Kevin Flora from

Kevin Flora is an evaluator and blogger at who watched, recorded, edited, and uploaded all 56 Ignite sessions from the 2012 AEA conference.

Ignite sessions… a presentation format started by O’Reilly that I thought would never stick around. The more I conduct my own presentations, I feel as though the audience engagement and personal enthusiasm is a direct reflection of my content. If this theory holds true, then the Ignite format should be more prevalent due to its ease of producing laughs and forcing the presenter to stay on top of their information. Essentially, there are 20 slides. Each slide advances automatically every 15 seconds whether the presenter is ready or not. Are you doing the math? Yes, it’s a 5-minute presentation.

The one thing I love about this format is the first-time presenter! When initially signing up, the thought is, “How hard could this be? Five minutes? That’s easy enough.” Well… I have found that it takes just as long to prepare for these 5 minutes as it does a 45-minute presentation, if not longer. Everyone wants to look at notes or the presenter view on the PowerPoint screen, but the best presentations are when the presenter stumbles over words, gets behind (or ahead) on their timing, and forgets why he/she used a particular image in their slide deck. I have heard that the more Ignite presentations an individual does, the less interesting they are to the audience because of the ability to almost perfect the structure. These are meant to be fun, with pictures, stories, and yes… screw-ups once and awhile.

Ignite presentations can be used for multiple purposes. My favorite Ignite session was that of Michael Szanyi at the 2012 American Evaluation Association (AEA) conference. His use of interpretive dance brought the data visualization and reporting topical interest group (DVR TIG) to their feet and moved some to tears. Szanyi produced an unrivaled passion for how his form of art and expression should be used in visualizing data. Szanyi not only memorized his slides, but the timing, movement, and slide descriptions. After seeing his 5-minute production, I saw where the future of Ignite presentations and evaluation was headed. This glimpse of our future was a sight to see. Here is Szanyi’s presentation:

After watching 56 presentations, it is difficult to find a comparison to Szanyi’s performance, so I will mention a couple of other neat ideas. The DVR TIG conducted their entire business meeting with the 5-minute presentation format (watch them all here), milking cows was related to strategic learning (here), and an improv Ignite was attempted (which made for a hilarious 5 minutes. Thank you Chris Lysy). Check out Chris Lysy’s improv Ignite here:

The Ignite format is both interesting and fun… informative, but short… and effectively cultivates an atmosphere conducive to questions, collaboration, and further discussion on certain topics. All 2012 AEA Conference Ignite videos can be found on the AEA YouTube channel.

Connect with Kevin Flora through his blog at or @edmatics on Twitter!