Thoughts On Ignite Boulder 10

Ignite Boulder is now a tween!  10 events!

Filling up! #igniteboulder

We celebrated our tenth event as (now) the largest Ignite in the world and certainty some amazing energy.  I’ve done these types of posts for every event, this one is the toughest.  Why?

Because we plateaued.  Ignite 10 was equally as great at 8 (the last one at the large venue).  This is all in my humble opinion, there are many people that have told me that this was their favorite.

What was awesome:

  • Sell Out at 875
  • Great speakers really went out of their comfort zone
  • Great pre and post parties were fantastic
  • Great band
  • Donated over $2000 to some great charities
  • Had a great night
  • The organizers are a top notch team, couldn’t ask for better people or progress.  Really, each and every one of them is steller and I can’t thank them enough.
  • Seriously, the team behind planning Ignite gets it done

The bad:

  • Feels as if speakers can’t be alright, take a chance or go in with anything less than a Tony Robbins like charisma.  We have has some amazing nights, and speakers have to live up to that, good or bad.  If a speaker, one that has never spoken to a group over their high school english class, gets up and faces almost 900 people in a format that many professional speakers shy away from, I say awesome.  Some attendees jump on them a bit, which is too bad.
  • Some of the talks lacked a point.  Not a huge deal if you can read into what they are saying, why they are saying it and develop your own insights, but if you are looking to be fed a take home line you missed a ton.
  • Seems like our community has shifted a bit from our original core, feels like I can’t get a warm welcome from some of the new crowd.  We are a ‘faceless event that took money from them, not the kick ass volunteer run donated all our extra money to charity do this cause we love it’ team.
  • Part of the community just didn’t get it, didn’t support the speakers
  • No Bruce Wyman
  • I was going on seven hours of sleep for the past 48 hours, wasn’t on it
  • It sold out, many friends couldn’t make it
  • My intro was lagging

We are having our organizer wrap up tomorrow.  Going to be a very interesting meeting.  Then, oh and then, off to Ignite Boulder 11 at the most historic venue in Boulder, the 1300 seat Chautauqua Auditorium (tickets on sale now)!

So we are not in the Zone of Mediocracy.  I’m pretty dang happy about that.  An interesting question, what do you do when your event has reached every dream you had for it?

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  • hubs

    An interesting answer: Red Rocks Amphitheater (or quit).

  • http://www.AstonishingProductions.com Gregg Tobo

    While I agree with your assessment that Ignite Boulder 10 plateaued, I would point to other factors that may have kept IB10 from aspiring to greater greatness. I'll begin with the small stuff:

    1) Could just be a fluke. Next time may be different without requiring wholesale intervention. (Actually, I don't think so (see below), but I thought I should at least point out that it could be an anomaly).

    2) Missed having a Twitter feed at the beginning to see who's in the house, to hear from anxious presenters, and to foment anticipation. The banter on Twitter helps to set the mood for the event.

    3) The Hope & Fear theme may have been too restrictive. While I'm not a huge fan of @redheadwriting, a certain element of shocking irreverence and playful nonsense seemed to be lacking. Too much nonsense would be a bad thing of course. But occasionally lowering the bar reminds us not to take the event too seriously.

    Finally, if as you suggest, the community has shifted from the original core, is there a way to fix that? I suspect that you are right; as the event grows you are bound to draw in people from outside your usual sphere, people for whom we are just another faceless event.

    Here's what I think is challenging. The IB community was built by giving gifts to each other. People made a gift of their quirky passions in the form of a presentation and at the next Ignite those who had received would have a chance give. In an idealized gift-based community everyone would be given the opportunity to give. And as the event grew, even though the majority might never present, they would still entertain the idea of someday presenting (recognizing the debt they owe to those who have presented). But there may be a limit to how large of a community can be supported by the gift of 12 presenters. At some point we will cease to be a cohesive community and a rift will form between the limited number of presenters and the mass of spectators who come only to watch (but who never intend to fulfill their obligation of giving back). The community will be able to carry some non-participants, but the question is how many non-participants can IB absorb before it changes the nature of the event?

    Here's one idea (just off the top of my head) based on the idea of gift giving to build community. Ask people to raise their hand if they've been to IB before. Get them to affirm that they enjoy being part of the community, that they enjoy the community, and want to help foster the community. Tell these veterans that you need their help. Have them put their hands down and ask for the first-timers to raise their hands. Welcome the newbies into the community. Then tell the veterans that their mission this evening is to find a newcomer and buy them a drink and make them feel welcome. Tell the newbies that we hope they will come back, and when they do, they'll be asked to make a new newbie feel welcome by buying them a drink. By doing this you ask everyone to participate (to contribute in some small way to the success of the event), which makes them feel like part of the community and which makes them feel responsible for the event.

    I don't know if this idea will work, but I like the basic shape. The community of Ignite Boulder was formed through giving. Initially that meant giving presentations, but as the event grows we must find other ways of giving that will allow a larger percentage of people to participate in the giving, that will help us to expand and strengthen the community, that will ask people take action toward the success of IB.

    More thoughts in this vein: If participation is what builds the community then the process for becoming a presenter and voting on presentations must be pitched as much (and maybe more) than the process for buying a ticket.

    At the beginning of the event, tell newbies that some of them may be asked to join you on stage later for a brief segment. During intermission, your staff seeks out 10 newbies and asks them “Now that you've seen half an Ignite, what would you present on if you were given 5 minutes?” Bring them up on stage and give each of them a turn at the mic to pitch their preso. (Gets newbies thinking about what they would talk about, and reminds everyone else that this is a participatory event, that we create this event for each other).

    We now host the largest Ignite in the world, which puts us into uncharted territory. We've taken Ignite to places that Brady and Bre haven't yet explored. My suspicion is that there is a limit to the size community that the original Ignite format can support. If true, it means that in order to keep growing we'll need to change something if we want to maintain the sense of community and prevent IB from becoming a spectator event in which the only obligation is that you pay an admission fee.

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