What Ignites you?

Posted by: Justine Benstead

Ignite tampa bayTech-savvy or computer-illiterate, each of us has, at some point, been involved with a project at work or in class that relies on creating a Powerpoint presentation.

We've formatted, configured, checked and double-checked, and then at the big moment when everything is supposed to go right?


Zip nada zilch, and the evening's emcee, if you happen to have one, starts telling stories in a controlled but concerned fashion, and someone spends half an hour advancing slides by hand, every fifteen seconds, and maybe finds the AV guy during intermission and says "Fix this, I don't care how, just do it!"

Since the initial event in July 2011, I have been the Ignite Tampa Bay photographer. An old friend is one of the event organizers, so I offered my services the first time around and was delighted to be asked back the second.

And when the slides went wrong, I didn't even know they were sweating it. Everything resumed in a reasonable time, and the presenters began to speak.

What, might you ask, is Ignite Tampa Bay? Well, it's not an original! From the website: "Ignite began as a geek event in Seattle in 2006 with two men: Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. They began with the simple intention of sharing ideas with others over beers; an informal networking of like-minded people. And so on December 7, in a bar on Capital Hill, the first Ignite was held.”

Ignite Tampa Bay 2012Now, Ignite has spread to over 100 cities around the US and Canada with an international reach ranging from Amsterdam to Sydney. No subject requirements, reasonable restrictions, and a wide range of topics make each event a truly unique one, showcasing some of the most energetic and thoughtful minds in the community.

The key aspect is presentations: Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes. Keeping a passion down to a five-minute talk, timed out perfectly, is no easy feat. That is, presuming we are willing to get on stage and talk at all.

So, what do a bunch of people in the same community get together and talk about?
Don't they have message boards and comments sections for that?

Celebrate DiversityThey talk about quite a lot, I’ve found. The presentations, each time I've attended, have been wide-ranging and ideally thought provoking.


"Bucket list" speaker brings jar with $100 in it to podium and gives motivational speech; awards jar to first person to get up and take it. Nice, effective tactic. People spoke about literacy, turning angry kids into "artsy" ones, mass transit and Tampa's transportations woes, design, geography, symbols, kite surfing, etc. See Ignite Tampa Bay on YouTube.

One of the reasons attendees are able to take something away from Ignite, in my opinion, is the very diverse crowd of presentations at each event.

This experience was a totally different one than the last. And a beautiful one, too. The setting, downtown in one of Tampa's parks at the Glazer Children's Museum, with a fantastic view of the University of Tampa, below, and the city skyline, was another of the night's big perks.

Whether it’s Ignite or another event – a craft fair, an event hosted at home – the collaborative experience of exchanging ideas about shared interests, or maybe completely new ones, is one that helps to stimulate your creativity. As I walked around the space taking photos of the event, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone seemed to be buzzing – and it wasn’t just because it featured had a bar or two. Beyond the presentations, people really came together at the event and the afterparty at a local pizza place to network, collaborate, and swap stories.

University of TampaIt was a good energy. People who are usually behind computer screens or unsigned Tweets, getting together in person to talk about whatever they wanted. It’s this sort of local community engagement that is really important to maintain in the digital age of social networks. These people were designers, creators, communicators, and they were learning from each other.

If there isn’t an Ignite or similar event in your area, think about trying to start one!

It began as a “tech event,” which remains at the core, but I think that each city makes it an individual experience as needed. And if you don't want it to be tech related, consider Meetup.com, which is a great resource for anything from politicking to potlucking.

Tampa skylineAs the volunteer Ignite Tampa Bay photographer, I tried to capture a few shots of the setting, the general atmosphere, and the presenters as they gave their talks. Although I haven’t spoken at an event, I’ve thought about it, and I might try it at the next one.

What ignites me, personally? Photography. Writing. Pit bull advocacy. Green technology. Women’s rights. Effective public transportation.

What ignites you? What would you present at an Ignite event in your area?

Whatever it might be, if the opportunity arises, consider taking it.

Worried about public speaking? Even the most nervous speakers have slides to guide them. And if the slides won’t auto-advance, know that a real, live person will be there in the shadows to advance them, one by one, by hand.


Photo Credits: Justine Benstead

  • Category:
  • Inspirational
  • Tags:
  • Ignite
  • Ignite Tampa Bay
  • photography
  • volunteering
  • community service
  • local events
  • Florida
  • inspiration
  • creativity
  • presentations
  • speakers
  • motivational
  • public speaking
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Justine Benstead
Tampa, FL, US

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