Ignite Your Story

Last week, our E-Learning team hosted an event for school leaders in our region.  The goal of the event was to “stretch” leaders but in a more relaxed, reflective, and (hopefully) fun environment versus a typical full-day conference.  Our event kicked off with a series of “Ignite Talks” from a handful of our school leaders.

If you are not familiar with the Ignite format – your presentation is limited to five (5) minutes and 20 slides, with each slide automatically advancing after 15 seconds.  It was great to be on the other side of the presentations because about a month ago, colleagues on my team and I each presented an Ignite Talk at a regional administrators’ conference.  This was the first time any of us on the team had presented in such a way, so there was definitely some trepidation about the format.

It was clear from watching the Ignite sessions that presenters (sitting school superintendents and regional directors) both had a lot of fun with the format but were challenged with limiting their presentations to five (5) minutes.  Experienced presenters  Dale Breault and Karen Goldstein noted they spent far more time constructing their 5-minute Ignite than they would for a typical 45-minute presentation.

Ignite BBailey
Dr. Brian Bailey, Superintendent, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk CSD, delivers his Ignite Talk

I found the Ignite format is a powerful way to convey a message and tell a story in a very precise way.  To use the Ignite slogan – “Enlighten me, but make it quick!”  Too often, we listen to presentations that try to do too much – too many slides, too much information, no cohesion.  In particular, we see slides used all the time with text presented so small you can’t read it anyway – so what’s the point?

For me, the Ignite session forces presenters to scrap all of that.  It requires you to use visuals to supplement your presentation – but it doesn’t drive your presentation.  It forces you to cut to the chase and focus in on a very small number of main points, which is probably about all attendees can digest anyway.

Ignite RSquier

Ignite CFord-Johnston
Ignite Talks from Randy Squier (Superintendent, Coxsackie-Athens CSD) and Cynthia Ford-Johnston (Interim Superintendent, Peru CSD)

While some folks can be intimidated by the format, Ignite for me was about the most natural way to present.  As my team knows (I say it like a broken record), visuals are key to any presentation and “it’s all about the story” in a presentation – because that is what people remember.  The story connects to your heart rather than your head.  The Ignite format forces you pick important visuals that help reflect the story you are telling.  Plus, in a world where we are all so busy, isn’t five (5) minutes enough time to make your key point?

I’m hoping we are able to facilitate further Ignite Talks throughout the year… and I will be curious to see how the format will be used back in districts.  We started hearing great ideas such as using Ignite at Opening Day, by faculty presenting to peers in faculty meetings, and by students in classroom presentations.  It was truly great seeing experienced superintendents and others “put themselves out there” and try an Ignite Talk.  They seem to have done just that – ignite further conversations about new and different ways to message your story.