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5 Reasons Why Your Submission to Ignite Phoenix Sucks

Editor's Note: This is the re-publishing of a post with Ignite Phoenix by Evo Terra on January 7, 2009. It's just as relevant today. Enjoy!

I've had the pleasure of both presenting at Ignite Phoenix (first presenter at the first event, so there) and sitting on the selection committee for IP2. I learned a lot from both experiences. Presenting taught me to clearly and concisely speak on a subject. I've been riffing on the subject for years, but the "20-slides-in-5-minutes" constraints forced me to focus on just the salient points. Serving on the selection committee taught me something different: some of you really suck at writing your submissions.

With that, here are five reasons why submissions to talk at Ignite Phoenix suck.

1. Your biography is twice as long as the description of your talk. Look, I'm sure you are a fascinating person. Your bio clearly indicates that at least one person thinks you are. And as much as this presentation is about you, it's a LOT more about what you are going to speak on.

2. Your description doesn't describe much. Now isn't the time to be esoteric or mysterious. Now is the time to clearly demonstrate what you know. Perhaps more importantly, it's the time to demonstrate what you will be sharing with the audience. Avoid asking questions. Strive to give answers.

3. You're obviously trying to sell something. I admit I have a bias against people just looking for an opportunity to pitch me the latest and greatest thing they offer -- free or not. Others on the selection committee (and I'm not a charter member or anything) may be less averse. But do try and indicate what is so special about your product or service if you must pitch it. And remember -- I'm a skeptical cynic. Yeah, I suck at Christmas.

4. Your focus is too narrow. A wide group of people attend Ignite Phoenix. They have wide interests. Few want to hear a talk on the superiority of the Blue Diode over the Red. Yes, I made that up. But some submissions seem that way. Don't go for the deep dive on a topic. Find something unique and interesting about the Blue Diode that appeals to someone who doesn't have a Master's Degree in Material Science. You know, like 95% of the room?

5. There's no pizazz. If your description of your talk is boring... we'll assume you are boring. We're probably wrong and you're of the more fascinating humans to have mastered heel-to-toe walking -- but how would we know? While you're focusing on the first four, remember that this last one is the icing on the cake. And it can be the one to put you one step ahead.

A final thought: Ignite Phoenix gets LOTS of submissions. Don't take it personal if yours wasn't selected. Either this round or the round before. With only a limited number of slots available, it's natural that some talks won't make the cut. If that happens to you and you want to know why, I suggest some studying and reflection. DO NOT sit there the evening of the event thinking about how much better your talk would have been than one you just heard. Go back and look at the submissions that were selected and see how they were crafted. Therein lies your answers.


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