    I know this sounds like 9) but it needs to be said again.

    10) Don’t psych yourself up too much. Relax! If you’re too tense you’ll make mistakes or sound too rehearsed. This is your passion and you should sound passionate about it and not like you’re reading from a script. If you’re having fun the audience will have fun too.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Good tip Debbie! These events are about having fun and connecting with others.

  9. Ruth Carter says:

    These suggestions came in via Twitter:

    Dustin Diehl (@DrJedi): “Practice! :)”
    Tyler Hurst (@tdhurst): “don’t over think it.”
    Jonathan McNamara (@McNamaraJS): “Remember that the audience is rooting for you. Also, listen to a lot of Andrew W.K.”
    Emily Leach (@emilyleach): “have fun! Keep it simple, imagine what you like to see in a presentation and then just do it.”

  10. Don’t read slides- they are there for a point, let them make the point, and use them to remind you of the point.
    Relax- enjoy the audience, and think of it as a conversation with them about something you are interested in, that they might like, or not. It is a conversation with a highly educated audience –which is the most important part:

    Let your passion shine through.
    Ruth is a great stage manager, by the way. She has a way of both calming a person down while keeping their energy up. If you present at Ignite she is the type of person you need to have there.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Terry for your suggestions and your kind words!

  11. My tip is an addition to #7. Make sure to practice in front of several friends or family members. Practicing alone can only do so much because you don’t have to react to the butterflies you get from speaking in front of people. Also, friends and family can point out your mannerisms that add or subtract to your topic, as well as what could make your message clearer.

    I found it easy to speak at my normal pace when I practiced alone, but practicing in front of people really caused my vocal tones and pacing to change because of the nerves!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      That’s a really good tip. Practicing in front of others can also give you a sense of when your audience is going to laugh so you’ll know to allow for that.

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