Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Speakers spark

What can you say in five minutes, and how would you say it?

Five minutes, 20 slides. That’s the premise of Ignite DC, a high-energy gathering of people with ideas and the courage to put them out in front of 300+ strangers

Ignite DC #6, held last week, had the flavor of a Tweetup and the velocity of a speed-dating event. Sixteen speakers each had 20 slides, which advanced automatically every 15 seconds.

Who were the speakers? Ignite’s Web site promised “artists, technologists, thinkers and personalities.” I heard from a marketing student and a life coach, a DJ and a policy analyst, an artist and a hacker, among others.

The evening’s organizers -- DC entrepreneur Jared Goralnick and public relations strategist and local blogging guru Geoff Livingston – kept the program moving. None of the 16 speakers went over their time, I noticed with admiration. Each presentation was focused, well paced and delivered with verve.

If your time is brief, an introduction with a catchy title creates a flurry of interest right at the start. Here are some of my favorites from the event:

- Why Jack Bauer Needs a Nap: He’d make better decisions if he could get out from under that 24-hour stress, which must be wreaking havoc on his mind and body. Life coach Alison Elissa made her point with humor and offered a gentle reminder to all.

- Heather Coleman titled her presentation simply “Help!” then grabbed our attention with her first sentence: “If you saw a naked woman running down the road, would you stop your car?” Any snickering stopped as she revealed that she had been that woman, in the grip of severe postpartum psychosis. Tragedy was averted only by a traffic jam and some helpful strangers.

- I Suffer from… FOMO: Right away, the listener wonders, what is FOMO? Should I be worried? FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out, Shana Glickfield opined in a cheerfully self-deprecating sketch. Glickfield, an online communications consultant, described overbooking herself, spending too much money, and stressing out friends and relatives in an attempt to avoid what she described as “the worst thing a person with FOMO can hear: `You should have been there!’”

Glickfield ended the program with laughter and a light-hearted reminder to look away from the screen once in a while, pay attention to the live world around you.

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