You might learn about “The Most Important Animal in the World” or perhaps get glimpse of “The Ups and Downs of Life as a Roller Coaster Junkie.” Or, you could find out more than you never wanted to know about bad office coffee, the philosophy behind the claw game, or “The Art and Science of Beatbox.”
That’s the way it goes at Ignite Phoenix, a live event where 18 locals take the stage to talk for five minutes on the sometimes offbeat, always divergent topics near and dear to their hearts.
You can get in on it Oct. 26; the next Ignite Phoenix will take place then at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
“The presentations are all exactly five minutes long and have exactly 20 slides, and the slides change every 15 seconds. There’s no control by the presenter; they just get up there and have to go with this automatic train,” says Brian Carson, who helps organize the events. “After five minutes, they leave the stage and the next one comes on. It goes fast, so be careful because if you blink, it’s over.”
Presenters, who come from all walks of life, are selected from a field of 80-100 submissions.
“We spend a lot of time going through to find the best 18, finding a mix between serious and recreational, between tech and social. It’s surprising how many are just everyday people who are a non-visible expert on some topic, some of whom have never spoken to more than five people at a time,” says Carson, a volunteer with Phoenix Innovation Foundation, the non-profit that produces Ignite Phoenix.
Presentations are rated “PG,” and organizers do not accept candidates running for office or anyone trying to pitch a product or sell something.
“We’re only looking for people who are truly passionate about their topic, because the whole idea is ‘How can we connect passionate people in Phoenix?’” says Carson.
October’s event will open with a cash bar in the theater lobby. At intermission, food trucks will sell snacks and drinks. Afterward, the sharing of ideas continues.
“When everything’s said and done, we go back out to the lawn and have a couple bands and food trucks, and we put each of the 18 presenters at a high-boy table, so if you want to hear more about paragliding or slicing brains or whatever it may be, you can talk with them.”
Past presentations have provided a spark for some. One audience member left his job and became a musician after a segment on Taiko drumming. Another, who heard a talk on what it takes to produce a great cup of coffee, wound up opening a coffee shop.
“If I were to distill it down to what seems to resonate most with our audience,” he says, “it’s the exposure to passionate speakers on things you’re not generally thinking about. We live in a YouTube world; you can search YouTube for anything and be entertained for hours, but there’s not that connection and energy, that ‘wow’ that comes from being with other passionate people. It’s believing there’s something bigger going on in Phoenix in all of these smaller ideas, and it exposes you to things you wouldn’t come across in your daily life.”
Topics under consideration for the October’s Ignite include “56 Days Remaining on that Crazy Mayan Calendar,” “Things I Learned from Watching Grey’s Anatomy (Seriously!),” “The Death of the Handwritten Note,” “Convicts Ain’t So Bad” and “The Untapped Potential of the Potato People.”
Tickets will go on sale about three weeks before the event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts box office. Ignite events always sell out, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes.
Ignite Phoenix has several sister events that occur throughout the year, including a food-themed Ignite Food, the adults-only Ignite After Hours, and high school, tech-themed and Arizona State University versions of Ignite events.
Information on all programming — plus live streaming of Ignite events and videos of past presentations — can be found online at IgnitePhoenix.com.
If you go
What: Ignite Phoenix, an evening of short, informative, often humorous presentations
When: Doors open at 5 p.m., event is 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26
Where: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St.
Cost: $15; tickets available via the SCPA box office beginning about three weeks prior to the event
Information: (480) 499-8587 or IgnitePhoenix.com
Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org