As someone who is happy to believe that the Internet exists by magic, I don’t know how I keep ending up at events like Ignite Raleigh, where a set of 15 short PowerPoint presentations, mainly focused on social media, were given.  I don’t even have a data plan for my cell phone, you guys.

I do, however, tweet and the #OurHashTag guys did a great job of promoting this event through twitter, so I signed up and went.  It was held at the Lincoln Theater in downtown Raleigh.  Want to make a very geeky program into something that feels hip?  Set it in a rock club like these guys did!  Sure, it was somewhat difficult to get a good view of the all-important projector screen, but the venue gave the event a chill, fun vibe.

Having DSI‘s Zach Ward host the event was also a great move.  Nothing says PowerPoint like improv comedy, am I right?  Seriously, he did a great job and I spent much more of the evening laughing than I expected.  Rhett and Link, a local music group that does comedic songs, also played two short and entertaining sets.  I learned from their heartfelt lyrics that barbecue is not be used as a verb, nor to describe a grill, at least not if I want to earn the respect of North Carolinians.

For those who don’t know, Ignite events have been held nationally and internationally to spark ideas through presentations that last no longer than five minutes and take no more than 20 slides.  If a speaker went over their allotted time, they were rickrolled off the stage to the delight of the audience.  It only happened once but it was beautiful.

As for the presentations, I was struck with how strange it is that we have created this format of giving a speech where your focus is divided between the screen and the person talking.  If those two things do not match up, as they occasionally did not, the message can easily get lost.  The PowerPoint Presentation is a strange monster that we’ve invented.  Also, it is apparently necessary that all such presentations contain at least one inspirational quote.  Who knew?

Regardless, a lot of the presentations were informative and more importantly to me, entertaining.  Wayne Sutton gave an impassioned list of “19 Reasons Why the Triangle is Better than Silicon Valley,” including getting more money for your buck, better traffic, and the commonly known fact that American Idol is North Carolina’s bitch (my words, not his).  I’ve got news for you, Wayne, the Silicon Valley does, in fact, have lawns.

I also enjoyed Becky Shankles’ discussion of why working 9 to 5 is inhumane (hint:  brain cycles), Ryan Allis’ pitch for using social entrepreneurship to make our world a better place, and Derek Brown’s hilarious tips on mixing religion and social media.  The last presentation was the best of the evening for me, James Avery’s “Bootstrapping – When Profit isn’t Optional,” which masterfully used his own low rent stick figures to drive home his points and well, make me laugh.

I’d consider Ignite Raleigh a total success, if a bit long with 15 presentations.  While a fair bit of the more technical talks went right over my head (the internet’s magic, ya’ll, magic!), I had a good time and even learned a thing or two.  It’s worth a look if someone puts one together in your town.

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