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Submitting an idea to Ignite Phoenix is an act of courage; exclaiming your passion to the world is not always easy. The Ignite Phoenix Team takes your submissions very seriously, and we know they represent trust and vulnerability that deserve the highest respect. While we would love to put all 80-100 submissions (sometimes more) on the final presenter list, there can only be 18 chosen for each event, and it’s our job to find the right combination of people, topics, attributes, energy, and other variables that create the Ignite Phoenix magic.

If you are thinking about submitting and want to know how the judging process works, this article will help pull back the curtain and show you what goes on behind the scenes. If you have submitted a topic before – thank you. We love that you are passionate about something and want to shout it from the rooftops. If your presentation was not chosen, don’t be discouraged. We hope you continue to share your story with others and consider submitting for future Ignite events, where there will be a new mix of submissions, different judges, and more chances to get your moment in the spotlight.


The speakers for the first few Ignite Phoenix events were curated through a combination of friendly “arm twisting” and volunteers. As the event rapidly grew, the founders realized the importance of adding more diverse opinions in order to keep things fresh.

Since Ignite Phoenix #4, we have invited past Ignite Phoenix speakers to participate in the selection process since they are familiar with the speaking experience and have insight into what makes a successful presentation. Along the way, we also learned that there may be pressure to “game” the selections, so we put mechanisms and processes into place to shift the focus away from popularity and on to the crucial areas, like passion, topic diversity, and fit.

Years ago, we selected speakers through an online process but found it lacked collaboration and the ability to get to the submitters’ true passions. When it was time to select speakers for Ignite Phoenix #8, we created an interactive and collaborative “workshop” format. This required five to eight past presenters to meet for two hours to go through a series of activities and whittle down the selections to the final list. We have continued to evolve this workshop format, learning each time from the participating judges and our own observations.



Because we value diversity and new opinions, the Ignite Phoenix Core Team (our main group of volunteers who plan the event) does not participate with the past speaker judges. We happily allow the hard work to fall on their shoulders.

The workshop starts with the judges jointly defining the things they look for in a presentation. Attributes like educational, humorous, emotional, and inspiring often come up, along with others. With all the submissions on a wall in front of them, they go through activities that help them discuss, argue, evaluate, and select the final desired lineup. Each stage trims the submissions as they look for those gems that will “ignite” the audience.

After two hours, the judges take turns reading each selected submission out loud. We close out each session with final comments and a shared understanding of what they have chosen. The judges leave the Core Team with a list of selected speakers and alternates.

Through the history of these judging workshops, we have seen some interesting results. Our judges usually see at least one of their favorites make it into the lineup and at least one favorite does not. We also see some topics submitted several times before being selected into a show. Each set of judges does what’s needed to introduce new perspectives and opinions to the event.



After the past speakers finish their presenter selection, the Ignite Phoenix Core Team starts putting the show together. We get participation commitments from the selected speakers, with alternates filling any gaps. From that point on, the schedule of work leading to the event is tight and furious! We provide workshops and mentoring to help the speakers perfect their presentations so that they are the stars of the show. The goal is to make their passion shine and ignite our own.


If you have more general questions on the judging process (not about specific submissions), feel free to get in touch with us anytime at!

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