Igniting An Old Flame

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I’ve always had at least a passive interest in acting. In high middle and high school I was involved in all the drama that was available. I think I may have had a stage role in every single production, but I also liked getting involved in other ways, like prop crew, and publicity. In college, I had less time and interest in theater, but still managed to land a pretty good role in one of the school’s offerings. I did make several bizarre movies with one of my good friends. One of them involved a serious bout of constipation, I literally shit you not.

Since that stint on the porcelain throne, I haven’t done any acting at all. It wasn’t until I founded Ignite Lincoln that I really pursued performing in front of people again. During the first event, I got up on stage and talked for five minutes about CouchSurfing. Of course, as you can see, Ignite Lincoln isn’t acting, so much as speech, but whatever gets me in front of a crowd is great. More than that, of course, is that I’ve come to learn many things about my city that make it unique, and meet a lot of really cool people, too. Ignite Lincoln has had more of an impact than nearly anything else I’ve done, and I’m quite proud of it.

So I was pleased that I was invited to give a talk about Ignite Lincoln to Rotary Club #14 at the Nebraska Club here in Lincoln. I quickly accepted the offer and began to formulate what I was going to say. Sure, I wanted to promote the work that we're doing, but on the face of it, it’s a fairly simple idea, and I didn’t feel that a long-winded origin story would do justice to our mission. I needed an inspiring idea and an entertaining story.

I decided to talk about the root of what Ignite Lincoln is all about, which is a celebration of Lincoln’s local culture. I wanted to dig in—not just about how I started it, but also why—by painting a tapestry of all the weird things that I like and then connecting those disparate bits together (gosh, its inception almost seems like an inevitability when I put it that way). I started planning months in advance, burned through a couple packs of note cards, and scoured my photo resources and the Creative Commons for interesting visuals.

One thing that I hate about presentations is the PowerPoint curse of stagnant slides with bulleted text, so my goal was to keep the talk as snappy as I could. Several friends suggested I do the talk as, essentially, four Ignite talks: 80 slides automatically rotating every 15 seconds. The idea had crossed my mind, but when I began, the thought of finding 80 different photos was a bit daunting, so I passed on it. In the end, my deck was 93 slides long, and some of them had more than one photo on them! Altogether, I probably put 30–40 hours in to prepping for the big day.

My hard work paid off. The reception was great. Most of my jokes were well-received (the zombie one, less-so; the hangover one, way more than I expected) and that was thrilling. Afterwards, the attendees thanked and congratulated me. Some told me they were inspired, many were interested in knowing more, many of them told me about their kids’ couchsurfing adventures, and one of them offered me another speaking gig.

I’m quite pleased. It’s been far too long since I’ve done public speaking of any kind, and this was a nice way to rekindle that old fire. I hope that I can find some more opportunities to open up in front of an audience, and I’m pumped to get more Lincolnites up on stage for Ignite Lincoln 4.

I’ve uploaded the presentation to Speaker Deck, so open it in a new tab and then listen to the audio recording below. (Forgive the low quality. I’m trying to get a better version.)

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