4 Tips for Future Ignite Speakers

I’m speaking first???!!! Are you kidding me?

When I submitted my ISTE Ignite proposal, “Creating A Student Tech Team to Support Your 1:1 Environment,” I honestly didn’t think it would be accepted. ISTE receives between 600-700 Ignite talk submissions, so in my mind it was a long shot, but I figured why not give it a try? I was filled with mixed emotions, predominately excitement and fear, when I was notified that I’d be a part of ISTE Ignite Round 3. I’ve been presenting relatively often at education conferences over the past two years, however I had yet to speak at a venue the size of ISTE Ignite. Despite my fear, I submitted the required forms to confirm I’d be speaking and realized what an amazing opportunity it would be to share my passion about the BHS Help Desk. My excitement started to build and then it was time to start preparing. I’ve learned a lot throughout the process and I wanted to share four tips for those of you who may be giving an Ignite talk at ISTE 2016.

1. Connect With Your PLN

The first thing I did was share the good news with members of my PLN. I immediately contacted my friend Tanya Avrith, since she had given an Ignite talk before, and her advice to start with a “brain dump” of all my ideas was incredibly helpful. She recommended I determine the three to five main points I wanted to highlight in my talk and to just tell my story. She advised me to practice out loud, in the mirror, over and over and eventually I’d end up memorizing the talk. She encouraged me to keep my slides clean and simple so the audience would focus on my message and not get distracted by the slides. I also reached out to the super helpful Erin Klein and she too encouraged me to simply tell my story and to have a conversation with the audience. Erin gave me a ton of support and said she knew I would do a great job. Finally, she gave me a few of her personal recommendations in terms of IGNITE speakers to watch. We all have our own presentation style, but watching other presenters is always helpful. I am super grateful to have connected with both Tanya and Erin as I prepared for Ignite. Thank you both! I am by no means an expert, but if you’re selected to do an Ignite talk next year, feel free to reach out if you want my advice or just a quick pep talk…those can definitely help as well!

2. Don’t Procrastinate

Ironically, I didn’t end up following Tanya’s advice in terms of the brain dump on paper, but I did have the structure and main points of my talk in my mind. Instead, I decided to create my slides first and through the images I selected, I built my story. This approached worked for me, especially because I tend to think in pictures and I am a highly visual learner, however it might not work for everyone. I also created my slides well in advance, so I had ample time to decide if they needed to be re-organized. Before sending the final deck to ISTE, I asked for feedback from my colleagues, and of course my students, about the arrangement of the slides and whether or not I needed to make changes for the talk to flow. I’m so glad I did this because I actually did make a few adjustments before passing the deck over to ISTE based on the feedback of…you guessed it…my students!

3. Keep the Slides Simple and Rehearse the Timing 

The Ignite rules state slides may not contain any transitions, audio, or video, and limited text. I decided to design my slides with 1 to 2 images and two words max per slide. I used the Google extension Color Picker to exact color match the borders of my images and the font colors with the ISTE Ignite template that we were required to use. I also decided to base several of my major points on the slides themselves. I made this choice because my talk was all about my students. I wanted to highlight some of them by name, so for my topic, it made sense. Once all twenty slides were designed, and I knew the story I wanted to tell, it was time to start rehearsing the timing. This was the most challenging part for me; to get the slides to transition exactly where I needed them to. In the end, the timing worked out beautifully and the slides advanced right on cue. As a word of caution, if you are considering presenting an Ignite talk and you are accepted, take whatever you think you’ll be able to say in five minutes, and cut it down by half! As I was practicing the timing of my talk, I had to do a lot of revising and cut my content way down.

4. Thank Your Supporters 

I am so thankful for the members of my PLN (my friends and colleagues) who have offered me so much support and encouragement over the past few months as I have prepared for my Ignite talk. Thank you for listening to me practice (over and over and over, some of you could have given the talk on my behalf you heard it so much!) and thank you for previewing my slides. Your kind words of encouragement and constructive criticism have meant the world to me. Believe it or not, you really did help calm my nerves!

I must give a special and huge thanks to:

Patrick Larkin, Dennis Villano, Eric Calandriello, Jenn Judkins, Traci Jansen, Johanna Wilson, Kyle Beatty, Marialice Curran, Kristina Mattis, Timmy Sullivan, Rachel Small, Billy Corcoran, and Jonathan Werner

Thank you also to those of you who tweeted during my talk and stopped me at the convention center to say a quick, “good job!” Although it was scary, the excitement of the Ignite talks and its format far outweighed the fear. Everyone who gives an Ignite talk should be commended. It takes a lot of practice and preparation to get up onto the stage and pour your heart out to inspire an audience. I’m thankful to ISTE for giving me and all the other presenters the chance to participate in Ignite and I know that I would love to do a talk again in the future!

For those of you who missed my talk, and have a quick five minutes to watch it, it is embedded below; thanks to Periscope and my awesome friend Johanna Wilson! I’ve also embedded my slides and each image is connected to a link, video, or resource that could help you get started on creating a student technology team of your own!

Enjoy the rest of the conference everyone!

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