Ignite Your Firm Retreat With Shorter Presentations


“It is with words as with sunbeams.  The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.”  - Robert Southey

For the last two years, I’ve been co-producer and host of Ignite Law — an evening of short six-minute presentations about the future of law practice.  In the Ignite format, speakers are limited to six minutes and twenty slides (which advance automatically behind them).

While it is terribly difficult to give an Ignite presentation, it is incredibly fun to watch one.  Ignite presenters who, in a normal presentation may ramble to stretch twenty minutes of content to fill an hour, must instead identify their key ideas and distill them to their essence — and even when a speaker is less than engaging, their presentation is almost over the moment it begins.

If you’re interested in using the Ignite format in your next law firm retreat to replace some of the “mandatory” presentations like practice-group reports, legal updates and “state of the firm” speeches, following these rules will help this format succeed:

  1. Do not make the allotted time optional.  If you settle on six-minute speeches, enforce the time limit mercilessly.  This is easier if you’ve got a strong emcee who will get the long-winded presenter off the stage.
  2. Schedule the presentations back-to-back.  Using the six-minute format, you can easily accomodate between seven and nine speakers in an hour-long session.  Keeping several presentations together will drive the competitive impulses of the speakers and raise the energy of the room.
  3. Follow the One Presenter/One Topic rule.  If anyone asks to tag-team a presentation, don’t let them.  If they’ve got too much info for just one to share, give each speaker take his or her own six-minute slot.
  4. Don’t let the presenters control their slides.  The presentations will be more fun to watch and it will be easier to stay on time when the slides are on auto-pilot (in a six-minute/twenty slide presentation, each slide is on the screen for 18 seconds).
  5. Add all the presentations to one master slide deck.  In order to keep the presentations moving, don’t let technology changes slow down the transitions.  Put everything in one deck and set the transitions from there.
  6. Eliminate the Q & A, but build in discussion time.  Don’t allow the audience to ask questions, but instead schedule 30-60 minutes after the presentations are done and give each speaker their own table.  When you introduce each speaker, announce that they’ll be at Table X after the session to answer any questions.

For more on hosting your own Ignite-style event, take a look at the Speaker’s Guide (pdf) we prepared for our Ignite Law speakers before our 2011 event.  It has some resources and rules you may want to adopt for your own use.

I’m happy to help you if you’re considering a similar format for your next firm retreat.  Let me know if you have any questions.


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