Friday, August 17, 2012

Why We're Using Ignites in our Conference Workshop

I'm currently working with a team on a number of 2-hour workshops that will be held at an upcoming international conservation congress in September. For one of the workshops we will feature 6 speakers sharing different approaches to working with their supply chains.

We will be using the Ignite format for their presentations and every presenter I have spoken with so far has been keen to try this, although they realise that the format is a little more challenging for them than the traditional PPT slide set that you control yourself.

I was asked by one presenter to share why we thought this format was a good choice, so I wrote up the following short description and rationale for why Ignites are great for conference presentations:

Ignites started in 2006 in Seattle, Washington, supported by O'Reilly media, and focused in those early days on helping the technology industry speakers "ignite" their audiences with new ideas, but in 5 minutes bursts. With the slogan "enlighten me, but make it quick" it rapidly caught the imagination of other conference and event organizers (both within the tech industry and beyond) as a way to feature many people, and thus many ideas, in a reliably short period of time.

The format of an Ignite is 20 slides auto-timed at 15 seconds each, which is similar to the Pecha Kucha format (which is 20 slides auto-timed at 20 seconds each). Pecha Kucha's also came out of industry, launched as it was by presenters from the design industry in Japan, earlier in 2003.

These are powerful formats for conference settings as:
  1. They focus the speakers on a strong narrative line and key messages (avoiding going off message and in different directions during their talk);
  2. The format keeps the speaker to time, as the slides are auto-timed in advance meaning they change automatically during the presentation. This also means that all speakers have the same time allocation, and the last speaker doesn't get squeezed by the time transgressions of the first speakers (we've all seen it happen).
  3. It means you can have, with confidence, more speakers and ideas, which allows for greater information exchange, as the talks are guaranteed to be short (after the last slide shows the screen goes black and its obviously over);
  4. It sets up a reliable pace for the audience, so they can relax into the 5-minute segments (even with many speakers) knowing that the presenter will stick to time and the essential points. They also know that if one presentation is bad, then it is only bad for 5 minutes and not for an ideterminable time period. This goes a long way in conferences to enhance audience enjoyment and engagement.
These are just some of the reasons we will be using Ignites in our conference sessions, and why this format is a strong choice for this!

I have written some other blog posts on using both Pecha Kuchas and Ignites, and what makes them good. If you're interested:

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