I always start talks with some kind of anecdote or fact to get the audience interested, rather than a bio. Why should we care who you are until we know whether you’re worth listening to? So usually I introduce myself around the 2nd or 3rd slide.
But Russell Davies, who was incredibly helpful when I was preparing the talk, suggested I go one further – just keep telling the story. When he pitched it to me he said “it would be a brave move…”, which I took as a challenge I had to accept.
Scott Berkun’s Ignite talk on giving Ignite talks is very worth watching if you are considering giving an Ignite talk.
The main practical thing I took from it was that you will probably lose most of your first and last slide. Every time I practiced a run-through, I waited at least a few seconds before starting the first slide.
It was a good job I did. On the night, they had been playing music as people ascended the stage, but for some reason, they started mine when I was already on the stage, when I was about to start speaking. But because I’d practiced not starting immediately, it didn’t throw me, and it didn’t put me behind from the beginning.
More great advice from Russell: don’t be too tied to your slides. Just talk, and if they coincide then it looks like you’re a genius, and if they don’t it doesn’t matter.
Another incredibly useful piece of advice I got from Jason Grigsby’s post about his Ignite talk was to do real practice. This is really important. When you make a mistake in a practice, then carry on – practice recovering. You will learn how to improvise until you get back on track – which is one of the most important skills for a successful Ignite talk.
People are at Ignite talks to have fun. It’s a great crowd, like doing a Best Man’s speech (yes, I’ve done one of those too) – the audience want you to do well. That, or fall off the stage.
The format of Ignite talks is a good constraint to encourage creativity and I really recommend you give it a go. I enjoyed it a lot.
When it was finished I’d made quite a few mistakes and missed out things I’d wanted to say, but on balance, I think it went pretty well. Judge for yourself.
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