Ignite Vegas 2.0, finally

Back in August I helped organize the first Ignite event here in Las Vegas. I've been a fan of the Ignite format (5 minute presentations, 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds) and have watched dozens of videos from other Ignite events online. I was thrilled that we would finally be having an Ignite right here where I could go and be part of the excitement as it was happening. It did not disappoint.

After that first event, I was certain I wanted to come up with a topic and submit a session for the next event. I had kicked around a few ideas related to WordPress. But really, all of my public speaking over the past 2.5 years has been about WordPress and I wanted to talk about something else. I threw some ideas around with my wife, but there had been one in the back of my mind for a while that for some reason I was reluctant to mention. So finally I threw it out there.

I said, “I think I want to do a session titled ‘Everything I know about business, I learned from Fight Club.'”

Fight Club had been on my mind quite a bit recently. It is my favorite movie of all time and I had just recently built a site called durdenipsum.com (and a WordPress plugin) where I use quotes from the movie to generate placeholder text to be used for site design. So the movie was already on my mind. Once the title was out in the open, no other idea had much appeal. I submitted the session and as luck would have it, I was selected as one of the presenters for Ignite Vegas 2.0. (it's perfectly fine to point out that I'm one of the organizers and I may have played favoritism on letting myself in.)

The event was last week and it was an absolute blast! The week leading up to the event, well, that's a different story all together. That week I made a very enlightening discovery; it is exponentially more difficult to prepare for a 5 minute presentation than a 45 minute presentation.

Long Form Presentations
Almost all of my public speaking to this point has been in the form of 30-45 minute presentations. With that much time to be on stage, there's plenty of time to take questions from the crowd which can alter the course of a presentation, or there's time to back up and revisit a slide to dive further in to a specific topic. With Ignite, you've got none of that to fall back on. When I'm making slides, I will go over them for several days. Each slide is typically used to convey either a specific point, or as a visual cue to me for what I want to say next. So it's important that each slide is serving it's purpose and each topic in the set is in the right order to keep the session on track. As a result, once my slide deck is done, there is very little for me to practice. I already know the key points I want to make, and I want the presentation to be more of a conversation with the crowd instead of me droning on for 45 minutes.

None of that prepared me for speaking at Ignite.

Prepping for Ignite
Of course, the first thing I did was watch the movie. I sat with a note pad and jotted down some key elements. I already had a handful of ideas in mind for things I wanted to mention related to business. Now I just needed to tie them, in some cases the ties are pretty loose, back to the movie. When the movie was over I had 3 pages of notes.

I took the notes and started pairing them up to quotes from the movie. The plan was to use 1 quote and 1 image per slide to summarize each point I was going to make. Easier said than done. I spent the next 2 days going over the list, matching up quotes and writing out everything I wanted to say for each slide. If this were a normal presentation, I would be done. No dice. I was just getting started.

Next I watched the movie again. This time I was looking for visuals to go along with quotes and topics I had written out. In most cases I simply waited until each quote was used and found a semi-relevant image from the scene to use for the slide. This was great when the scene and quote worked together. When it didn't, it meant watching the movie from end-to-end to find a single frame. The result; to get 20 screen shots, I watched the movie for 6+ hours.

Still not done.

I made my slides and sent them in with less than 90 minutes to spare before the deadline. I now had no way of changing my slides and 4 days to prepare for my presentation. I added all my slides to PowerPoint and set it up to auto-advance just like the real thing. I then proceeded to start practicing. After running through the slides a couple times, the first thought I had was, “Holy shit, this is tough!”

I probably ended up doing 50 or so test runs. No two had the same content. I would change wording. I'd forget a point I wanted to make. I'd add extra wording that would make me run long on a given slide. I also found it very difficult to give the presentation in front of just one or two people. I've spoken in front of 500 people before and wasn't half as nervous as I was in my loft presenting to my wife and kid.

The day of the event, THANKFULLY, was a work day. I kept pretty busy until it was time to start getting ready. I decided to drink a beer and do one more walk through. It was the worst one yet. So I did it again. The second one was half decent. Fuck it. I was as ready as I was going to be.

Show Time
The place filled up nicely by the time things started. We were at a bar so it made it really convenient to grab a little extra liquid courage before it was my turn to go on stage. When they called the speaker right before me, I made my way to the side of the stage. I went over in my head the couple of slides that kept tripping me up. Before I knew it she was announcing my name. My first slide showed up on screen and the next 5 minutes flew by in the blink of an eye. When I got off stage I couldn't remember a thing I had said. I couldn't remember screwing anything up too terribly, so that was good. But, I also couldn't remember if I made the points I was trying to make.

I am both looking forward and terrified to see the video of my presentation once they get posted.

Regardless, I had an great time and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. I couldn't ask for much more than that.

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1 Comment

  1. shayne on January 16, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I’m sure it’s awesome! Can’t wait to see it 🙂

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