How to Prepare and Deliver Your First Ignite Talk – Part 1 of 3

by | Sep 3, 2020 | Inspiration

Ignite talks have increased in popularity over the last decade or so. This is a format where a speaker has just 5 minutes and 20 slides to present an idea that impacts the audience. Sounds easy right? Well, I’m here to tell you that time goes by quickly and your presentation will take a turn for the worst if you’re not put together. In this series, I’ll share what I learned from my first talk at the Black Designers Ignite showcase, and provide tips on how to prepare and deliver a talk that leaves a lasting impression in a short amount of time.


1. Brainstorm Ideas

The first step in crafting your ignite talk is to brainstorm topic ideas. Will you be funny and inspiring, or serious and thought-provoking? Don’t hold back here – just let things flow and have fun! The goal is to get everything down on paper so you can see what may or may not work for you.

Brainstorm ideas of things to present about. (Photo: Unknown)

2. Choose Your Topic

After your initial brainstorm, spend some time narrowing down your options. You will need to develop a core message based on what you choose, so make sure your topic is something you are confident speaking to.

A few things to remember are:

  • What do you want to say?
  • Why does it need to be said?
  • What are you teaching the audience?
  • Does your topic excite you?

In my ignite talk last week, I shared my story in relation to Spider-Man. Including my favorite superhero helped me deliver a powerful speech that resonated with me and left the audience inspired.

Spider-Man sketch mockup. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

3. Outline Your Content

Now that you’ve put some serious thought into your subject matter, it’s time to get organized. Create an outline listing each main thought with supporting points underneath. You may feel the urge to start selecting imagery to use, but it’s super important to lay the foundation of your talk first.

Organize your thoughts using an outline. (Photo: Jess McKenzie)

4. Create Your Script

Creating your script should come a little easier now that you have an outline. Act as if you are having a conversation with someone and write out what you would say for each point. Practice these lines out loud to make sure everything flows together. As you refine your script, don’t lose sight of your core message to the audience. Remember the point you are trying to make and why you are making it.

(Tip: Use Google Docs or another cloud-based software to save your changes as you go. The last thing you’ll want is to lose your hard work!)

Example of my conversational script. (Photo: Jess McKenzie)

5. Revise, Rehearse, Repeat

As you flesh out your content, don’t forget the ignite format. The goal is to speak to each slide and move on to the next. Set a timer for 15 seconds and rehearse each section to see where you can scale back or add more verbiage. Repeat this process until you can comfortably recite each section within the time limit.

(Tip: It is normal to have a couple of seconds between each slide. Use this small pause to compose your thoughts or catch your breath – you’ll need it!)

Use a timer to practice your script.  (Photo: Bonneval Sebastien)

6. Design Your Slides

Now that you have a core message, you can start designing your 20 slides. This can be done in Powerpoint, Keynote, or Google Slides.  Make sure the images you select fit the theme of your talk and are as simple as possible. Packing too much information on the screen will overwhelm the audience. Keep in mind that their focus should be on what you are saying and not a bunch of complex visuals.

For example, below are a few photos from my presentation. They are easy to digest and fit my chosen theme.

Spider-Man in an action pose. (Photo: Stem List – Unsplash)

Group of superhero figurines. (Photo: Unknown)

7. Final Touches

Before you wrap up the design portion of your presentation, make sure you include an intro and outro slide. You’ll want to introduce yourself at the beginning of your talk, and show the audience some gratitude at the end of it. After all, they did just give you five minutes of their life that they will never get back.  🙂 

An intro slide lets the audience know who you are and what your talk is about. (Photo: Jess McKenzie)

An outro slide with social media contact info. (Photo: Jess McKenzie)

Preparing for an ignite talk takes a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. In the next article, I will share tips that will help you get ready for the big day and deliver your first talk like a certified pro!

Have you ever given an ignite talk? If so, what are some methods you use to prepare?  Share your thoughts with me below in the comments!


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