February the 8th 2011 will long be a landmark day for me. It was the day I first got on stage and spoke in front of a room full of strangers. It was also the day I went to a cracking event. The event was Ignite London. For those who are unaware Ignite events are a night of quickfire presentations designed to enlighten in a short time. Twenty slides which auto advance after 15 seconds give the presenter 5 minutes dead to tell a story, share some insight and get off stage. The venue was 93 Feet East on Brick Lane in London and the organisers had lined up 18 speakers including little old me. I received a tweet out of the blue asking if I would like to talk at the event. I instantly said no saying I was neither smart enough or interesting enough. With a little encouragement I was persuaded into submitting a talk outline. This was subsequently accepted leaving me in a state of panic. But enough about me (for now) what about the actual event?
The list of speakers was very impressive indeed. It contained a few people I had heard of before and quite a few I followed on Twitter already. The night was split into three blocks of six speakers. The venue was nightclubesque and as it filled up the temperature rose as geeks piled into the narrow space in front of the stage. Randomly one of the attendees (spotted by my eagle eyed boss) was Sally Bercow the wife of the House of Commons speaker.
The first session was of a very high quality indeed with talks on snobbery around wine making, sensory food experiences, saving libraries and a look at who owns your data. The highlight of the session for me was Charlotte Young who talked Art Bollocks. She did not actually talk Art Bollocks but dismantled it completely. Very very amusing indeed or should I say the narrative form attempted to derive mirth from the introspection of self via the exploration of a conceptual paradigm held within everyone of us. I am not very good at Art Bollocks. Watch the real thing instead.
Second set of speakers raised the bar again. A fascinating talk on Transport map designs by Maxwell Roberts, a look at the classic I-Spy books, Paul Clarke rattled through why music is cheating. A look at how some forms of music are actually unplayable. Michael Reeve decided to live his life by the roll of a dice. This involved it actually controlling his movements round his flat, meaning he spent a lot of time trapped in his bedroom (dice can be cruel).
My favourite talk in the second session was Steve Berry’s talk on How George Lucas destroyed the British toy industry. Steve had written a great story (which he read from a music stand) that told how George Lucas’ master stroke at getting merchandising rights not only made him a billionaire it started the downfall of great British toys.
The final session contained my speaking slot. I was second on and I have no memory of the person before me as he spoke at a lightning pace and, ever the optimist, my thoughts traversed the spectrum of what could go wrong with my own talk. As I was introduced on stage as a banker from HSBC I expected the odd pantomime boo but thankfully not, all I received was warm applause. The talk passed by in a blur. I had difficulty looking at the screen in front of me instead opting for the one behind leading me to turn around like an idiot for the first few slides. I remember forgetting one key line around slide 6 which seemed to take an eternity to pass to slide 7 (15 seconds is a strange element of time when stood in front of a few hundred people). I also remember getting a laugh/groan for my exceptional slide on APIs (see below). It think it went ok in the end (I even got a few nice tweets) and the sense of relief as I came off stage was immense.
I could now fully enjoy the final 4 speakers which was fantastic as two of them were in my opinion the best of the night. Firstly Leila Johnston of ShiftRunStop fame, talked about making things quickly. Leila’s talk resonated very strongly with the work I do and I will be ensuring lots of people internally see the video once it is posted. Leila had 3 rules.
1 – Stop Caring, about the past, the future and perfection. Leila mocked those who ‘Were the first bloggers’ or ‘Who had the idea for Twitter years before. Forget the past let it go. Make things fast to keep motivation levels high
2 – Stop Having Ambition. It just shows that you are not happy!
3 – Stop Making Claims. on your CV, on your blog etc. ‘All supplementary writing = distance’ as I type this I know I am doing wrong as I should be making things.
Really great talk and though Leila is lucky enough not to work in a large organisation I feel the lessons in her talk are applicable to all. Until the video is posted you can enjoy Leila’s slides in all their animated glory, including a great use of the flame transition, over here.
The final talk of the night was by geek comedian Tom Scott. His previous Ignite talk about a near future flash mob scenario is the second most viewed Ignite talk of all time garnering around 225,000 views. It is well worth a watch (stating the obvious). For his talk this time he used similar subject material but instead of highlighting the speed at which connections can be made and events can unfold powered by the web he looked at the wealth of public data available on social networking sites and the speed and ease at which they can be accessed. The slides/display was generated in realtime (sort of) pulling personal data from Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook. Addresses and phone numbers came flooding by on the screen like an endless stream of user stupidity/naivety. I won’t spoil the payoff of the talk but it was very impressive and lead to me posting this ever so eloquent tweet. And that was that (well there was a visit to a curry house, when in Rome etc.) I had spoken in public, in front of strangers, about banking, and not been bottled. I had more importantly also attended a great event and been enlightened many times. A massive thanks to the organisers for such a fine event and a special mention to Richard for asking me to submit a talk.
My slides are embedded below and if you go to Slideshare you can see my script (that I loosely followed / mostly forgot) and I believe video will be arriving shortly (gulp) and you will be able to find them here when it does.