Gini Dietrich

Ignite Presentation: Six Tips to Give the One of Your Lifetime

By: Gini Dietrich | July 9, 2013 | 

Ignite Presentation- Six Tips to Give the One of Your Lifetime

By Gini Dietrich

When I was at Counselors Academy last month, the luncheon the first full day was called 52N.

Going into it, all I knew is my friends – Roger Friedensen, Martin Waxman, Darryl Salerno, Bret Werner, and Abbie Fink (representing the women!) – were all presenting.

With a plate full of fresh fruits, veggies, and salad, I sat down next to Abbie and asked her what to expect. She said, “Expect me to cry.”

(And cry she did…and so did everyone in the audience. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.)

Set up like an Ignite presentation, they each had five minutes to go through 20 PowerPoint slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

That means you have to speak in 15 second soundbites and not let the slides get ahead of you. If they do, you have to quickly get yourself caught up.

I did this kind of presentation a couple of years ago in Washington, D.C. It wasn’t easy and I rehearsed for it more than I’ve ever done so for a speech. You have to know exactly what you’re going to say and there is no room for going off message or reading the body language of the audience and changing your tune.

You are stuck with what you prepared for the full five minutes…no matter how your audience feels about it.

As I watched my friends tell their stories in this compelling and interesting way, I jotted down what I thought each of them did well so as to share it with you.

Six Tips for an Ignite Presentation

Following are six tips for giving the Ignite presentation of your life.

  1. Tell a personal story. It doesn’t have to be about work. As I watched both Daryl and Abbie do their presentations, I was reminded of the episode of Grey’s Anatomy when Callie is getting ready to do her TED talk and rehearses the boring, old mechanical nature of her job. But when she actually presented, she told the story of being married to a woman who lost her leg in a plane crash. The same crash that killed her best friend and baby’s daddy. The personal story is much more alluring and helps you connect with your audience.
  2. Have only one message…and repeat it. You have only five minutes and, because the slides are auto advancing every 15 seconds, your audience is both listening to you and watching whether or not you’ll screw up the timing. Instead of trying to get in three to five messages, like you would in a longer-form speech, have only one thing to drive home and repeat it multiple times.
  3. Be self-effacing. If you screw up – and it’s likely you will – make fun of yourself. The audience is holding its breath waiting for you to make it through those five minutes. They want you to succeed. If you screw up and make light of it, you can feel the collective sigh of relief as everyone realizes you, too, can screw up and it doesn’t hurt your presentation. The mood lightens and you continue on, with your audience cheering you every step of the way.
  4. Tell a story or read a poem. Daryl Salerno read a poem about the English language by Gerald Nolst Trenite. Called The Chaos, the poem has about 800 of the worst irregularities and strange pronunciations we find in our language. If you just scroll through the length of the poem, you know how difficult it must have been for Daryl to get through the entire thing on time.
  5. Have funny images to support your point. DO NOT DO DEATH BY POWERPOINT. The moment you put slides up that have bullet points, you’ve lost your audience. They’re busy reading what you have on the screen and not paying attention to what you’re saying. Part of the challenge is you must have slides, but use funny images to support what you’re saying. Do not use text.
  6. Have some key takeaways. Martin Waxman made it very easy for his audience to tweet some of the things he was saying because he either said, “Here’s a tweet for you” or he had the tweet on the screen. His key takeaways were presented as tweets because he knew his audience and what we would be doing while he spoke. Trouble is, his presentation was so good, you forgot you were supposed to be tweeting and gave him your full undivided attention instead.

The Best Ignite Presentation of the Day

But the creme de la creme of the luncheon?

It was when Abbie Fink read a letter to her dog, Viva.

If you want to see how an Ignite presentation is done really well – in a way that captures nearly every one of the above tips – I present you with Abbie’s video. Words can’t do it justice.

(If you can’t see the video in your email or Reader, click here and it’ll magically appear.)

I expect you to cry.

P.S. Join DJ Waldow on July 25 at 11 a.m. CT for the Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. Register – for free – here!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Death by powerpoint. I’ve see that too many times. Particularly in university where profs would read their slides. Talk about a bore. 
    Great tips

    • IpjRobson It’s as if you don’t know how to read. We know how to read, people! And when you put text up on the screen, we’re automatically going to read the text and stop listening to you.

      • ginidietrich IpjRobson when Peter Shankman spoke at Union College 2 years back he didn’t use anything but a microphone. But that often takes a long time of giving the same talk over and over. When I had to plow through the boring presentations I mentioned above over time I skipped slides because how often do what you say and what the slide says are the same? That is why Abby rocked it above. When I see the same I remember in 11th grade English before taking the test about the novel I was supposed to read…we saw the movie. So why read (or in this case why listen if I can read it….send me an email with a pdf)

  • TimPio

    Hi Gini:
    I enjoyed the tips you shared here.  I’ve attended several Ignite events and even some Pecha Kucha events here in Chicago.  They always open my mind to new ideas and they’re always very entertaining events.  I wish more corporate and client presentations had the same brevity as these presentations. Again, thanks for sharing.

    • TimPio And, because we have such short attention spans these days, it works really well!

    • TimPio This is such a tangent but “pecha kuchas” were the bane of our family’s existence during my 8th grader’s year last year, since he wouldn’t do it. That’s a topic for a different blog but just pointing out this is the first place I have ever heard the term where I wasn’t holding it over someone’s head threatening them with the inability to get into high school if they didn’t do it. So thanks for that!

  • DebCE

    Love Abbie and what a great way to demonstrate your tips. Thanks to you both.

    • DebCE I really loved her presentation. We all cried.

  • Oh my goodness – that was spectacular!

    • lizreusswig wife is talking dogs. Now I can show her the video and say ‘See…I already have a Wife a Daughter and a Female Cat and ginidietrich ordering and bossing me around….I am not adding a demanding dog!’

    • lizreusswig Right?! Did you cry?

      • ginidietrich Of course! Then Coco jumped up on my lap & licked my face, which made me cry harder!

        • lizreusswig Ohhhhhh! LOL!! They can always sense it.

        • ginidietrich lizreusswig Liz, I just watched it and started laughing and crying too! And Lola just started licking me like crazy and just laid at my feet. SUCH a good presentation!!

        • AbbieF

          yvettepistorio ginidietrich lizreusswig Thank you all — my little Hildy gives me all sorts of puppy kisses.

    • AbbieF

      lizreusswig thank you!

      • AbbieF ginidietrich Thank YOU!  Your presentation was so well done and an excellent example of how to do it right!  Also, thanks to Gini for sharing it with all of us…obviously from the comments it resonated in our crazy community – and we’re a tough crowd! 😉

    • AbbieF

      lizreusswig thank you!

  • This is really best for B2B Direct Sales people. I have been victim of so many over loaded sales presentations created by the MARKETING Department who never has to beg for appointments only to be given 10 minutes in an office lobby by someone about to go to lunch after they say goodbye.
    Those same MARKETING people also never had to give the presentation to small groups in often poorly ventilated hot conference rooms with people who can easily fall asleep if they get bored.
    Point 2 is the key. Figure out what the key message is and forget everything else. If they want more they will ask. 
    Granted they spent billions but if you watch the Geico Commercials they all say Give us 15 mins to save 15% on auto insurance. They never talk about what being a customer is like because they have only 30 secs to do points 2 and 5.

    • Howie Goldfarb I’m not sure it’s all the marketing department’s fault. We have a former client who would fight us tooth and nail on the sales presentations. They’d say things like, “We need to keep the boring stuff in so they do fall asleep!” Used to drive me bonkers.

      • ginidietrich LOL One of the co-inventors of the human gene sequencing machines told me he was bringing my catalogs home to read. Can’t bore that guy no matter what.

         I was just saying in my case. We were never asked for input on corporate sales materials. That was what the marketing group did. They also made the company parts catalogs and online presence. It is possible a sales manager participated but the general sales force was never consulted on.

  • Regarding images, I clipped something that Mitch Joel said the other day: “I would argue that the best presentations in the world are the ones where the slides are completely meaningless unless you have seen the speaker present them.” That is, the slides are there for support. If they’re telling the entire story (with a bunch of words), why are you even there?

    • RobBiesenbach Completely agree. I still remember the best slide I ever used was Gonzo the Muppet when I introduced Gonzo journalism to my students. Muppets are great attention grabbers. And cuddly.

    • RobBiesenbach That’s exactly how I give presentations. People ask me all the time if I can send them my slides for their conference attendees and I say, “Sure, but they won’t make any sense if they don’t hear me speak.” They say it’s okay and then yell at me because they don’t make any sense. Um?

      • ginidietrich Yup. The beauty of the image approach is that if they really want the information, they need to invite you in to give it. Though I have started offering up a separate outline in Word that they can use to grasp the main points.

  • dfenichel

    I had never seen Ignite presentations before that lunch in Austin (by the way, thanks for making me cry all over again, but what  a great presentation).  Dumb question: Is this something you (or others) use as a template for actual sales or updating presentations? I’d love to see some examples. I, too, hate death by PowerPoint. I tell people to use the same rules for PowerPoint as you do for billboards — six words and a pic and talk at it. Then I promptly break my own rules.

    • dfenichel I haven’t used slides for a sales presentation since I worked at Fleishman Hillard 10 years ago. But maybe others here can talk about what they do. I’d like to know, too!

  • susancellura

    Gaddummit! You should have told me not to watch this at work! Oh wow, what a great and touching presentation. 
    Back to your post. I love tip #2. I’m going to coach my product line manager on this for his upcoming product launch. And #5, what a great idea – not  only for presenting, but setting up talking points, Q&A, etc.

    • susancellura LOL! Sorry!! But it was great, wasn’t it?

      • susancellura

        ginidietrich It was fabulous!

        • AbbieF

          susancellura ginidietrich Thank you!

  • Aww Abbie (sniff sniff) I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.  Very Touching.
    And Gini, too bad I don’t have any credentials to be hired for a speaking gig… I’d rock this shhhhh

    • TonyBennett The only way to get credentials for speaking is to speak for free and build your resume!

    • AbbieF

      TonyBennett Thanks — this was an incredible experience, took me out of my comfort zone.  The feedback from the audience was quite overwhelming.

  • This is pretty cool stuff. It’s one of those if you think you are good at public speaking, try this! Very intriguing and powerful.

    • Matt_Cerms I remember how terrifying it was when I did it. It’s NOT easy at all. (P.S. Hi!)

      • ginidietrich I can imagine. Focused but relaxed has to be the motto. And, heyyyy!

  • This “ignited” some ideas in my head so thanks!! Viva to doggone good presentations that prevail over death by powerpoint.

    • biggreenpen Ba da dum!

      • ginidietrich – couldn’t help myself – the other option was talking about the 15 second Instagram video I made this weekend to respond to a prompt – I messed up and flubbed a line but forged ahead, partially because impending lightning made a re-do dangerous. And someone made a positive comment, rather than an “oh my god you flubbed a line” comment. Which makes this I guess a very long way of saying: #3 is very true!

  • The first thing that came to my mind is that having to give such a presentation I would create good slides and just sit down silently. Not my style I mean and being a Stress Manager I try to skip rat-race style things whenever possible.

    Being forced to all those points are good for those who like that kind of challenge. 🙂

    • Andrea T.H.W. That’d be hilarious, actually!

  • Susan Hart

    THANK YOU so much, Gini, for posting Abbie S. Fink’s Viva video. Since I couldn’t attend this year’s conference, I’m so glad that I got to see this sweet, precious video made by my sweet, precious friend. I laughed, I cried, and this presentation is now a permanent part of me.

  • ginidietrich So you KNOW that Abbie’s presentation made me smile and laugh and cry. And it truly was an excellent example of a great presentation, both from the “Ignite” model and in general. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • mickeygomez Now if I can find a presentation about hair brushes and Chicago wind, you will be mine forever!

      • I know someone who wrote a blog post about that…

    • AbbieF

      mickeygomez ginidietrich Glad you liked it.  It was a tough one — both as a subject and as a concept, but I am so glad I did it.

  • I won’t cry! I won’t…. crying. <sniff sniff> Beautiful tribute, Abbie.

    • AbbieF

      CarrieMorgan Thanks Carrie.  Really took me out of my comfort zone, so glad I did.

      • AbbieF It was great – I have thought about it all day.

    • CarrieMorgan LOL!! Now imagine being there in person. We were all a mess!

  • I totally cried.

  • I definitely like the storytelling, and including the funny graphics vs Death by Powerpoint, but it would be tough with the auto-advancing slides and my tendency to “go off the reservation” with either a new story that comes up…or playing off of something from the audience.
    And self-effacing can definitely work as long as it’s not too harsh or critical!

  • Never heard of Ignite. Seems the more rigid structure can be a challenge, or just the thing to keep a presentation from becoming rote and dull. No text on the slides – interesting; and that makes the design part, the image selection much more than an afterthought. For the story, the message, takeaways.. for me, that always starts before I start talking. It’s the research, the planning for that audience and what they will want, need, what will connect us and help me share something that’ll speak to them. FWIW.

  • JesiJekson