Thoughts On Ignite Boulder 4

Ignite Boulder 4

It has been just over 24 hours from Ignite Boulder 4.  In short, such an amazing night.  But it left me with an uneasy feeling.  Everyone I talked to at the post party really said they enjoyed it, but for me, the bigger venue was a hard transition.

Ignite is a night of presentations on a variety of topics, with a twist. Each presentation has 20 slides, that automatically advance after 15 seconds. It is a worldwide movement, and Boulder is hosting our fourth April 29th at 6pm.

A little history, this is the 4th Ignite in Boulder that I have organized.  It was by far the biggest we have had (by nearly 300).  We were not allowed to have beer at the venue.  We hosted a preparty and arranged for a post party.

Sam Breed @wookiehangover Ignite Boulder 4

Lessons learned:

  • I chose to have the BrightKite wall running.  It was fantastic for the first presentation, and quickly went downhill (see this graph).  Lesson learned: fun for the pre event, it takes away from the presentations.
  • Our original venue had 175 seats.  We sold that out in 5 mintues.  The word of ‘no tickets left’ traveled far and wide, while the ‘we found a larger venue, more tickets on sale’ message was harder to spread.
  • I’m shitty at delegating.  I delegated 9 tasks for this Ignite.  5 of those were not done by the person in charge of them, leaving me as the ‘buck stops here, I’ll take care of the problem’ guy.  Stressful.  Anyone that really wants to pitch in, and will follow through on what you want to do, please contact me 🙂
  • Battledecks is awesome, what we did wasn’t full of awesome.  Many ideas on how to fix this one.
  • One shouldn’t introduce and run the decks.
  • Positivity and negativity live off of each other.  When the wall was up, it only took one negative for the crowd to attack.  When it was turned off, the same crowd became highly engaged and positive.  I need to do a better job setting up the event.
  • The intro needs to be an ignite of it’s own, with a point and flow.
  • I should introduce first name, last name and presentation name.
  • Better sound is needed for that room.
  • More community interaction is needed.  People should meet more new people, or this should be encouraged.
  • 4 pounds of popcorn can feed an amazing amount of people
  • Rande is amazing.  The show ran because of him.
  • So many people helped out and I really appriciate that!  Need to figure out a way for more to get involved.

It still  had the magic.  Just not the full amount that #1 and #3 had.  A fun challenge to make the old magic show up with a 3x size crowd.

The presentations were strong.  Larkin has a great post challenging the presenters of future Ignites to do more with their subject.

Here are the titles and twitter id’s for everyone from last night.

My Mom Just Joined Facebook. Now What? Ryan Wanger @ryanwanger
Why Mommybloggers Suck and What We Can Learn From Them Aimee Giese  @greeblemonkey
How I almost died: Traveling sparsely and the creative process Alex Skazat  @skazat
Peak Oil: Does This Mean There Won’t be iPhones? Lilly Justman @lillyjustman
To Influence or Be Influenced …That is the Question Brett Greene @BrettGreene
Fame. Fortune. And Hula Hoops. How To Not Suck. Laura Blakeman @shaktiwriter
“Ye Olde Prince of Bel-Air”, a medieval translation David Mason @davidscottmason
On Curiosity Niel Robertson @nielr1
Mystery Deck Battle @jeremytanner @davetaylor @doylealbee
How To Be A Dance Ninja (or not) Nicole Glaros @nglaros
Confession of a NiteRide Driver Jen Newell  @jennyjenjen
How to be a successful musician knowing that you’re never going to make money selling music Chris Reinhard @chrisreinhard
Everything in life can be learned from the movie Road House Sam Breed @wookiehangover

I had A BLAST last night.  Thank you to everyone that came!

We will post the videos (huge thanks to Craig of Kendall Media Group!) soon.

What did I miss?  Leave it in the comments!



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25 responses to “Thoughts On Ignite Boulder 4”

  1. alandd Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this review from an organizer's point of view. Great stuff! We can use this information as we prepare for Ignite Phoenix 4 on June 16th.

    We are moving to a much larger venue this time so your comments relating to the size of the room, audience and the tickets is very interesting.

  2. Jared K. Avatar
    Jared K.

    Your first “lessons learned” bullet point is absolutely spot-on, especially the graph. Mob mentality turns many interesting and otherwise intelligent humans into clique-ish children who can think of nothing funnier than using their “wit” to tear others down.
    Yes, I agree some of the presentations weren't very good, but so what? That's a fellow human down there, heart pounding in his/her chest, looking up at 400+ faces, talking about something they have a passion for. Please show some empathy and give them the time they've been allotted. Or leave.

    Ignite does not equal the gong show.


    Andrew, hats off once again for doing a great job organizing. And I'm sure we don't see even half of what you have to do to get things running smoothly. Thank you for organizing. Thank you for the hard work you put in. Thank you for keeping it going.

    I think with the right mix of presentation topics and crowd, the venue is somewhat irrelevant. I wouldn't want it any bigger than Chem 140, but I think the size is okay. Atlas was a little tight each time.

    Anyway, I think your “lessons learned” list is a good one. Hopefully we can all learn what does and doesn't fly for a presentation, and also how we should cast our votes for the potential ones in the future.

    Bottom line: It's a great event. Keep it going!

  3. Neil Simon Avatar

    thanks andrew for another AWESOME ignite!

    … exit exit seatbelt mask

  4. rande Avatar

    haha, I think we ended up using more like 10 lbs of corn total

  5. Trek Light Gear Avatar

    It was my first Ignite event and while I could only stay until the intermission break I had a great time and thought it was a great event.

    As far as the Brightkite wall goes, I agree that it was distracting and overly harsh at times (one or two comments in particular stand out). But, from my complete newbie perspective, until I started hearing talk of shutting it down I was actually under the impression that it was intended to be that way. I assumed the heavy duty heckling, 'gong show' element and even the dual screen distraction was actually part of the concept and intended, like the 20sec slides, to make the presentations harder to give. I'm kind of happy the consensus is that it shouldn't play that big a role (or at least not on the big screen). Most of it was hilarious but if the focus is supposed to be on the presentation then it definitely destroys any chance of that. Stick to verbal heckling, that weeds out a lot of folks and takes more guts. Or at least beer.

    Cheers to an awesome night, I'm looking forward to the next one!

  6. micah Avatar

    I think you are right in your assessment of the event being an up/down event. The biggest problem is the ENCOURAGEMENT of heckling. I would guess that the BK wall would not have been as harsh if you as the MC didnt encourage the heckling. Its awful hard to control the crowd (just look at our discussions around #followfriday) and often the crowd feeds (positively or negatively) off each other.

    That being said, the presentations themselves were decent. some were really good (Lilly's sticks out for me), and some were a mess. Some were interesting (Neil's sticks out for me) and some were boring.

    But thats what makes an ignite Ignite.

    BTW, BattleDecks is an actual event – started by Mike Monteiro of Mule Designs. Check out the videos from SXSW 2008 or any of the regional events. Anil Dash was a monster at it.

  7. Aviraj Avatar

    “So many people helped out and I really appriciate that! Need to figure out a way for more to get involved.” — Count me in when I get to Boulder. Cheers!

  8. Ben Avatar

    I agree about the Brightkite wall. Too much distraction, as funny as some of it was (some of it was inappropriate or just plain wrong).

    As for the size of the venue and the number of people I liked it over IgniteBoulder 3. I wasn't at 1 or 2 but at 3 I thought there were too many “in jokes”. It was a smaller group of people and thus a concentrated group who all knew each other and proposed presentations. That's not bad, of course, but at 4 there felt to be more diversity.

  9. Larkin Avatar

    Good, bad, and ugly, what I love about Ignite is that it made us think! I couldn't get to sleep last night because topics were running through my head. I can't concentrate at work today (hence writing this comment) because some of these discussion points are riviting. It's not often a presentation/movie/show/event keeps me rivited for days, so props to Ignite 4 being interesting above everything else.

    Andrew, there has been some really good discussion topics brought up on Particularly a comment where Ace Harmon pretty well nails the voting problem. Maybe this is something we can tweak before Ignite 5. He has some especially fascinating community ideas.


  10. Grant Avatar

    Great assessment of the night, but don't be too hard on yourself. Overall it was a great time – and still pretty magical considering the growing pains. Well done.

  11. Kath Avatar

    As a relative IgniteBoulder newbie (this was only my 2nd) I read Larkin's post with an open mind. Then I decided to sleep on it before responding.

    So here goes.

    Larkin, thanks for taking the time to share and sharing so eloquently. I read your 'About Me' section on your blog and it's evident that you value all sorts of thing that IgniteBoulder stands for : helping, community, being open-minded, having fun, etc.

    I agree with you on the amount of trash left behind. That is inexcusable…no matter where an event takes place. And next time I would be happy to volunteer to help with cleanup.

    As far as your assessment of the event, my take differs in that (to me) it is a total 'let your hair down' type of event. And if that means every now and then sinking to the level of 'lowest common denominator' well ok, let's go there! While I am not into making broad sweeping generalizations, I would venture to say that the majority of attendees fall into the 'hard-working-hard-playing-techy-Twitter-let's live life full out' mode. Live hard & and play hard. Not to say that a presenter won't stand up there and knock our socks off with something profound and earth-shaking, but it wouldn't be what I'd expect. Not that I'd hate it if that happened…it would just be unexpected.

    Andrew, as you know from being my friend, I think you are amazing! And it really troubles me to know that you end up doing the majority of the work. While I am more than happy to mic-wrangle, please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help? Count me in for clean-up with Larkin or anyone else next time.

    As far as the size of IgniteBoulder, there's your community! If you bring it (and it's good) they will come. Boy, will they!

    After having attended IgniteBoulder3, I was anticipating IgniteBoulder4 much as a holiday. A chance to meet more cool people. A chance to laugh and learn. And heck ya, a chance to drink. I'll be honest! I'm all for free beer (Thanks B-Side and Deschutes)

    Yeah, there were a lot of people there…that's cool! An opportunity for more people to connect and have fun and laugh and a host of other things. You've started a good thing Andrew (not a surprise to those of us that know you) and I can see the crowds continue to grow with each passing event.

    These are the growing pains we're experiencing. Much like a new baby (or so I'm told) you sort of learn on the fly.

    Thanks to your candor, as well as input from Larkin and others, I'm sure the feedback will help to make the future IgniteBoulders that much better.

    Can't wait until IgniteBoulder5.

    Respectfully & with <3,

    Kath 🙂

  12. andrewhyde Avatar

    Agreed. I forgot what I said to really encourage the heckling, so I went back and listened to it. Here is what I said in the intro:

    “your the crowd, you need to support the speaker”

    “our group sucks at heckling … that is your cue… but please try to keep it positive and engaging.”

  13. andrewhyde Avatar

    I should really try to make it down one of these times!

  14. andrewhyde Avatar

    Agreed! We have some amazing stuff coming up. Stay tuned.

  15. andrewhyde Avatar

    the exit dance move was my favorite, well done. Thanks for coming!

  16. andrewhyde Avatar

    Ok, that makes me feel a ton better, it was baffling to me. 🙂

  17. andrewhyde Avatar

    After the intermission we turned it off and it became a much better event.

    Thanks for coming, would love to sit down and chat, I've heard great things.

  18. andrewhyde Avatar

    Agreed on your first point.

    I like that you liked 4 over 3. Makes me think about the different angles of the event, how some seats tell different stories.

  19. Larkin Avatar

    Kathy, thanks for the perspective. From the audience's reaction to most of the speakers I felt sure many people liked it just the way it was, and I like your “let your hair down” metaphore. I like people, I like diversity, I like creativity, I like opinions, and this demonstrated all those, and continues to demonstrate it in the post-discussion. Awesome!

    Also, I appreciate you taking the time to find out a little bit about me and taking time to formulate your thoughts before replying. It shows in your well written response. I wasn't able to find out much about you, so I'm flying blind here.

    I am beginning to realize from your reply, and all the other discussion that has gone on since wed, that my Ignite ignorance is pretty significant. A “let your hair down” event among 30-70 friends presenting on whatever-the-heck-they-want is indeed a positive thing. Hence we have made it to Ignite 4.

    I came in Wednesday blown away by the 440 people and expected to see something different. I expected to see presenters that were up in front of everyone, not just to be up in front of everyone, but because they had a passionate message they really wanted to share. For some, that was the case, but for others I felt more like they were up there for the experience. Maybe Ignite is about that exactly, or maybe not, again, my ignorance shows.

    I didn't mean to rub anyone wrong here, especially because I'm new to Ignite. You all have something pretty awesome going on here, and I'm sure you won't change it just because of one opinion, but neither am I going to hold my opinion back because I'm new. I think ignite could be better, I KNOW ignite could be better, but I also have a little doubt whispering in my brain that is suggesting that maybe making Ignite better for me would make it worse for everyone else.

  20. micah Avatar

    I am certainly not laying the blame entirely on you. You certainly mentioned heckling (I remember it more clearly at the intermission), but even if it wasnt mentioned, it was an assumed part of the event (from past events, from the lead to the event, etc.)

    Here is the problem. The definition of heckling is: “heckling – To try to embarrass and annoy (someone speaking or performing in public) by questions, gibes, or objections; badger.” ( A heckler is “a person who shouts a disparaging comment at a performance or event, or interrupting set-piece speeches, for example at a political meeting.” (

    Heckling, by its very definition, is not positive.

    Certainly the BK wall plus anonymity made it 1000x worse.

    Personally, I would like to see the idea that heckling in any form is encouraged at Ignite or BDNT. In both cases, it distracts from the presentations and demeans the presenter.

    I never thought the heckling was bad until a few people told me that they werent going to attend ignite specifically because the heckling made it combative, and then saw in person how awful people got with the BK wall.

    (Also, I think the combative nature of the battledecks-esque interlude didnt help).

    At the end of the day, the people that were more interested in being expert hecklers missed out on some great presentations. Its too bad that they also helped others miss out on them too.

  21. andrewhyde Avatar

    But then battle, would be warfare by armed forces. Or the definition has moved.

    I think it has.

    As much as I didn't like the nature of the wall at times, certain commenters (which you were the top of) made some grand heckles (meant to be funny, the evolved def of the word mind you) while others came off poorly.

    Lesson learned.

  22. Ryan Wanger Avatar

    I went first this time “My Mom Just Joined Facebook. Now What?”, and presented at Ignite 1 “A Whirlwind Tour Through 8 Decades of Food Advice”, and here are my thoughts:

    I've struggled with what Ignite is “supposed to be”. Occasionally, I'll watch Ignite presentations from other cities, and lament that those in Boulder end up being less instructive, and more “comedy hour”.

    We've gone down this path towards a comedy and social hour, one that I think it would be hard to “recover” from. Of course, after my pitch idea for “why we should eliminate the penny” wasn't voted in for Ignite 3, I became part of the problem by pitching a topic for Ignite 4 that was bound to be mostly a comedy routine from the get-go.

    Note to everyone: when your presentation is “supposed to be funny”, it puts a lot more pressure on you before the show – because if no one laughs, you have nothing to fall back on!

    So what do we do now? Serious topics don't get voted on, and based on the BK wall – it doesn't seem like that is what people are interested in anyway? But then again, myself and other commenters have longed for more meaningful topics – so it sounds like there is a demand…we just need to do a better job with the voting?

    Maybe we need to manually craft a balance between funny and not? Would it work to have people vote on general topics / themes first, and then people would have to pitch topics into the winning categories?

    To be honest, I was not excited about the topics coming into Ignite 4, because I only felt like one (peak oil) would actually teach anything. However, I did come away from the night happy, entertained, and ready for the next one…although it would have been the complete opposite had the show ended at halftime (BK wall & distracted audience & bad vibes).

    So, what do we want Ignite to be? Should the next one be “Ignite 5 – Teach Us Something. Seriously?”

    Other random thoughts: Ignite 3, as mentioned, did contain a LOT of inside jokes, and was glad to see far less in Ignite 4 – it made for a more inclusive event!

    No offense, but I thought the battle decks was lame (as was the random deck from Ignite 3). I wouldn't miss it if it disappeared, but a compromise might be that the deck actually be a cohesive set of slides about a narrow topic…one that the presenter doesn't know until it starts. At least that would give them a chance to put together coherent thoughts, rather than only being able to describe the slide behind them.

    I often also wonder about the demand in terms of how many people want to present. Is the goal to constantly hear from new people? Or bring back past presenters that have done a good job? I heard people dropped out this time because of the larger venue? Should people (like me) who have presented in the past keep pitching ideas for subsequent Ignites, what's the etiquette there?

    Anyway, I love Ignite just as much as I ever have, but I agree with Larkin – I want us all to get more out of it!

  23. Aimee Greeblemonkey Avatar

    First, I preface my comment in that I realize that my first Ignite was the one where I presenting, but as Tanner says all the time, “you only get one Giese per night.” And Bryan has presented twice (Boulder/Denver) and attended several times, which left me home with Declan. However, clearly I follow the goings ons and was thrilled to finally jump in – so thank you guys for the opportunity.

    I told you some of this in person, but, I think your wrap up is spot on as well as Jared, Kath and Ryan's. I do think Lilly suffered because her subject wasn't “funny” and people were not in the mood for it. Which is disappointing because her topic was probably to most informative of the evening. So I think Ryan absolutely has some good thoughts for you to think about, maybe wrangling the night or prepping the crowd, to be more accepting of the more serious subjects – because DUH. Everyone has value. 😉

    I love Battle Decks – total highlight of SXSW, but I agree with Ryan in that the slides should probably be more carefully prepped, so that they flow and/or don't leave the presenter floundering. Not that you floundered or anything. Um.

    And while I love watching a funny stream, I agree, the Bright Kite wall is much better for a party of a specific “roast” style event. Or awards, that sort of thing.

    Either way, I am sure you will keep crafting it and making it better. Thanks for all your hard work!

  24. Deb Avatar

    All this great dialogue makes me want to see what I missed out on this one. Do you post video of the event?

  25. Deb Avatar

    All this great dialogue makes me want to see what I missed out on this one. Do you post video of the event?

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