The Fastest Way to Create an Ignite Presentation

by Olivia Mitchell

I set myself the challenge of preparing my first Ignite presentation as fast as possible.

The Ignite presentation format is a 5 minutes long presentation with 20 slides and with the slides advancing automatically every 15 seconds. It’s the presentation equivalent of a haiku or sonnet. It’s a very challenging format which can take forever to prepare.

Here’s the way that I did it:

1. Sketched the outline using my Presentation Planner

I used my normal presentation planner which I teach to all my clients. Here’s a picture of my planner – as you can see neatness was not important. I just wanted to get my key message and sequence of ideas down on paper.


Click on the image to see a larger view.

Time: 10 minutes

2. Converted planner to 20 slides

I typed what I wanted to say into the format of 20 slides:

SlideSorter view

Time: 1 hour

3. Packaged into 15 second blocks

I then used the “rehearse timings” button and delivered the presentation:

Rehearse timings

The Slide Sorter view (above) showed me how long I spent talking on each slide.

My aim was for each slide to take 13 to 15 seconds. The reason for this is that I think it’s better to have to wait a beat for a slide, than to be running out of time and constantly playing catch up.

When I first tried this out I was all over the place, some slides taking 7 seconds and some 34 seconds. I spent time rearranging, deleting and massaging. In the screen shot above you can see that I had got most of the slides close to 15 seconds, but I still had some work to do to shorten some.

Time: 2 hours

4. Created visual slides

I only started creating visual slides once I had my storyline packaged into 20 neat slices of 15 seconds each. Here’s what my visual slides looked like:

Ignite slides slidesorter view

Time: 2 hours

5. Printed out my notes

Ignite is one type of presentation format when preparing a script is virtually essential during the preparation phase. Working from a script allows you to massage your sentences to  fit the 15 second time blocks. A slight change in sentence structure can make a significant change in the time it takes to say something. So this is one occasion where you should plan to say it the same way every time (not normally something I recommend).

I printed out my verbal slides (shown in point 2. above) as handouts – 2 to a page:

Print as handouts

Time: 5 minutes

5. Rehearsed

I set my visual slides to advance automatically at 15 seconds and started rehearsing. IMG_5127Using my two-screen set-up and Presenter View I was able to see how long I had to go before the slide changed. My major frustration at this stage was that I couldn’t find a way in PowerPoint to record my narration at the same time as having my slides automatically advance every 15 seconds. This meant that I couldn’t playback my slides and audio to check my timing. If you know how to do this I would love you to add a comment.

This step took the longest as I fine-tuned my pace to get my timing just right. For example, I wanted my dead parrot slide to appear just as I said “dead parrot”!

Time: 3 hours

6. Delivered

I used notes for the actual presentation as well. I could have spent extra time memorizing it, but I didn’t see a sufficient pay-off for that extra time. I had rehearsed enough that I did spend most of the time connecting with the audience.

Time: 5 minutes!

My presentation was videoed but unfortunately the audio didn’t work, so instead I’ve produced a Slidecast using Slideshare:

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Thomas February 15, 2011 at 2:24 am


Fantastic post. This is useful not only for creating an Ignite presentation, but any presentation. Few people dissect the process of creation, especially the work BEFORE you even open your computer and AFTER you’ve finished designing. Bravo.



Craig Wiggins February 15, 2011 at 2:56 am

Brilliant – I can’t believe that I haven’t read something like this before. Thanks, Olivia!


John Zimmer February 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Really great stuff, Olivia! Congratulations. I tell the people in my courses that an excellent presentation is like an iceberg: What we see (the presentation) is very small compared to what lies beneath the surface (the preparation). Your post demonstrates, succinctly and eloquently, that what comes out is in direct proportion to what goes in.




Olivia Mitchell February 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Jon, Craig and John, Thank you for the lovely comments.

A tweeter pointed out that I still spent 8 hours preparing for a 5 minute presentation. It’s a long time. But from other people I know who’ve done Ignite presentations and from blog posts I’ve read it can take a heck of a lot longer.



Craig Wiggins February 16, 2011 at 6:28 am

8 hours is a breeze – i can’t wait to try it your way! I usually log about 30 for a high-stakes preso. Granted, I’m a bit slow…


Olivia Mitchell February 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm

If it’s not an Ignite presentation, then:

1. You’ll need to put more work (read: time) into developing the overall structure of the presentation and crafting engaging content.
2. You won’t need to spend anytime on dividing your presentation into discrete 15 second blocks!

For a step by step guide to using my planner, download the Guide “How to make an effective PowerPoint Presentation.”

All the best with your next presentation


Stephen Lead February 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Olivia, this is brilliant – thanks for sharing.

It’s good to let Ignite presenters know up-front they need to spend some serious time preparing, and your method is very sensible.

The 5 minute presentation which took 8 hours of preparation could easily be re-used as a longer presentation, now that all the hard work has been done.


Olivia Mitchell February 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Thanks Stephen. That’s very true that having prepared a 5 minute presentation you can easily scale it to a longer timeframe. The discipline of creating the 5 minute presentation first is likely to lead to a better 50 minute presentation too!


Warwick John Fahy February 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Love the post, esp the audio Slidecast. It’s mind opening to hear alternative perspective about the learning style theory.

I have a question though about the concept behind Ignite Presentation: why on earth do we need to spend so much time to rehearse so that the slides will correlate with what we say? Why not just use a clicker and click when it’s time to show the next slide?


Stephen Lead February 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm


There’s no good reason for doing it in a “normal” presentation, but it’s a major part of the fun of Ignite.

The idea is to make presentations enjoyable again, as an antidote to all the boring, death-by-powerpoint sessions we’re used to. Making the slides auto-advance adds an extra challenge and an element of danger to the presentations – once they start, there’s no going back.

Check out an Ignite in your local town, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. Or check out the best videos at


Olivia Mitchell March 1, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I agree with what Stephen has said. I don’t regard an Ignite presentation as a regular presentation, but rather as an art form. The constraints of the form lead to more creativity. In particular, the constraints of the form make it almost impossible to produce a series of boring bullet-points slides.

And it’s really fun for the audience!

However, I’m in two minds about lecturers at tertiary institutions asking students to deliver Ignite presentations (I’ve heard of this a number of times). I think for students who are novices at public speaking, the constraints of Ignite lead to another level of difficulty – kind of asking people to run before they can walk. If the aim is to avoid boring bullet-point presentations it would be better to simply say “Your presentation should be between 4 minutes 45 seconds and 5 minutes, 15 seconds. You can have as many slides or as few slides as you like, but no bullet-points!”


Zen Faulkes March 4, 2011 at 6:27 am

I’m asking my students to try Ignite! talks this semester. It’s the first time I’ve done them, as a bit of an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s not the only talk they’re giving, though, so the Ignite! talks are “low stakes,” as it were.

And for what it’s worth, I gave my students this link, and have already heard that they found it very helpful! So well done, you!


Fred E. Miller May 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

That is great, Olivia!

I’ve learned quite a bit and admire the effort you put into this production and appreciate you sharing it.


Solimar June 16, 2012 at 6:47 am

Wonderful!!!! Many thanks!!!


zezo carvalho December 11, 2012 at 3:36 am

great tipz, Olivia. thankz a lot.
Keep the mood, ok? Z.


Ignite Professor March 3, 2013 at 4:27 am

While I wholeheartedly disagree with your Ignite speech thesis about learning styles, I appreciate this post on how to prepare an Ignite speech. I have assigned my students the task of creating their own Ignite speech (it requires demonstration of all of the things we’ve been practicing since the start of the semester) and referred them to this post. Great job!


Martha Denton September 17, 2013 at 2:59 am

Love this blog post!

Here’s an infographic that I put together for the folks I coach on the Ignite style. Maybe helpful to your readers as well?


Saki Makume October 3, 2013 at 8:41 pm

This is awesome!


magda December 14, 2013 at 3:15 am

i still need more support on how to create an ignite presentation .


magda December 14, 2013 at 3:19 am

the ignite presentation on learning styles is superb


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Thank you so much for this manual!
I have to give an Ignite presentation on a research project I’ve done and I had no idea how to start this. It helped me out a lot!


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