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7 public speaking lessons from my favorite Ignite Minneapolis speakers


A few weeks ago, I missed my favorite local event here in Minneapolis/St. Paul: Ignite. I know many other markets have Ignite events around the country, but here in MSP, the event is always a great time. Not so much because I learn a ton (although I usually do learn a thing or two), but more because I have a great time.

Ignite Mpls

The presentations are always a nice mix of humorous, informative and sometimes quite serious. And as an added bonus I always learn a thing or two about presenting from some of the speakers.

You see, each year, there’s also a nice mix of speaking talent–from novices all the way to borderline professional speakers (or at least those who speak more than a dozen times a year). By the way, you can see all this year’s presentations here, and former year’s presentations here.

For those of you who present as part of your day job, I’m of the belief that public speaking is a work-in-progress. We can all get better. And what better way to learn than to emulate those who do it well. Let’s take a look at 7 of my favorite Minneapolis Ignite speakers and the public speaking/presentation lessons we can learn from them:


Speaker: Melissa Berggren (@marketingmama)

Lesson: One good image per slide

A first-time speaker (and admittedly, I didn’t see Missy this go around, although I’ve seen her present plenty in working with her on #mnblogcon), Missy did a great job with a topic that affects more parents than you might think. However, I thought one of the things she did best were her slides. They were simple. They helped her tell a story. And they included only one image per slide. Corporate presenters, take notice. This is how you build a slide deck–resist the urge to put full paragraphs in your slides. I’m begging you.

Killer line: 40 seconds. No clear winner here since all her slides highlight the tip above, but I love this photo of Missy’s daughter since it helps bring home the point that food allergies are very personal for her.

Speaker: Craig Key (@craigsanatomy)

Lesson: Lead with (self-depricating) humor. Close with facts.

From what I heard (and saw), Craig was probably the most entertaining presenter at this year’s Ignite in Minneapolis. Comes as no surprise, really. He’s presented in front of his fair share of clients. But, to get up in front of 400-plus people at the Heights Theater? That’s a bit different. But, Craig succeeded because he deftly understands how to use humor (and, self-depricating humor–the most effective). Keep in mind, Craig’s presentation had a valid point (educating clients around what “viral” means and strategies to pursue instead). It wasn’t merely a humorous presentation. But, by starting with the humor, he warmed the audience up and got them in the right spot to deliver his knockout punch.

Killer line: One minute, 8 seconds. “For the grandparents in the room, we make internet.” (in describing his role at Space 150)

Speaker: Jennifer Kane (@jenkaneco)

Lesson: Non-verbal cues can make or break your presentation.

In my opinion, the best public speaker in the history of Ignite (she’s presented twice). Much like Craig, Jen understands the power of humor. But, watch her prezo from year one (her Douchebag Zen prezo remains one of the top prezos in Ignite Minneapolis history)–note the non-verbal cues she’s giving off. Doesn’t that help make her presentation?

Killer line: 18 seconds. “Basically douchebags are people that just kinda spritz their BS into the cosmic vagina of our world and they need to be stopped.” (maybe the best all-time line at Ignite).


Speaker: Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson)

Lesson: Make every effort to work George Clooney in your presentation

OK, I’m kidding. Don’t work Clooney into your presentation. But, what Kristina did with this prezo is something you can do at the corporate level, too. Make your presentations HUMAN. Give them a personal connection. And, even make a pop culture reference (Clooney) every once in a while. It’ll warm up your talk. And, it’ll allow you to connect with your audience that much more. Now see, if I would have done this presentation, the reference would have been for Jessica Biel, but that’s a whole nother story…

Killer line: One minute, 40 seconds. Note: She doesn’t even mention “his” name…

Speaker: Julio Ojeda-Zapata (@ojezap)

Lesson: Swearing never works (only if your name is Julio Ojeda-Zapata)

Ha–kidding again. What worked for Julio here is this: Julio is a well-respected, long-time reporter in Minneapolis/St. Paul. But, here he comes to Ignite and he drops a couple f-bombs in the first minute of his prezo. That’s out of character for him. He zigged instead of zagging. Think about your presentations the same way. Surprise your audience. Do something unexpected. Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting you swear in your next presentation in front of your boss. Just do the unexpected.

Killer line: 2 minutes; “I’ve been trying to figure out why I like my AeroPress so fucking much” (the visual is actually what kills it here…)


Speaker: Jim Bernard (@bernardjim)

Lesson: Let your images carry a bit of the water

So we talked about the simplicity of slides with Missy’s presentation. But, what Jim did so well with his was allowing the visuals in his slides to do some of the talking for him (which is critical at Ignite, where you only have 15 seconds per slide). Think about how you could use visuals (instead of endless text) in your presentations to help you tell your story. Remember, your deck shouldn’t be a teleprompter–it should be a tool to help you tell a full story to your audience.

Killer line: 56 seconds; great visual that sums up Jim’s entire presentation and the ineptitude of his softball team.


Speaker: Mykl Roventine (@myklroventine)

Lesson: Bring the energy

A hat-tip to one of the founders of our local Ignite, Mykl brought great energy to his presentation on karaoke (a topic of which he is very familiar, for those who know in the Twin Cities). ¬†This is one of those lessons that should be obvious, but clearly is not based on the hundreds of presentations I’ve sat in over the course of my 18-plus year career. Even if your deck sucks. Even if you haven’t had that cup of coffee. Even if it is 6:30 a.m. Always. Bring. Energy.

Killer line: 4 seconds; “Hello Minneapolis!!!!!!!!!”



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