Jul 5, 2011

How to prepare for your Ignite / PechaKucha Presentation?

You have been invited to talk at the upcoming Ignite or PechaKucha Night in your city. You are now preparing yourself for the big night. Here are important tips which will help you deliver an awesome presentation. I have presented at Ignite and I found the experience very unique. You too will enjoy it provided you go prepared.

Ignite & PechaKucha are similar (Ignite has 20 slides auto advancing every 15 seconds whereas PK has 20 slides auto advancing every 20 seconds) hence the way to prepare for both is also similar.

Preparing for Ignite / PechaKucha (PK)

This presentation is going to be very different from anything you have ever delivered, so prepare yourself mentally. Here is what makes Ignite or PK presentation unique:

1. You only have 5 minutes to talk at Ignite (6 min 40 secs for PK). That is a very small amount of time.

2. The slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. Just 15 seconds!

Other than this there is nothing different about Ignite or PK. But these two changes impact your presentation significantly. First, you have just 5 minutes to talk and second your slides move every 15 seconds.

What do these changes mean for your presentation?

1. Be Concise - Since time is very limited, you have to be very focussed, to the point and concise. No long sentences. No going round and round. You will have to eliminate content ruthlessly.

Less time also means, no time for introduction at the start. You need to come straight to the point and start from the word go. In order to do this you need to prepare well.

2. Rehearse well - If your slides are moving every 15 seconds your words and your slide cannot mismatch. You cannot talk about the head when the slide has moved on to the image of the tail. This sync (of you and your slide) will only come by practice. The more you practice the better command you have over your stuff.

Do not get bogged down by the time limit and the slides auto advancing every 15 seconds. There are ways to manage this. These restrictions look tough early on but can be aced with practice.

Let us talk about other important elements of your presentation now.

A. Objective of your presentation: You have been invited to talk because there is something unique about you. You have done something worth talking about. Write down "why you are giving the talk?". What is the main objective of your talk? Is it to inform or inspire or entertain?

B. Key Messages: In a short time of 5 minutes not much can be communicated. Your talk is just to 'ignite' the minds of the audience. It is just exciting them about the topic. They will definitely think about what you have said later on.

Given the paucity of time, you need to decide on the few (not more than 3) key things which people should remember after they go back home. Your audience will listen to many talks that night and cannot possibly remember everything that all the speakers said.

"What are the few things they should remember from your presentation?" Unless they remember, how will they spread the word or act on it?

C. Confidence: Since most Ignite or PK speakers are talking for the first time to such a large gathering they need to be confident. You are special that's why you are on stage. You have done something which the world wants to know. You don't have to be too humble and under confident. Be confident and share it with the world. Share it with confidence.

D. Your audience: Your audience will be a very mixed lot. People from all over the city. You might want to ask the organisers what kind of people are expected to come but I guess you can safely assume it is a very heterogeneous lot. Just make sure you keep your language 'jargon-free' so that even a layman can understand you. Appeal to everyone and keep it simple.

E. Audience expectation: The audience expects to be entertained, informed or inspired. I have heard a stand-up comedian, a politician, an actor, a teacher and all sorts of people at Ignite. Some fascinate us, some inspire us and some just entertain. You have to decide what you are upto (I discussed this in Point A above). Remember, your audience expects to have a good time and they want you to do well.

F. Preparation: You cannot prepare for this event the way you do for others. You must prepare your content and design your slides one week before the event. You will need a lot of rehearsal for the presentation. You will definitely need 10-15 hours of preparation (content, slides and rehearsal) to ace your presentation.

Write down all that you want to say on a piece of paper (or whiteboard). Then remove what is not essential. You need to cut content ruthlessly (since time is limited). Once you know what you will say, you should set up the flow. What comes where. Figure out the stuff to go on 20 slides (and only 1 idea per slide).

Now you need to stand up and deliver your talk. The same way you will do at the event except that the slides are yet to be made. Deliver it 10 times. You will realise that you will discover some new content while you speak. You will also figure out the logical flow by rehearsing like this.

Now sit down and edit your content and flow. Once again speak for few more times. Once you are comfortable with this, start making the slides.

G. Slide Design: Since a slide moves every 15 seconds, your audience will not be able to read more than a few words on the slides. If you expect them to listen to you and read the slides too, that's expecting too much. Since you are more important than your slides, make sure they focus on you. Slides should only be used to 'amplify or clarify' your idea. Using an image can emphasize your point (amplify) or make it easy to understand (clarify).

Use no more than few words per slide. Images will support your words and make the idea more powerful. Do not use bullet points at all.

H. Rehearsal: This is perhaps the most crucial part of any presentation but it is the most ignored part as well. You cannot afford not to rehearse. When time is less and slides are moving fast you have to be in 'top form'. It is like a 20-20 cricket match. You come out and start hitting the big runs from the first ball. There is no time to 'settle down' and 'find your rhythm'.

What you have to do is practice so hard and so many times that when you go live, you feel you have been there already. You have practiced so many times that you know what to say and when to say.

Other Do's and Don'ts

1. You will be talking to a gathering of 300-500. This means your audience will be sitting far away. Hence your font size should be large enough. Stick to a minimum font size of 40-50.

2. You cannot ask your organisers to go a slide back or to change the slide when you want. Please remember that the rules cannot be broken. The slides will change every 15 seconds. Rehearse atleast 20 times after your final slides are ready.

3. Watch videos of other Ignite or PK Nights so see what others have done in the past.

4. Use a friend or colleague as a sound board. Rehearse in front of this person and make sure you are open to her feedback and make changes accordingly.

5. Establishing credibility is important. People listen to you when you give them a reason to do so. What is your expertise? Why are you here in front of us? Why should we listen to you? This is important because you might not be a known figure.

Since the presentation time is just 5 minutes, you should brief the organisers well and make sure they give a good introduction before you start your presentation. Your introduction should establish your credibility on the topic (credibility = what gives you the right to speak on this topic?)

6. Speak with passion because that's what gets people hooked on. Passion shows.

7. Do not mug up (cram) what you will say on each slide. Do not use 'notes'. Remember the anchor points for each slide. With practice you will automatically remember the content and flow. Since you have not mugged up, you will sound natural.

8. The organisers might ask for your slides a week in advance. Find out your deadlines well in advance and live up to them.

9. If your text is not getting over in 15 seconds that's not a problem. You can say one point over two or three slides. Just make sure these slides have the same content. No one stops you from having the same text on 2 or 3 slides :-) (tip courtesy: Scott Berkun)

10. If you are presenting at Ignite and you have 5 minutes to talk, prepare for 4 minutes 30 seconds. Keep some buffer time. There is a high chance you will exceed your time.

11. Last piece of advise. Breathe easy, have fun and enjoy the night. Do not worry about how the presentation will go. If you have worked hard, it has to go well. Relax, breathe easy and enjoy those 5 minutes of stardom!

What more?
Here are some more tips you can check out:

1. Scott Berkun (Highly recommended 5 minute video)

If you are still with me then watch this 5 minute Ignite talk by Mr. Giridhar Rao. I liked his talk very much when I heard him live at Ignite Hyderabad Vol. 1. His passion is infectious.

If you have any queries about your presentation, drop in a comment. Best wishes with your upcoming talk. Tell us how it went.

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