How to deliver an Ignite style talk

By | June 11, 2017

Spectacular Storytelling Ignite style The Story Midwife

Make your presentation concise and compelling

There are many different styles of presentations. The fast-paced lightning talks are a lot of fun. I recently gave an Ignite-style talk and I want to offer some tips on how to create one.

My mantra ever since speaking my mantra has been

Speak at every opportunity, because every time you speak it is an opportunity to make a difference.

This week I gave a Lightning Talk at the ACS WA hosted by Microsoft in Perth.

What’s an Ignite-style talk?

Since then, quite a few have asked me what is an Ignite-style or Lightning talk.  I thought I’d share my experience of putting together the talk and the five-minute YouTube video of my talk.

A Lightning Talk is a short presentation lasting only a few minutes, often given at a conference or similar forum. A single session can have multiple speakers. It is fast, fun and a great way to entertain while educating.

There are different formats of the lightning talk, including PechaKucha and Ignite. Each has a specific number of slides that automatically advanced at fixed intervals.

The hosts of the ACS WA event chose the Ignite style which is a five-minute presentation, with 20 slides in the deck and each slide auto-advancing every 15 seconds.

I decided to say yes to the opportunity to present in this format.

It’s not about the slides

I rarely use slides in my presentations as I like tell stories. So when I do use slides (when I’m training for example), I ensure my slides support and enhance my message, rather than distract from it. The latter is a common mistake and pet peeve I see with most Powerpoint presentations.

Chose images that are going to help get your message across. Aim for no, or very few words. A picture says a thousand words right? Let your picture do some of the talking.

I believe the focus of the audience should be on the speaker, and the slides are there for the benefit of the audience. When a speaker gives 100% attention to the audience, you can connect and engage fully.

The approach I took in creating and delivering my Lightning Talk was to “create, practice, set and forget”.  I didn’t want the slides to steal the show

Pick one main idea to share

My passion is storytelling. I teach business storytelling and presentation skills and have plenty of content on the topic, as well as a lifetime of stories. The challenge was to pick one thing. As the audience was predominantly those new to Public Speaking, I wanted them to leave with some simple tips on why storytelling is a valuable tool and how to structure a story.

I decided to share my 5 C’s of Compelling Storytelling™



In preparing for the talk, my challenge was to ensure that the timing of the words synchronized with the auto-advancing slides so that;

a) the audience was able to follow along, b) the flow was seamless and c) because that is how to play the game!

Here are 10 tips on how t0 put together an Ignite-style talk

It took me around 2 hours in total to select content, set up the slides and rehearse the talk.

  1. Set up your slide deck with 20 slides and set the timings to fade and advance at 15-second intervals (do this for the first slide then click “select all”).
  2. Chose images that are going to help get your message across. A picture says a thousand words right? Let your pictures do some of the talking.
  3.  Write a few lines about each slide – brevity is key here, 15 seconds is not long.
  4. Ensure the talk has a logical flow including an introduction to you and your topic and a call to action.
  5. Practice your timings with the slides running (rehearse mode worked well for this).
  6. If your timings are not aligned to the slides, adjust the number of words to match as near as possible.
  7. Avoid bullet points on your slides, large pictures with very few words works best. That way it is not as obvious if the slides and your words go a bit out of sync during delivery.
  8. Practice a few times and get comfortable with your material. Aim to present without notes and away from the lectern, (it is not a requirement but part of being a confident, engaging presenter).
  9. When you are ready to deliver your talk “set and forget”.
  10. Once the slides start rolling, that’s it!  Focus on your audience don’t worry what is going on in the background avoid turning back to look at your slides (you may have a comfort screen in front of you, but in my case, there wasn’t one).

Relax and have fun

I really enjoyed the experience,  it is fast, fun and a good way to practice creating a speech that is concise and captivating in a short time frame

I loved the format of the evening because this style of presenting is fast and fun and allows multiple speakers to be part of the program. At the event I was part of, there were 11 speakers.

To make the night even more fun. The hosts added some Roulette slide decks to the mix,  volunteers enthusiastically made up a story on the spot, based on the image that flashed before them.  They did a fabulous job at coming up with a talk that aligned with the theme of the slides.

If you want to get better at speaking, say yes to every opportunity.

The Ignite-style talk will force you to be concise and organized in your approach. With a little practice, you will then be ready to share one idea in a short time with the added value of pictures to help get your message across.


I’m a Professional Speaker and Public Speaking and Storytelling Coach based in Perth Australia (but we can chat anywhere with the wonderful tool of Skype).

Available for keynote speaking, breakout sessions, workshops, training, and coaching. If you would like to chat about how I can serve you at your next conference contact me

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