Ignite—rapid fire presentations!

Posted by Phoebe Bailey on December 5, 2010

Bored by tedious PowerPoint presentations?    Recently, I learned about two alternatives worth your consideration.

I was working with a team to plan a technology conference for 100 technology teacher leaders in our state when our keynote speaker, Tony Vincent, introduced us to “Pecha Kucha.”  To me it sounded like a character from a video game, and my two technology geek friends were clueless as well.  In fact, Pecha Kucha is a presentation format that restricts each presenter to 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds.  The slides are set to advance automatically to ensure the time limit is honored.  Ultimately, each presenter has just 6 minutes 40 seconds to explain  ideas.

Yet even with that short time frame, we realized we would not have enough time for everyone to create and show a Pecha Kucha.  Mr. Vincent had an immediate answer: Ignite.  In this even briefer format, participants are given five minutes to speak accompanied by 20 slides. Each slide is displayed for 15 seconds, and slides are advanced automatically.  We agreed to give it a try and have an Ignite showcase the final day of the conference.  After all, how hard could this be, right?

We built time into the conference for participants to work on their presentations—either alone or with a group.  On showcase day we drew names to see who would have the opportunity to take the stage and share.  We allowed time for 18 presentations.  Sounds long until you do the math and see it’s only 90 minutes of total presentation time!    We had a variety of topics that ranged from parent involvement to Wikispaces in education to the impact your skin color has on others’ perceptions of you.  Using wiffiti, participants gave feedback on each presentation, which kept everyone engaged during transitions between speakers.

The overall feeling of the group was that preparing to give this type of presentation is not as easy as it looks!  It takes a lot of thoughtful planning to get the timing down and to get your message across in your allotted time.  However, the benefits are great.  (If fact, if teachers adopted this style of information sharing it might capture some of that the much-discussed shrinking attention span of students who are not being engaged in their learning and are bored in class!)