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Ignite Toronto

Ignite Toronto

What would you say if you had five minutes on stage, in front of a captive audience of 200 people, and you could talk about any topic you'd like? I can rattle off a few topics I might be educated to speak on - the best poutine in Toronto, the enigma that is being a Leafs fan, why iPhone apps have saved my boredom on the TTC. So how to choose just one? Narrowing it down to a single topic was something the presenters, including me, faced at Wednesday night's Ignite Toronto 2 event.

I only recently heard about the Ignite phenomenon. It's a simple concept - a group of presenters, five minutes on stage each, 20 slides, and 15 seconds per slide. Presenters can talk about whatever they want, from tech-related topics to infinity and beyond - the only requirement is to "englighten us, but make it quick" (the Ignite tagline). It all began in 2006 (eons in tech terms) in Seattle, and was started by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis. Now Ignite events take place all over the world, from Paris to Pheonix - and now in the T-Dot (the first Toronto event took place in August).

Ignite was brought to Toronto by Peter Horvath and Michele Perras, and the events have quickly become the hottest ticket on the tech scene. They're like a U2 concert - tickets selling out in minutes, with people clamoring for extra spots and doing whatever they have to to get in the door. Last night's event was held at The Drake Hotel in front of a packed house of fellow geeks, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts from around the city.

There were a total of 13 speakers at the event, on topics from how Kung Fu is like developing software (there are more parallels than one might think) by Corey Reid; to Women, Fire and Dangerous Things by Michael Dila. I was also one of the speakers, and talked about why you should be working at a startup company right now (among the pros: you have more creative license and responsibility, you have a tight-knit team, and your job is cool. Among the cons: long-as-hell hours and having to change the toilet paper). It's daunting to be in front of the crowd in the bright lights, but everyone was so supportive, as they expressed with hoots, hollers, and clapping for each presenter. They even laughed at a photo of me in a Snuggie - although I guess that's a given.

HackLabTO co-founder Leigh Honeywell, one of the presenters, spoke about her journey to the stage, and summed up the best way to pick your Ignite topic. "I read somewhere that the best way to pick a presentation topic is to think about what you know now that you didn't a year ago, and talk about that. So that's what I'm doing tonight."

So what do I know now that I didn't a year ago, other than the fact that startups are a wicked place to work? Maybe it's that Kanye West is a bigger jackass than I thought. Or that Helvetica is the only acceptable font for a designer. But most of all, it's that Toronto's tech scene is vibrant and booming - and I love being a part of it. But whatever I've learned, it would make a great presentation.

Ignite 2's presentations will be on Ignite Toronto's Vimeo channel shortly, so stay tuned - and check out the full speaker lineup from the evening, including topics, here.

Writing by Erin Bury. Photo by James Kachan.


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