Ignite! Every Day

Recently, I was given the opportunity to present at RISE Week Austin and PeopleFund’s Innovation Week about Ignite presentations and igniting every day.

I first encountered Ignite speeches at Partnerships WITH Patients last fall.  Regina Holliday asked me to give one about the community in health IT in Austin and I thought that I would just give an inspiring speech.  But it turns out and Ignite speech is a term of art.  In an ignite speech you get:

5 minutes & 20 slides (15 sec/slide)

I realized in giving this presentation that the principles of Ignite presentations should be incorporated into every speech and used every day.

Principles of Igniting:

Quite simply igniting is about energy and momentum. To do this, the presentation must be:

  • Visually based
  • Organized so the speaker need not rely on the slides
  • Delivered at a quick pace
  • Limited to a meaningful message

We all know “death by powerpoint” – when you stare at slides jumbled with words and a speaker that drones on and on.  You’re tired and bored and wishing the presentation could be over.  Ignite changes this by engaging the audience through these principles.

Visually Based:

I often see powerpoint slides like this –


How can you read this 20 rows back with weary eyes? And what do you get out of it?

Here’s my take to make it more informational and get the point across that data breaches of personal health information are serious –

Untitled 1

I took out the text. Made bullet points. Added contrasting colours. And changed the background so it would standout.

But this is just an example of a decent slide (still a bit too much text, but better).  Visual slides include pictures! People remember pictures. People like relating to art – clip art, pictures, colourful uncomplicated graphs.  Consider seeing this slide as I talk about  “knowing your audience” –

Untitled 3

I was talking about knowing whether your audience is a scientific community, children, business or venture capitalists. Each community is unique.  I could have written that in bullets, but the pictures are more memorable.

Not Relying On Slides:

Using visual slides goes right to reliance on slides.  When the slide is visual, I don’t need to read text, because the message is there.  This makes me more confident and looking at my audience instead of the screen.

Quick Delivery:

Often times, people given time to present will take too long on a slide and sometimes never get to the end of their presentation or run over their time or just barely make time but not leave time for questions.  The beauty of an Ignite speech is that you cannot control the timing, you have to move forward.  You have to get to the point and continue your presentation.  And even with a misstep you are forced to move on.

The quick pace also keeps the audience interested in what is next rather than nodding off as you read a long text based, too many bullet points, dry slide.

Limited to a Meaningful Message:

You want to leave the audience with a take away.  Unfortunately, most speakers want to cram in every last bit of information into their presentation and all the sudden you can’t remember all the relevant points.  In an Ignite speech, you only have so much time, you have to narrow it down – no fluff, only the important message.

Igniting different presentations:

Now that you know the principles of an ignite speech, you can take apply them to every day.  Whether you are giving a 30 second (or less) elevator pitch, writing a grant proposal, engaging in social media, giving an hour presentation, or networking – you are presenting and you need to Ignite.

You only have a little bit of time to catch someone’s attention, so if you can make your message visually based, organized so the speaker need not rely on the slides, delivered at a quick pace, and limited to a meaningful message you have a greater chance to get your point across.  And you don’t need to do this in 5 minutes with 20 slides. Untitled 2

For a 30 Second Pitch – don’t tell me what I hear too often “I have a product that uses xyz technology to connect abc to a portal that will enable them to, blah, blah, blah…” Tell me a use case – for instance “I remember when my friend was diagnosed with heart disease, but she didn’t know what questions to ask the doctor.  So I decided to develop an app that helps her remember what questions to ask at her next appointment.”

Here’s one of mine: “Having been a patient myself, I know how hard it is to get through the healthcare system.  I want to use my knowledge and experiences to help others logistically and emotionally through the system as a patient navigator.”

While there isn’t a visual picture – I’m sure you drew up a picture of a patient when you heard these use cases.  In the first you can’t even imagine what the product would look like.  Additionally the message was delivered without reliance on notes, delivered in a short time and limited to a meaningful message – both what the person is doing and why it’s needed.

Or how about a grant proposal – turns out that grant proposals are an entire art form and often if the business telling a story about services, not just what the services are, but how they affect actual people – they are more likely to get the grant.

And if the presentation is for an hour, your slides will engage the audience if visual and you don’t read off of them, you’ll leave the audience with a take away, and you’ll get through the presentation in time for questions.  Mostly I’ve heard that 1 minute per slide in regular presentations.  Since you’re going at a decent pace, try to give slide printouts to the audience.

Social Media to Ignite! Every Day: twitter-bird-white-on-blue

Most people won’t be giving presentations every day, but they still have a message to share with the world.  So how can you deliver this message? Social media! Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ or other sites, you can ignite quite easily every day.

Twitter is my favourite way to Ignite.  I use my 140 characters to capture the world’s attention through a short meaningful message.  In sending out a tweet (even just one a day), I connect with others, share information, show myself to be an arbiter of information just as I would in any other presentation.  The best part about tweeting is that it is fast and it reaches an infinite audience.

The same is true through the other social media outlets. But people are still reticent to engage these truly amazing tools.  Here’s the easiest way – likely you read one article a day.  On almost every webpage there are buttons for tweeting, linkedin, google+, share, etc. CLICK THAT and you are done.  You have effectively tweeted or shared showing that you know something, you maybe support an idea, you have a message that you want others to hear.  And then you’ve Ignited!

I leave you with one of my favourite Ignite speeches given by @HurtBlogger last year at Stanford University’s Medicine X.

Britt Johnson | Medicine X from Stanford Anesthesia on Vimeo.

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2 Responses to Ignite! Every Day

  1. Wayne Vermillion says:

    Regarding the “Visually Based” topic, an easy guide to visually appealing, succinct-is-sufficient design is the long-standing “5×5 Rule,” meaning that one should try to limit each slide to no more than five lines, each with five words or fewer. It’s not always possible, but it’s a good goal.

    Regarding bullets, cognitive psychologist Chris Atherton proved that bullets actually detract from learners’ results on short-answer tests of presented material. Bullets, like more than five lines, are sometimes inescapable, but shunning them is a good goal as well. Here’s the link to Atherton’s study:

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