Master a Five Minute Talk: My Road to Ignite Chicago by Bess Gallanis
The person who said 'talk is cheap' never imagined a five-minute presentation. Speaking at a clip of 160 words a minute, five minutes gets you about 800 words.
With this kind of verbal economy at play, talk is not cheap.
Of all the live presentation events, Ignite is one of the most popular. The love child of Brady Forrest, Bre Pettis and O'Reilly Media, a Silicon Valley technical publisher, Ignite is more like SXSW than TED.
Events are produced by local volunteers in more than 100 cities around the world. Ignite provides the stage, then it's up to the speaker to enlighten, stimulate and entertain the audience. What separates Ignite from other talk-is-chic events is its perfect balance of form and function: Based on its motto, 'enlighten us …. but make it quick', Ignite speakers get five minutes and 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.
Presenters are screened, which keeps the quality high enough to draw a geeky-creative-techy-designer-startup kind of crowd. People come up with really imaginative stories like 'Why you hate Comic Sans’ and 'How to hack your beliefs.'
When I applied to Ignite Chicago, my goal was to debut my new presentation, 'Got Mindfulness', to a general audience. Ignite seemed like the perfect crowd (and it was).
The five-minute Ignite format forced a ruthless discipline on my presentation development and this did get me closer to my goal of making mindfulness make sense to a general audience.
The Ignite experience reminded me of Albert Einstein's quote, 'Make everything simple as possible, but no simpler.' A few tips to help you master a five minute talk:
- You must have unassailable faith in the power of focus to carry your story. Backstory is irrelevant. Jump into the deep end of your story and find a single focal point. Use your five minutes to chisel and polish until it sparkles with a deep, brilliant glow.
- Know your audience and speak from their point of view. The Ignite audience is high caliber, driven and focused -– and constantly plugged in. I used technology metaphors to compare and contrast how stress leads to burnout and how my own crash-and-burn experience led me to mindfulness.
- Make like Homer and become an oral storyteller. I used an entirely different creative process to shape 'Got Mindfulness?'. I set up my video camera and started talking. Talk, watch, more talk. After a few days of this, I had a good sequence and it was enough to put together a PowerPoint. I used high-concept, full-screen images to create visual metaphors that reinforced and supported my presentation.
- Don't underestimate the need to rehearse. A lot of the success of a short-format presentation rides on performance. My rehearsing time was interrupted by a bout of the stomach flu just three days before Ignite. I resumed rehearsal the day of the event and I was still rehearsing in the ladies' room at Catalyst Ranch up until the time the program began. I had one small 'Madonna moment,' but otherwise everything went smoothly. All in all, I spent about 20 hours rehearsing.
- Lead strong. Engage your audience right away. I was the last presenter before the break and followed some very high-energy speakers. I took the stage ad libbing: 'Wow, after all that great energy, I’m going to dial it way down.' Get on the same wavelength with your audience, literally. Do something to synchronize your mirror neurons.
- Finish strong. Start with the end in mind. How do you want to feel at the end of your presentation? How do you want the audience to feel at the end of your presentation? At the end, when I asked everyone to take a nice, deep breath and the collective inhale was loud, I knew my audience was engaged.
- Don't get camera shy. The video will live long after the live event. As soon as you take the stage, look directly into the camera and start talking. From time to time, look directly at the camera as if it's another member of the audience.
- Watch how fast you talk. Many Ignite presenters speak like it's a race against the clock. Five minutes is enough time to say what you have to say. If it's not enough time, your presentation needs more work. 160 words a minute is slightly faster than normal speech and a good pace for presenting.
- Dress the part. Whatever dressing up is for you, do it. Looking the part enhances your credibility. Determined not to wear black created a sartorial crisis because almost everything I own is black. I tried on and dismissed several outfits before settling on a sleeveless sheath dress the color of stone. I was dressed, not over dressed, and the color actually worked really well on stage.
Bess Gallanis is the founder of Speaking with Power and Persuasion, an executive communications consulting firm based in Chicago. She is a communication coach, speaker, journalist, a student of yoga and insight meditation and the author of Yoga Chick (Warner Books, 2006).
See Also: The Best Story Wins - by Bess Gallanis: Part 1 of 2 | The Best Story Wins - by Bess Gallanis: Part 2 of 2
Categories: delivery, guest_post, opinion, powerpoint
Hi Bess - great post! What do you think about the idea of a 5-min. Webinar? That could be fun. These are good guidelines.
April 2003 | May 2003 | December 2003 | January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004 | June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004 | September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | January 2011 | February 2011 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | May 2013 |
Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.