p2i Week: Taj Carson on Hacking the Ignite Presentation Format

I’m Taj Carson and I’m the CEO of CRC, where we help organizations to tell their stories using data and data visualization. Last year, the Data Visualization & Reporting TIG hosted an Ignite session at the annual conference. I knew our work in mapping, including the development of the Baltimore DataMind, would be a great way to introduce people to the beauty and wonder of maps. The Ignite format involves a five minute presentation, using only 20 slides. That means I had better get to the point quickly.

Lessons Learned: Trying to be funny (haha) makes you feel funny (strange). I rehearsed my presentation and co-wrote it with two colleagues, Sheila Matano and Jill Scheibler. We laughed so hard making this presentation. But the whole time I kept saying “What if WE think it’s funny, but no one else does? What if other people don’t get it?” Trying to do a dynamic presentation in a new format is scary. Lucky for me the other evaluators in the room liked it as much as we did.

Hot Tips: Practice like your life depends on it. I practiced my Ignite presentation so many times that I had it unintentionally (but not robotically) memorized.

  • Figure out what you want to say, what’s your message? For me it was to convey our enthusiasm and excitement about maps and mapping data and to show others how beautiful that can be, while making them laugh at the same time. We wanted to be funny and irreverent because that’s how we roll here at CRC, so it was a good fit for us, and entertaining for the audience.
  • No more than a handful of words per slide! Words are over-rated. Seriously, don’t read your slides. Doing this in a regular presentation is bad enough, you will be shunned if you do this (or have giant tables full of tiny numbers) in an Ignite presentation.
  • Use the opportunity to show, not tell, what you want to say. We showed good maps and bad maps. We mocked the bad maps and pointed out why the good maps were so easy to understand.

Carson 1


Carson 2

  • Don’t be afraid to hack the format. Layer multiple photos onto one slide. For me it meant that the timing had to be down to within 2-3 seconds as we went from image to image, but it was still only 20 slides!

Rad Resources:

  • Then read Jon Udell’s thoughts on how to actually practice the presentation.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating p2i Week with AEA members who have used our Potent Presentations Initiative. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members who have used p2i strategies in their presentations. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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