Learn Public Speaking From the Ignite Seattle Team (Mon. April 8th 6:30pm)

Ignite Seattle thrives on diverse ideas and challenging stories and we’ve coached hundreds of people how to share them live on stage. We know  everyone can be better at speaking in their daily lives and we’re hosting another workshop (last one sold out in a day) to help you do that.

Join us to learn:

  • How to tell better stories at work or in life (and do it fast!)
  • The 6 most common mistakes speakers make and how to avoid them
  • The science behind fears about speaking and how to manage them
  • How to get a talk proposal accepted at events like Ignite Seattle, TEDx, etc.
  • Plus a few volunteers who bring 60 seconds of a talk they have will get an expert critique

You don’t need to have a talk idea or submit to Ignite to attend. 

Your coach will be professional speaker and Ignite Seattle emcee Scott Berkun from SpeakHQ. In addition to giving 20 to 30 lectures and keynotes each year, he wrote the bestselling guide to public speaking, Confessions of a Public Speaker.

Learn Public Speaking From the Ignite Seattle Team

Update: thank you to everyone who joined us for this sold-out workshop! We’ll be running another soon; you can sign up for notifications here.

Ignite Seattle thrives on diverse ideas and challenging stories. We think everyone should give public speaking a shot, and we’re hosting a workshop to help you do that!

Join us to learn:

  • How to tell better stories at work or in life (and do it fast!),
  • The 6 most common mistakes speakers make and how to avoid them
  • The science behind fears about speaking and how to manage them
  • How to get a talk proposal accepted at events like Ignite Seattle, TEDx, etc.
  • Plus a few volunteers who bring 60 seconds of a talk they have will get an expert critique

You don’t need to have a talk idea or submit to Ignite to attend.

Your coach will be professional speaker and Ignite Seattle emcee Scott Berkun. In addition to giving 20 to 30 lectures and keynotes each year, he wrote the bestselling guide to public speaking, Confessions of a Public Speaker.

  • Date: August 7, 2018; 7-9pm
  • Location: Idea Lab at Fluke Hall, University of Washington
  • Cost: $5. SOLD OUT.

How To Promote Your Ignite Talk

If you’re speaking at the next Ignite Seattle, make the most of your amazing opportunity! Here’s how:

Before the event:

  1. Invite your friends and family to be in the audience. We’d love to have them in the audience to support you. Tickets are inexpensive and it’s a great night. You can use this video to help explain what Ignite Seattle is like.
  2. On Facebook, go to our event page for Ignite Seattle #39, mark yourself as “going” and then share it out to your network. You can directly invite people to attend and you should!
  3. If you are on Twitter, Facebook or have your own blog, here’s a simple announcement you can copy and paste

Big news: my talk on “<Insert your amazing talk title here>” will be part of the next Ignite Seattle event on Thursday June 6th at Town Hall Seattle. It’s an evening of great short talks on interesting topics and you should come to cheer me on!

You can buy tickets now, and act fast as they usually sell out. Hope to see you there.

After the event:

We capture and publish videos of all talks and post them online in just a few days. We want to help you to get your message out as best we can.

  1. You’ll receive an email a few days after the event with links to all of the talks, including yours.
  2. Find your video and post it everywhere, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, your neighborhood newsletter – your friends and family want to see it.
  3. We will also post photos from our staff photographers that you can share with your friends and social networks.

Also See:

Prepare: how to find royalty free images

If you present at Ignite Seattle, your talk, and your slides, will be seen by hundreds of people, and even more online. It’s important that you use only images that you have permission to use: you wouldn’t want someone to use your work with out permission, would you?

To help, there are several ways to find images that are rights and royalty free, the easiest is Google.

Your own images

If you have images you have taken yourself that do not include intellectual property owned by others, you can of course use your own photos.

Google Images

  1. Go to Google Images Search
  2. Search for something (e.g. “people playing dodge ball”)
  3. Click on the Tools option, on the right
  4. Click on Usage rights


  1. Select Labeled for reuse or the level of license you need


You can also set other options for the images you want (high size equals higher quality).

Other sources of royalty-free images

How to make slides Ignite Friendly (automated)

One of the requirements for speaking at Ignite is your slides must automatically advance. It’s wise to practice many times before doing an Ignite talk, and this post shows you how to set up your slides for this purpose.

For Powerpoint Mac/Windows:

  1. Select all your slides. You can do this by clicking the first thumbnail on the left hand side, scrolling to the bottom, then holding shift and clicking the last one (Or hitting Cntrl-A for Select All)
  2. In the ribbon/menu bar on top, go to “Transitions.”
  3. On the right hand side, you’ll see the “advance slide” section. Uncheck “On Mouse Click” and check the “After” box. Type “15.00” into the box next to “After.”
  4. Slightly further to the right, click on the “Apply To All Slides” button.
  5. Now start your slideshow from the beginning, wait 15 seconds, and presto!

Make sure you only have 20 slides (equivalent to 5:00 of presenting time). You don’t want to be rehearsing with more slides than are allowed.

[based on advice from Zac Cohn]

How to prepare to speak at Ignite Seattle

We do everything we can to select speakers with great topics and passions, but we also work hard to help them prepare.

As the Ignite Seattle speaker coach I run a session where we talk about common mistakes, tactics for preparing and how to develop a great story. It’s informal, fun and we usually feed people (hungry speakers are bad speakers). We also encourage folks to do a dry run improvisation with us to get feedback early on in their process. And of course speakers at Ignite are interesting folks and the session is a chance for them to get to know each other.

We tell speakers that since they’re speaking about something they know well and are passionate about, they could probably spend time thinking carefully about  4 or 5 stories or messages and simply practice and present that, without any slides, and do fine. We strongly recommend people develop their ideas, points and stories before they make a single slide. What you say and how you say it is by far the most important thing.


Here are the slides I use that covers the basic advice, including showing speakers photos of the stage and what to expect once they’re up there.

But others have written advice on preparing for Ignite. There is no right way to prepare of course and the ends are far more important than the means<

Summary of additional good advice:

Advice for getting accepted at Seattle Ignite

Ignite Seattle is a special event, with one of the largest (800+) and most engaged storytelling audiences you will find in our city. We take open submissions for talk ideas and want to help you to pitch us well. This post explains the best possible advice for getting your talk accepted.

(Based on co-organizer Randy Stewart’s Ignite talk called How to Pitch an Ignite talk)

Important Facts

  • Talks are strictly 5 minutes long with automated slides. You can speak about anything, but all talks must consist of 20 slides, each timed to be on screen for 15 seconds, for a total of 5 minutes (Similar to Pecha-Kucha). It’s an exciting and dynamic format and if you’ve never seen an Ignite talk, watch some. Don’t worry too much about slides, it’s you and your story or lessons that matter most. We will coach you.
  • There are only 10 slots / we average 60 submissions. This means far more people are rejected than accepted. This is competitive, so bring your best. Show your draft to friends and get their feedback. But don’t take it personally if you’re rejected – these slots are precious and you’re competing with Seattle’s best.
  • The organizers meet to vote on who gets accepted. We review all submissions, mostly blind except for the title and description, with a short window of time for discussing each submission. We quickly filter out poorly written, under-thought or vague ones.
  • It’s a show, not just a set of talks.  Talks get accepted or rejected based in part on how they fit together to make a great evening for our audience. For example, you might have a great proposal for a talk about How to make Swiss Cheese, but it just happens to collide with three other cheese-making submissions and we can’t have all of them in the same evening.  It’s OK to resubmit talks to future Ignites.
  • Your submission will be reviewed in a mostly blind spreadsheet (shown below). We hide your name and identity to help reduce our bias. Submissions that are concise, clear and compelling tend to do best, as the Ignite format itself hinges on getting to the heart of things quickly.
  • 98% of speakers at Ignite are glad they did it. Ignite is challenging but a great professional and personal opportunity. If you’re going to submit, do it right.

Four kinds of talks

We’re very open minded about what approach you want to take, but to help you get started there are four kinds of talks we often see.

  • Personal story. This is where you share a life experience you had that was profound, interesting, exotic, powerful, or funny in some way that is relatable to other people. Keep in mind that there is a difference between something that was interesting for you (“I won the lottery”) and making it interesting for the audience (“Here are things that will surprise you about winning the lottery”). Good storytelling is about making your experience relatable or interesting to others. See I Fix Evything or A Transgender Band walks into a Rural Town.
  • Teaching a lesson or sharing an idea. Perhaps you have expertise to share, or a way of looking at the world you’ve developed that other people can learn from. This can be professional knowledge or from a hobby that you have. See Design for Conflict, Robots are not coming for your job, Dating lessons from a Dominatrix or Forgive and Remember.
  • Reporting on an interest project. Maybe you built something unusual, went on a special trip, or are part of a volunteer organization that does good work. Your talk can be reporting on those experiences and inviting the audience to learn from, or be entertained by, them. See Cats, Rats, AI, Oh My! or The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
  • A combination of the above or something new. There are countless ways to combine these different talk forms so don’t feel limited to picking one. However most talks to tend to go more strongly down one of these paths than another. And we do love challenges and interesting concepts that don’t quite fit: live performances (we’ve had acrobats, jugglers and musicians), fictional narratives or something we’ve never even heard of before but sounds like our audience would appreciate.

Invest in a great title

Spend the time necessary to come up with a great title. By showing you can name your talk something short, informative, compelling and perhaps funny, you prove you’re worthy of a slot on our stage. Ignite is about concision. Show us you’re good at keeping it short. By working hard on the title I promise you, the talk itself will improve.

When the organizers meet to review submissions, we look at a giant spreadsheet of the submission data (see below). It’s overwhelming. An easy way to cut through the noise is to give us a strong quality signal in your title.

ignite spreadsheet 2

Good titles distill big ideas into a single, easy to evaluate sentence. We read the descriptions of course, but nothing gives us more confidence in you than your title.

Good titles from past Ignites include:

  • SCRUM management for wedding planning
  • Fighting Dirty in Scrabble
  • Hacking Birth
  • Commut-A-Pult
  • Build your own Standing Desk
  • Welcome to the Psych Ward
  • What cities can learn from Burning Man
  • How Science is Destroying My Childhood

These titles express an interesting angle on a topic. These angle choices can make a seemingly boring topic suddenly fascinating. It’s easy to imagine what the talks will contain, and even when it’s hard to imagine, they are compelling enough that we’d want to find out.

As opposed to failed topic submissions like these:

  • Why I don’t mind Subway sandwiches
  • Ten ways to do something even I don’t care about
  • How web 8.0 disruption widgets will bore the world to tears
  • I’m passionate about “things” but too lazy to think carefully about my message or what I want to say so I’ll submit things I haven’t really thought about or distilled down and make everyone sad

Get us interested, but don’t be vague

A good title is 50% of your proposal, but a good description is the other 50%. A great proposal description balances our need to understand your story with the need to be concise. If you’re accepted, we can be mysterious and vague when we promote your talk, but please don’t be mysterious and vague with us. If you have 3 points to tell the audience, tell us what they are.

Descriptions are limited to about 100 words. You don’t need to detail every point in your talk, but don’t leave us wondering what you’ll be talking about.

A good example:

Title: How To Not Be The Slowest Gazelle On The Internet
Description: The slowest gazelle gets eaten by the lion. In the world of cybersecurity, you are probably one of the slowest gazelle. Unless you’re a movie star, a CEO, or a politician, you probably don’t need to be in the front of the pack. Just safely in the middle.

Luckily – it’s real easy to get to the middle of the pack. There is ONE thing you can do that will drastically enhance your personal security and safety on the internet – and that’s using complicated, unique passwords on every account and saving them with a password manager. Many people give advice. But I will tell you the secret to actually getting it done: identify the most important accounts and do those first.

A bad example:

Title: How A Cafe Changed My Life
Description: There was a time once when I had to make a tough decision, but couldn’t decide what to do. I went to a cafe and ordered some toast with butter. While I ate it I came to an incredible realization about my quandary. As I crunched on that last bite of toast, I realized what I needed to do. And that realization set into motion a series of events that changed my life. That cafe changed my life, the lessons I learned my work for you too.

Share your passion on any topic

There are no restrictions on your choice of topic. If we’re convinced you’re telling a great story, any topic goes. Over the years we’ve had one armed jugglers, street musicians and some dramatic personal stories that would be appropriate for The Moth or This American Life (if they were on speed). We’ve had topics that range from video games to Ultimate Frisbee, eating bugs to how to write a song, and once even had two speakers get married on stage (in 5 minutes).

We expect three things from you regarding topics:

  1. You’re passionate about it
  2. You’re knowledgeable (enough that you know more than most of the audience)
  3. You’ll share that passion and knowledge in ways the audience can connect with

And regarding content and requirements:

  • Avoid cliches in your title and description. Sharing what you learned from an experience is great, but try to avoid the phrase “life lessons.”
  • It’s okay not to have a takeaway from the talk. We’re not TED, and not every talk has to be actionable.
  • Don’t feel like you need to be a professional speaker or be a leading expert in a world-changing topic to qualify to speak. We want proposals from normal, everyday people.

Don’t pitch your business

Talks pitching your product, startup or consulting business will be automatically rejected. Don’t even try. We’ve made this mistake in the past and everyone in the audience knows in 10 seconds what you’re doing and they will hate you for it, and us for letting you on stage.

We do want you to promote yourself, but solely as someone who has given a great Ignite talk. It’s ok to tell your story provided it’s not centered on selling something. We have had speakers talk about something they invented or how they started a company (Rich Johnston from Vertical World) or a non-profit organization, but the focus was on the lessons and stories, rather than promoting anything. Think of your talk as a self-contained creation, and not a tool for some other purpose.

A good example of balancing self-promotion with giving an excellent talk is I Stalk Strangers Online (great title) by Carmen Hudson. Her talk was about her job as a tech headhunter and she successfully focused on sharing secrets and insider knowledge – it never felt like she was pitching her services, since she wasn’t. But here I am talking about her and her excellent talk (see how this works?)

How to submit your talk

Submissions typically close six weeks before the Ignite event and the talk submission form to fill out is always found here.

If you have questions, leave a comment.