How to Spark the Most Thrilling 5 Minutes of Your Life: My Ignite Detroit Experience

Have you ever wondered what the most exciting five minutes in your life would be? I had mine this past Friday at Ignite Detroit and I encourage you to experience the thrill yourself at your next Ignite event.

In my earlier post I explained why I wanted to be part of Ignite Detroit, and the event really touched my heart. Whether it was the inspirational talks like “Doing the Impossible,” “The Creation of Hostel Detroit,” and “Bringing Game models to the Workplace,” or the Detroit spirit coming from the crowd of more than 1,100 people, I know this is the right city and these are the right people to make something happen. Something phenomenal.

Many of my friends couldn’t believe I did it, and I even mentioned in Girls in Tech interview “this is something more exciting than my upcoming skydiving trip.” And the experience, as a speaker, is quite different than attending the event. You learn how much effort it takes to become part of Ignite Detroit, from watching Brandon, Norm and Sarah going back and forth backstage to make sure of every detail, to having conversation with other speakers about their passion for social media and their topic. Were it not for these people, Ignite Detroit wouldn’t be possible.

So how did I do it? Here are a few tips I discovered:

1. Clear out your entire schedule after you know you’re going to speak.
I might take this Ignite experience a little bit too serious, but I challenged myself to create the best presentation. The whole process (figuring out the direction, drafting scripts, preparing the slides, and continuous revision) still took a lot longer than I expected. By the way: prepare for 3 – 4 hours of sleep for the week leading up to the event.

2. Do tons of research and seek different perspectives from your network.
Even though my cultural background has already granted me some advantage for my talk (“China’s no Panda Express”), I still spent a few hours a day discussing with other professionals  (LinkedIn Group Discussion > China Business) and searching relevant topics from Forbes, Harvard Business Review, or China Daily). I will share my reading list at the end of this post.

3. Invite your friends and engage with the crew.
Think of Ignite as an opportunity to bridge the gap between your social-media friends and your other friends. (Have you ever gotten this reaction: “You made friends on what website? Twitter? Are those people even real?”) Your friends might have little idea about the whole “social media” thing, but I bet Ignite would blow their minds. I am fortunate to have a bunch of friends who are very supportive of my passion and were willing to come down and watch my presentation. What’s more, people I have known from Tweetea and Social Media Club Detroit gave me so much encouragement and love that I felt even if I failed, I’d still have their applause and support.

4. Get a kickass costume.Ignite-Detroit-Chinas-No-Panda-Express-preso
I bought a Hello Kitty shirt for this presentation. Even though the kitty is not from China, I wore it for those who spotted the humor behind the intention.

5. Excite, entertain, and engage.
The first minute of a presentation is always key, and I chose to speak Mandarin and make fun of myself. Telling race-sensitive jokes is always a wild card and I am fortunate this time I made it through unscathed. The sound of your audience’s laughter is like an affirmation, meaning they are willing to connect with you and the story you’re about to tell.

I did not expect myself to come this far (My talk took second place). After Emily Doerr’s “The Creation of Hostel Detroit,” I wanted to step out and phone all my out-of-town friends to come to Detroit.  David  “Dixon” Hammond’s non-verbal performance made my eyes water (how often do you have a chance to be inspired by powerful messages & incredibly beautiful melody?); Daniel Eizans’ “Bringing Game Models to the Workplace” was so well planned that I couldn’t wait to share the idea with my coworker. And then Henry Balanon’s “Dad’s Guide on How to handle the Birth of Your First Child” made me laugh so hard that my stomach hurt. Laura Farm’s “You Like Trivial Things, And That’s Okay” really brought me to rethink some fundamental issues that rarely passed through my mind. And Dave Linabury’s  “How I Beat a Billion Dollar Company with My Blog” was just as genius as he is. So many great speakers and so many inspirational topics, I was truly honored being part of Ignite Detroit.

Resource for “China’s No Panda Express”

11 Responses to “How to Spark the Most Thrilling 5 Minutes of Your Life: My Ignite Detroit Experience”

  1. Mike K McClure
    2011/04/19 at 10:22 PM #


    Nice post. I got all excited about Ignite all over again reading it. It certainly is a rush once you get up there and the timer goes off. I found my research took way longer than I expected, too. Loved your presentation and the exuberance you brought to it then and now. Thanks for sharing.


    • evelynchou
      2011/04/20 at 1:53 AM #

      Uncle Mike, will you do it again next year? It’s such a great experience and I think everyone who is passionate about something should have the equal chances to share with the world.
      I like you preso a lot, the “no fear” “learning from experience” points hit me hard. You should submit the topic to other Ignite events as well!

  2. Stella
    2011/04/19 at 11:24 PM #

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I could tell you rocked it from thousands of miles away 🙂

    • evelynchou
      2011/04/20 at 1:51 AM #

      Stella, I can’t believe you were like with me even you were in California. I enjoy all the pictures you posted. And thank you for reading the blog 🙂

  3. Julian Bond
    2011/04/20 at 12:47 AM #

    Very good read here Evelyn about your time at Ignite Detroit 🙂

    • evelynchou
      2011/04/20 at 1:50 AM #

      Thank you Julian. I didn’t spot you last Thursday, were you there?

  4. Andrew
    2011/04/20 at 3:43 AM #

    One thing actually doesn’t surprise me at all: the amount of time it took preparing. It showed! You were excellent!

    You might find the skydiving experience pretty similar… tense anticipation, followed by an adrenalized blur, and finally an exhilarated high lasting several hours, if not days!

    Good luck with it and congratulations on Ignite!

    • evelynchou
      2011/04/20 at 3:50 AM #

      Thanks Drew! I know we didn’t get to say hi last Thursday, but did you go to Tweetea today?
      We will have to grab coffee some time. Sounds like you had quite a few presentation experience, would you consider doing a Ignite preso next year?
      If so, what will you talk about?

      • Andrew
        2011/04/20 at 9:24 PM #

        I couldn’t make it. My Tuesdays of late have been annoyingly busy; hopefully they settle down soon. I’m really looking forward to going to a couple of them. I’d love to grab coffee. It’d be great to meet finally.

        And yes, I’d definitely consider doing an Ignite talk. I was going to submit a topic this year, but I couldn’t quite get the idea solidified in time. I’ve been pretty interested lately in the emotion of fear, our very limiting behavior of residing permanently within our comfort zones, and the process required to break out of them. I’d probably talk about something in that area.

  5. Scott Shinn
    2011/07/23 at 1:59 AM #

    wait – ignite was last week? I thought that Ignite Great Lakes was coming up this week?

    When is it? I’m very confused…

    • evelynchou
      2011/07/24 at 1:58 AM #

      Scott, Ignite Great Lakes is on 7/30 (next Sat)
      The blog was about Ignite Detroit back in April.
      Hope to see you there!
      – Evy

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