Timing an Ignite presentation

I am in the process of preparing an Ignite presentation on climate change, expressing the basic point that the amount of climate change we experience will depend primarily on what proportion of the world’s fossil fuels we burn.

The Ignite format is an odd and challenging one. Each person speaks for five minutes. At the same time, each has a set of 20 slides which automatically advance every 15 seconds. These factors make it challenging to express yourself clearly and effectively.

The earliest drafts of my presentation suffered from my natural tendency towards digression. I am moving forward now more confidently, having timed myself reading four examples of text for five minutes each. Two were written by me, two were speeches written by others.

I found that I read text similar to that in my presentation at a rate just over 180 words per minute. That translates to about 45 words per slide. To compensate for any issues with shuffling notes or distractions, I will write 40 words of pre-prepared comments to accompany each slide, reducing the risk that the unusual Ignite format will leave me unable to express my point fully.

[Update: 5 May 2010] You can see my final presentation on BuryCoal.com.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

2 thoughts on “Timing an Ignite presentation”

  1. 180 words per minute is an impressive rate! Do you find you’re talking very quickly? Allowing your words to soak in is important too. I usually write for 130-150 words per minute.

  2. My current speaking notes are 822 words, corresponding to about 165 WPM.

    Perhaps that isn’t excessively high, given that this is intended to be a somewhat accelerated form of presentation, and it is not being given to an audience simply drawn from the general population. These people will be familiar with policy-making, if not necessarily with climate science or climate policy.

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