Building my Ignite Talk

I’ve had a few people ask me about my Ignite speech and how I put it together, so I thought I’d write a blog post for anyone who may be considering doing an Ignite talk for the Dinner Series.

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014 I was very humbled and honoured to be able to do an Ignite talk for the Surrey District “Engaging the Digital Learner” Dinner Series.  Two colleagues; Sarah Garr and Sarah Dalzell, a special guest-US Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler and I all presented Ignite talks before the main speaker, Sylvia Martinez gave an inspiring talk about the Maker Movement and her book, “Invent to Learn.”

Here is the link to the recording of the streaming;


The process…

The first thing I did was to reach out to friends who have done an Ignite before-helping teacher Lisa Domeir de Suarez and Karen Lirenman.  Karen and I met over dinner shortly before the winter break and I was able to pick her brain about the logistics of how it worked-20 slides, 15 seconds per slide, did she read notes or memorize, paper notes or on her ipad?  Is it too dark to read note cards, how do you see your slides as you speak…?  Her answer was that she used her ipad and flipped through her presentation as she spoke.  She could see her slides on the screen to her side as she spoke and was able to pace her speaking accordingly.   She gave me the big picture and logistics so I knew where to start.

Lisa recommended the e-book, “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte, which I downloaded (free) on my ipad and read over the holidays.  It’s a remarkable resource and I highly recommend it to anyone who speaks publicly.

Next I met with my #hashtagtrouble girls and in true hashtag style, tossed about some ideas.  This brilliant group of ladies continually challenge me to verbalize my thoughts and defend my ideas, which helps me to solidify my thinking.   For that and for so many other reasons, I am so grateful for their friendship and support.

This year I have been a part of Classroom Champions; a community of classes and teachers paired with Olympic athletes and a fantastic resource for any classroom.   I am proud and honored to be working with Steve Mesler, the co-founder.  When we were planning the logistics of another event, I mentioned to him that I was speaking and he very kindly offered to chat via google hangout and give me some coaching.

Considering that he speaks publicly for a living and has many Ted talks under his belt, I put on my brave, put aside my awe (and hoped desperately that I would be able to speak somewhat intelligently) and jumped at the chance.  After all, how many people get the chance to be coached by an Olympic Gold medalist?   Having a patient expert in my corner made all the difference in the quality of my Ignite talk.

The main take-aways from my chat with Steve Mesler were:

1.  Consider your audience-who are you speaking to?  What do you have to offer them?

2.  What message or main idea do you want the audience to walk away with?  We talked about how my two big ideas could be brought together under one theme, tagline or title.  (After much pondering I later chose, “Building Communities Around Students”)

3.  The best way to communicate is by telling stories.  He said to pick two stories that convey my ideas and tell them.  By telling stories you connect with the audience and establish that you are on the same level as they are and the audience is more likely to remember your talk.

4.  The biggest surprise for me was when Steve shared that the structure of public speaking is very simple:

1.  Tell them what you are going to say

2.  Tell them

3.  Tell them what you told them

It seems so simple, but the elegance is in the simplicity.  With the rapid-fire slide deck and the short time limit, the more direct, the better.

Building the slide deck was a bit of a chicken/egg quandary.  Pick the photos and build the script or find the photo to fit the speech?  I ended up doing a bit of both.  After my chat with Steve I had a really clear idea of the two main ideas I wanted to share.  I selected photos that went with each grouping and then printed them out on paper.   A few of the images had ideas already associated with them, but many of them were generic enough that I could work my ideas into the photo.  As my thoughts became organised, I moved images around (and searched for new ones) to fit my ideas

I was careful to make sure that the writing on the slide images was minimal because if the audience is reading your slide, they aren’t listening to your words.  The first slide with the quote from Bill Ferriter I read aloud for that reason.

Once I got my slides together and the words to go with each slide (3-5 sentences at the most is what I recommend) I sent the Powerpoint to Lisa and Steve for feedback.  I also had the guidance and tech wisdom of Kevin Amboe on my side to help with the timing and rehearsing in Powerpoint.

Karen also did one very special thing for me.  The day before the talk she sent me a message on Facebook and said that the hardest part for her was just before she spoke.  Once she started everything was fine.  I knew where Karen was sitting that evening, so as I got up to speak I looked her way.  She caught my gaze and gave me the biggest smile and two thumbs up.   That small act of kindness helped me to remain focused and likely stopped me from throwing up on my shoes.

Now that I have gone through the Ignite forge, I am happy to help out any #sd36learn folks who are considering speaking at the Dinner Series-just drop me an e-mail.  It’s a real challenge to refine big ideas into a five-minute talk.  I feel it has made me a better presenter in longer workshop-type sessions and I look forward to transferring these new skills to future presentations.

Finally, I am completely grateful to all of my caring, critical friends who supported my learning in this adventure.  My wish in presenting was to honour Bill Ferriter, Dean Shareski, the amazing folks at Kiva, Steve Mesler and Classroom Champions for all of the opportunities they have given my students and I because they shared themselves with the world.   Thank you to Elisa Carlson, Kevin Amboe and the IML team for encouraging me to present and giving me the opportunity to share my learning!


At the end of the night with Steve Mesler and Robyn Thiessen


Building my Ignite Talk — 3 Comments

  1. Totally sorry that I didn’t see this sooner, friend — and totally proud of you!

    I hope your presentation was nothing short of amazing.

    Heck, I’m sure it was — YOU are nothing short of amazing!

    Grateful for our friendship…

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey Diana! I was just chatting with Lisa Dormier today about Ignite and we are looking at setting up something similar in SD57. Thanks for your courage in trying something new!

  3. Thank you for sharing the process.

    I am honoured to work with risk takers like yourself. You stepped up and shared powerfully with 300 colleagues


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