Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Walking A Tightrope

Added on by Tom Webster.

While I am not on the "paid speaker circuit," per se, part of my job is to give lots of presentations - to clients, to boards and at conferences. I enjoy public speaking, and try to slot it in to my work and my life whenever I can. So when I was asked to present recently at Ignite Durham, I naturally jumped at the chance. Little did I realize just how insanely hard it would be - especially for someone used to speaking under more forgiving parameters. If you've never been to an Ignite event, the premise is that each speaker gives a 5-minute talk, to be accompanied by exactly 20 slides. The five minute talk is pretty straightforward, as are the slides - the catch is that the slides are advanced automatically, every 15 seconds.

When you have control of the slide deck, you can linger where you need to and skip things to make up the time - in other words, you can gauge your audience and adjust on the fly. At Ignite, however, those freakin' slides just march inexorably on, and you are powerless to stop the train. You just have to keep going. What I later learned I should have done was to simply plan a five minute talk and accompany that talk with 20 vaguely-related but not necessarily synchronized images. Sadly, I did it the hard way (more than once, my wife remarked "you did this for FUN?"

It was the hardest speech I've even given in my life.

Anyway, I think it came out OK. My topic was "How To Be A Skeptic (Without Being Skeptical)". BIG thanks to the organizers and sponsors at Ignite Durham for a wonderfully organized event.