Entries in Ignite Boulder (4)


Our Princess is in Another Castle Video

My presentation from Ignite Boulder 6 was just posted online. Aside from the slides coming in a few seconds ahead of schedule, it came out great. Check it out below:


Ignite Boulder 6 Wrapup

Andrew Hyde and company have done it again. Ignite Boulder 6 went off without a hitch, and everyone I talked to had a great time.


It was extremely well organized. Everyone who helped out did a great job. I sent over the slides the day before (including a custom font which had to be installed) and was sent back a PDF proof, just to make sure everything looked right. Then another set of proofs, showing all the slides for the entire evening back to back to back. It left me 100% sure that there wouldn't be any problems.

The 40 minute break. I was surprised when Andrew announced that Mountain Standard Time would be playing for 40 minutes. At the time it seemed like an eternity - I just wanted to see the rest of the presentations! However, it fit in perfectly with a complaint I've had in past years: I never seem to have enough time to socialize with everyone. The 40 minutes whizzed by and I wasn't even ready to go back to the presentations! I'd be curious to hear what newbies (who may have had less people around to talk with) thought?

The deck designs. This was the most well designed set of slides at an Ignite yet. The presenters clearly spent a lot of time making them look nice, and there were less total words than in any previous Ignite. This lets you focus on the speaker, not dividing your attention between listening and reading.

Less F-bombs. Ignite 5 got a little carried away, but it was intentionally reigned back in this time.



Stuck behind the podium. I definitely prefer to be able to wander onstage while presenting, but it wasn't possible with the setup. For me, it's harder to project energy when I can't move around. Another thing I'd love to see in the future, is to have another monitor facing the presenters, so they don't have to turn around to look for slide changes.

Drunk Driving not taken seriously. Vanessa Schneider's talk The Things They Don't Tell You about a DUI teetered nicely on the edge of being a full blown condemnation of drunk driving. It was a whole deck about everything she's had to endure since being arrested. She had to have friends come over to take out her trash while under house arrest. She'll still be blowing into a breathalizer while driving into the year 2011.

There were a few elements of humor (done appropriately), but in the end, she concluded with something along the lines of: it was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me - I started my own business because of it. I was really hoping for a strong conclusion along the lines of: I learned something. I would never EVER do it again, and after hearing my story, you'd have to be insane to even consider it. Drinking and driving were later referenced by two or three other people at the mic and sadly the audience seemed more amused than sobered. Poor form (again, not picking on you Vanessa).

The line outside. This was probably only a minor problem, but I'd guess that people who arrived at 6:05 probably spent 25 minutes in line waiting to get in - getting only half of the socializing time they had expected.

Ignite needs a better elevator pitch. Ignite is very hard to explain to people who haven't been before. How can you get your newbie friends excited if you can't even describe it?



In closing, Ignite Boulder 6 was another great, great night. Everyone was so supportive and grateful to the organizers and presenters. I truly appreciated the opportunity to present (again), and want to thank everyone who voted for my topic in addition to all the hardworking organizers. Even having presented 3 times myself, I'm still not sure what Ignite Boulder is supposed to be - other than an amazingly entertaining night in the Boulder community.


What Makes a Great Ignite Presentation?

When you present at Ignite Boulder - time goes by really, really fast. Everyone you know seems to find their way to you both before and after the show to offer words of encouragement and congratulations. You can't stand still because there is a lot of nervous energy that needs to be walked off. And sadly, you can't always give the other speakers your full attention - you're either worrying about your speech, or coming down from just having given it.

I've thought a lot about "the ideal" presentation in the last few months and how the speeches I've seen (and given) could have been better. Most often, it boils down to one of the following issues:

  • It's a comedy routine with little value beyond entertainment
  • Too much information
  • Too many words on a slide
  • Presenter is basically "reading" the presentation, rather than speaking naturally
  • 19 slides are spent setting up the problem, with only one slide is left for the solution

So, I tried something a little bit different this time. Instead of going for the information overload method (as I did in A Whirlwind Tour Through 8 Decades of Food Advice) or doing a geeky stand up comedy routine (as I did in My Mom's On Facebook, Now What? and Money Saving Advice from a Cheapskate), I wanted Our Princess is in Another Castle to be a story.

After the intro slide, the next 13 told the story of my life as it unfolded through video games. What few lessons there were to be learned, I tried to show rather than tell. The last 6 slides were straightforward "what did I learn?" The entire deck used only 16 words: 8 on the first slide, and 5 on the last. The rest were all full screen images (almost exclusively 1 per slide).

I did get lost on the only part that needed to be said word for word, my quote from Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame Induction speech. What I planned to say was: "Michael Jordan recently told us

Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion

a lesson I learned watching many of the people I worked with at Namco get the jobs that seemed unattainable to me at the time."

The only other place I would have liked to have done better was in my physical presentation style. I really enjoy being able to walk around onstage with the mic - it's the best way for me to feel comfortable and have natural body movements and hand gestures. It wasn't possible last night, and instead I felt a little trapped behind the podium.

For the first time though, I'm not daydreaming about topics for my next Ignite performance. I gave what I believe was a presentation that didn't fall victim to any of the pitfalls I've complained about in the past. In a certain way, I felt like I owed that to Ignite.

In the end, a great presentation can be summed up in two words: be entertaining.

Just don't overthink it.

(Video of my presentation: Our Princess is in Another Castle)

Extra: The Daily Camera article (subtitled: Geekfest shows off PowerPoint potential to sold-out crowd) features my pic front and center!


The Thrill of the Stage

Since ending my stint as a semi-pro (online) poker player, there is one thing I've missed - the adrenaline rushes. The suspense of waiting for that last card to come, whose outcome can mean a several thousand dollar win or loss, is both envigorating and exhausting all in the same moment.

Once in a while, I'll get that feeling for a few seconds on a high bouldering problem - but it's nothing like presenting at Ignite. Tomorrow I'll be speaking at Ignite Boulder 6, and my heart is thumping already. It's the perfect mix of nervous excitement.

700 people will be there at the Boulder Theater to watch, but I'd get the same thrill if it were just 50. I'm not normally such a glutton for attention, but for some reason I'm driven by the challenge of entertaining and educating a room full of people.

Tomorrow I'll present: Our Princess is in Another Castle (video is now posted), five minutes about the lessons I've learned in my past life as a video game junkie. I will be trying something a little different this time, and I can't wait to see how it will be received. Will everyone still be talking about it the next day, or will it fade away as another forgettable presentation? That's all part of the thrill.

Extra: Here are my previous Ignite presentations.