10 Tips to Give an Ignite Presentation

You have to give a presentation. You have 5 minutes to get your point across. Ignite is the place to learn how to do just that.

In my last blog post, I discussed the phenomenon of Ignite presentations. Ignite is a series of speedy presentations, where each speaker shares their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.

With up to 20 speakers sharing the stage on the same night, Ignite presentations challenge the speaker to get their point across concisely, persuasively – and most importantly, memorably.  Add to that the expectation of clear and entertaining slides, a lot is riding on these 5 minutes.

With all these requirements in mind, here are 10 surefire ways to give a rock-solid, entertaining and memorable Ignite presentation:

  1. PREPARATION – A great benefit of Ignite presentations is that it is virtually impossible to ‘wing it.’  Each speaker must work hard to ensure that their presentation is of a relevant, interesting topic, given that they’re sharing the stage with so many other unique and intelligent individuals. Whether you’re competitive or not, no one wants to be the one to fade into the background. Add to that the fact that this engaging presentation and corresponding slides has to fit into the allotted 5 minutes, and there’s some serious preparation that needs to be done here.
  2. PRACTICE. There can simply be no Ignite presentation without extensive practice. How else can you ensure that your presentation falls within the 5-minute limit?
  3. DON’T FORGET SPEECH STRUCTURE – Whether you’re talking for 5 minutes or 2 hours, a presentation must always have an introduction (an engaging opening, followed by a description of what are you going to talk about), body (talk about it), and conclusion (recap main points, call-to-action where relevant).
  4. ENTERTAIN YOUR AUDIENCE. Tell stories. Use humour – either in your speech content or your slides. Describe your ideas things in a way that your audience can easily understand.
  5. DON’T SWEAR. Really. A good speaker can get their point across without the “shock value” of swearing.
  6. KEEP YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR POCKETS. In most Ignite presentations I’ve seen so far, the speaker is given a microphone to hold in one hand, leaving their other hand free…which many speakers then plant in their pocket for the full 5 minutes of the speech. Look, it’s not a terrible thing to put your hand in your pocket – but hiding it away for the duration of the speech should be avoided.
  7. FACE THE AUDIENCE – NOT YOUR SLIDES.  Some of the Ignite speakers at the event I attended planted themselves sideways on the stage and kept their eyes on the slides at all times. Whether you’re speaking for 5 minutes or for 2 hours, it’s NEVER good practice to turn away from your audience to look at your slides. YOU are the source of your presentation – not the slides. Even if they’re really cool.
  8. DON’T HOLD YOUR NOTES. The beauty of slides is that they should be enough to remind you of what you’re supposed to say in your presentation. It’s only 5 minutes – and if you’ve practiced enough, you shouldn’t need them. Holding notes can be distracting to the audience – and besides, the majority of Ignite speakers don’t use them. So this is one way that you shouldn’t be different from the rest.
  9. GIVE A SPEECH THAT HAS A POINT – NOT ‘SHORT BITS’ THAT REVOLVE AROUND THE SLIDES.  Most Ignite speakers focused on their presentations and created slides that backed up their points. Some, however, succumbed to the temptation of finding cool or funny slides, and then building their point around the slide. Remember that you’ve got 5 minutes to make a point, and your slides are used as backup – not as the presentation.
  10. NO MORE THAN 6 WORDS PER SLIDE. If you’ve got any more than that, and your slide goes from ‘backing up your point’ to ‘reading material.’ Your audience will turn their attention away from you, and spend part of the valuable 15 seconds reading your slide.

Check out this excellent example – “How To Buy A New Car” by Rob Gruhl.  He exemplifies points #1-9 beautifully. In his final slide, however, he disregards point #10. While I do like that he recaps his main points, I think he could have found a great image to recap rather than using so much text on the slide. Overall, however, this is truly a speech that stands out, for all the right reasons.

Showing 2 comments
  • Stewart Rogers

    Jamie Oliver uses notes! 😉


  • Suzannah Baum

    I didn’t say that you should NEVER use notes. You shouldn’t use notes in a 5-minute Ignite Presentation…when you have 20 slides backing you up and only 5 minutes to talk. At that point, you should really know your content.

    And that’s the 2nd time someone has mentioned Jamie Oliver’s TED speech to me…I sense a speech video analysis coming on!

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