There's an article in Inc magazine about Tim O’Shaughnessy, LivingSocial CEO, in which he describes how he works. There were a good few things where you I wondered how effective they could be, and then I got to a description of 'Ignite' presentations.

An Ignite presentation, I discovered, is a five minute Powerpoint presentation with 20 slides. Yes, that's 20 slides in 5 minutes. Apparently, it's supposed to 'ignite' the audience. The thought of 20 slides in 5 minutes made me quite dizzy. It's one every 25 seconds. I'm not sure I read that quickly - and I read quickly.

It seemed to me, that it's the wrong answer to the question. How to get the audience excited isn't answered by more powerpoint, it's answered by being a better presenter. Connecting with the audience and allowing them to connect with your passion.

Has anyone seen an 'ignite' presentation and want to talk me out of this view?


Ignite/Lightning Talks/Pecha

Ignite/Lightning Talks/Pecha Kucha talks are great. They force presenters to get down to the nuts and bolts and condense their talk down to a short time frame. Most conference presentations other than keynotes could easily be summarised in such form. I don't care about the number of slides, it is the time that is important. I definitely think that forcing presenters to move from 20-30 minute slots down to 5 or 10, forces them to become better communicators, as they have to be much more prepared and effective in their communication style.

Some fresh-thinking conferences are moving to a model of traditional length keynotes for invited speakers, lightning talks for anyone else, and providing more forum/discussion time. The couple of conferences, admittedly smaller, that I've been to like this have been fantastic.


I've done a couple of Ignite talks, and it is a huge challenge to get your message across in 5 minutes, but it really does make you boil it down to it's core, and "ignite" ideas in the audience. As opposed to being "more PowerPoint", it's actually forces you to use PowerPoint effectively, because you cannot read from the slide fast enough. The slide needs to visually connect with the words coming out of your mouth, not be the words coming out of your mouth.

Do a web search and you'll find plenty of videos of Ignite presentations, good, bad and everywhere in between!

One of my favorite rapid-fire presentations...

Identity 2.0 keynote

 I've used these techniques a couple of times for departmental overviews for new hires and they seem to have gone over well. 

My soapbox...

I'd never heard of these until now so I went on the web and watched a couple.

I disagree that it's a challenge to communicate core, powerful ideas in 5 minutes or less.  That's actually quite a lot of time if you've ever been in a situation where you've had to fill time.    Advertisers mange to explain and sell us things in 30 seconds or less.

The sad fact of presentations is that most people are too lazy to be concise, or don't know how to structure a persuasive presentation.   That's why most C level people will cut off speakers in an attempt to get to the core issues - they haven't got time for blather.

It reminded me of BlaisePascal's quote: "I apologize that this letter is so long - I lacked the time to make it short."   The best communication is vigorous and concise.

Power Point has been the death of public speaking.   The speaker is the most powerful source of any message.   If I wanted to read slides, I wouldn't need to go to a meeting. 

I think of some of the powerful presentations I've seen at Toastmasters meetings - those presentations are 5-7 minutes long and I've seen a few that moved me to tears.   (None of them used Power Point)

Better get off my soapbox now!    I'm a bit passionate about this because I've wasted a lot of hours in bad presentations.

I present this way

Rapid-fire slides is how I present. I was quite surprised by MT advice to reduce the number of slides.

I believe in increasing the number of slides and massively decreasing the number of words. The slides tell the story in pictures that you're talking about in words.

For example, I'm not going to show a graph for people to digest every data point, ignoring what I'm saying. The graph will appear on a slide for a short period of time as I introduce what it represents, then the next slide will illustrate whatever I want to say about whichever part of the graph I want to talk about.

Let's say the graph was showing widgets shipped, your quick glimpse will show that we're shipping more widgets than last year. "OK, let's take a look at our quarterly widgets shipped compared to previous years"

Then the slide changes to a picture of one of our drivers standing next to his truck. Overlaid is the take-home point: "Third quarter shipping is up 25 per cent on last year and 17 per cent on a five-year average"

If the reason why this happened is easy to communicate, I might talk about it without changing slides. Eg. "We know the competitor went our of business" or "That's largely due to our overseas orders, but I'll come back to that"

The hand out won't have the driver with his truck, but it will have the graph. And you don't get that until I've finished presenting.

When it comes time to talk about the overseas orders, I'll have slides that illustrate each country I want to talk about. If I like 5 countries, I'm likely to have five slides. "The Netherlands were up 10% due to a reseller's spend on marketing" with a windmill picture (yes, I love stereotypes in my slides)

Whether we're talking about presenting to "professionals" or not, we all live in a world where TV cuts visuals every few seconds. To hold an audience, you need to do likewise.

Seen one, not sure ifi liked it

 I was at conference last year where the last keynote on the last day (tough slot) did this at the beginning of their presentation. Maybe not one every 25secs, but not far off. 

On one hand it was engaging and an energy boost after a three day conference, but on the other it felt a little gimmicky. It was somewhat lost later when after the intro was like this the rest if the slides went back to normal too many dull slow format.  I felt somewhat frustrated as the content underneath was great, but for me didn't jump out. 

Its interesting how people view it though as a colleague of mine really liked that slot!

Wendii, I have a copy of the slides if you'd like to see. Ping me an email if so. 

High D,I


Best presentations are not about slides, they are about the presenter and the story he or she tells, which should be important for the audience.

Picking on Rickum's point, if the goal is to make it about slides, than it looks like there can be a lot of them with really few or no words at all on each of them.

But if we're trying to make it about the story and the presenter (and n the end of the day about the audience) the key here is to identify what Ignite is in fact. In our company we have Ignite as operating principle which stands for:

In touch   Genuine  Nimble  Inclusive  Trusted  Engaged

From my experience when presenting something internally or externally remembering these principles will make it important for the audience. You might drop one or two, but keeping the rest will secure the attention to what you're saying much more than the number of slides