These suggestions are specific for speakers crafting a 5-minute Ignite Zurich talk – and equally useful for creating compelling content to satisfy an audience’s desire to know “why should I care?” and “what’s at stake?” if they give you their full attention.

A.  Get into the right MINDSET

“And what mindset is that?” This is easy if you remember an Ignite talk is never, ever, about you. An Ignite talk can be about rising Antarctica or the lost Zamboni or anything in between. But it’s not about you. Which means if it’s not about you, it’s purely persuasive mind candy for your audience.

The mindset you want to have isn’t hard to define. Since you’ve likely been to an Ignite event before, you met people a lot like yourself: engaging, curious, likeable, well read, open to the unusual or the mundane idea – as long as it comes from someone who truly loves the subject, no matter how strange.

Think about what you like or dislike the most in Ignite talks you’ve seen or watched on our social media channels. Satisfy that critic and you will satisfy the audience who have come to see you and other speakers perform on stage.

B. Ignite talks are about IDEAS

Focus on a single idea, its novelty and your relations with it. Audiences want to hear your unique perspective on an idea – wrapped up in a story that answers what they are silently thinking: “why should I care about this?” and “what’s at stake here?”

C. Know your PURPOSE

What do you want people to walk away with? What do you want them to do after hearing your talk? For example, if you are passionate about, “Minimalism,” show listeners what it’s like to live life with less baggage, motivate them to stop acquiring stuff and inspire them to sell, give away or bin superfluous stuff.

D. See what’s been done BEFORE

We suggest Ignite speakers not to lose time reinventing the wheel. Binge out on previous Ignite talks. Personally, I find Ignite Boulder talks rock. Or watch popular TED talks or listen to The Moth podcasts.

You’ll notice the best talks share an interesting idea in story form, weaving a little bit of the speakers’s biography into the subject. But we only want to know a little about a speaker. An Ignite talk is NOT about you; it’s about the idea, made personal through you.

Below is a list of exemplary TED talks by subject type curated by a medevac helicopter pilot working in Alaska, Lorena Knapp, I met in a mastermind group some years ago:

E. Collect source MATERIAL

One reason people tend to talk too much about themselves in a talk is they haven’t researched their idea beyond personal experience. Consequently they have little else but autobiographical content. Invest time before designing your talk to be mindful of other information that resonates with your idea. Collect and curate
Examples include:

  • a snippet of conversation you overheard about your subject
  • a quote you remember from school
  • a meme or a song that triggers automatic recall
  • an anecdote that relates to your idea
  • data, a fact, or cluster of data that supports the idea
  • a metaphor or analogy that helps explain why it matters
  • a personal conflict in your relationship with the idea

F. Write your SCRIPT

Final review before you start writing:
A.     Have the right MINDSET
B.     Choose an IDEA that your audience will eat up
C.     Have clear PURPOSE of WHY you are telling this story to this audience
D.    OBSERVE other great talks
E.     Collect rich source of MATERIAL to draw upon
F.     Write your SCRIPT and speak it out (record a selfie video).

G. Review & SLIDES

A. Know your audience. Know them better than they know themselves.
B. Choose one strong idea that you live and breath that will resonate with this audience.
C. Clearly communicate “why they should care” and “what’s at stake?”.
D. Outline your talk (word count 500-700 = approx. 5 minutes).
E. Create 20 blank slides and paste 15 seconds of talk onto each slide.
F. Speak the talk slide by slide until it’s exactly 5 minutes.
G. Choose single bold images for each slide with absolute minimal texts.
H. Practice your talk (play slides on auto-advance) until you can tell it powerfully without notes

H. Apply to give an Ignite Zurich TALK

Go to Ignite Zurich website and fill out “LET ME SPEAK” application form. OR attend an upcoming Ignite Zurich show and see how your (next) talk compares to those featured that evening. Be sure to grab my arm after the show and introduce yourself.

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