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(Courtesy of Ignite Boulder)
(Courtesy of Ignite Boulder)

Complex ideas, abbreviated

(Courtesy of Ignite Boulder)

Ignite Boulder is not a series of lectures so much as it is a sometimes nerve-racking rollercoaster of information.

With only five minutes to present a topic, 20 slides that automatically advance and nearly 1,000 live spectators, speakers have their work cut out for them. This Thursday, presenters will step up to the public speaking challenge at Ignite Boulder’s Sweet 16 event. 

This sold out event, held at the Boulder Theater, is a set of lectures given by Boulder residents who discuss a variety of topics that often make their viewers think and laugh.

A month ago, potential presenters were asked to submit ideas online and a group was chosen by a community vote and by an Ignite Boulder committee. According to the Ignite Boulder website, there are 12 speakers lined up for Thursday’s show.

Ef Rodriguez, current head of Ignite Boulder, said that this style of rapid thinking tests the public speaking skills of presenters, as well as the way their audience thinks.

“Complex ideas [will be] delivered in a succinct, fast-paced way, which forces you to think in an abbreviated fashion,” Rodriguez said.

Though all speeches will abide by the same rules, there is a variety of subject matter that will be covered. Some simple-sounding titles include, Prakash Murthy’s “Everything you need to know about Cricket” and Jason B. Hill’s “What is Mathematics, Seriously?” Other presentations may be much harder to predict, like Stephanie Lee’s “Failure of Modern American Architecture: Public Bathrooms” or Lauren Spacek’s “Nothing Will Prepare You for the Apocalypse of 2012 like a Homemade Cannon and a Bonnet.” However distinct the topics are, each promises to make the audience think, possibly more than they had originally planned to.

Although a lot of work has gone into preparing for their Sweet 16 event, Rodriguez said he is not worried about the outcome of the show.

“There has been a lot of movement going on, but so far everything is running smoothly,” he said. “It will be an interesting night.”

Because most of the audience is local, Ignite events offer a chance for Boulderites to network and get to know each other.  With an intermission and the doors opening an hour before the show, there is plenty of time to get to know other audience members as well as Ignite volunteers.

Rodriguez said that thinking of the event as a community gathering helps to make the lectures less intimidating for presenters.

“Ignite is a great opportunity to speak on a community platform and get in front of people who share a common ground with you,” Rodriguez said.

Zack Shapiro, a senior media studies major and former Ignite presenter has presented in past Ignites with such speeches as “Accelerated Learning: Why You Should Find and Take Advantage of Smart People” and “The Importance of Wasting Time.” Shapiro said Ignite is a great experience for both audience members and presenters.

“The community is so supportive,” Shapiro said. “They cheer if you do great, they cheer if you mess up.  There are no bad feelings for bad talks.”

For those students who are interested in giving a presentation of their own, Shapiro said that Josh Fraser, an Ignite ’11 contestant, gave a memorable piece of advice from his “Snakes and Staircases” presentation.

“Practice one million times, but relax and have fun,” Shapiro said. “Remember what Josh Fraser said, ‘Stairs kill 210,640 people each year, but public speaking kills 0.’”

Though this event is sold out, check out the talks streaming live at Watch for Ignite Boulder 17 in the first 2 weeks of December.

Contact CU Independent Writer Avalon Jacka at


About Avalon Jacka

Avalon Jacka is a senior at the University of Colorado, studying News-editorial journalism and Russian studies. She loves music and hopes to incorporate it into her career someday. When she isn't doing homework, Jacka spends her time singing with the radio, analyzing television far too in-depth and hanging out with her friends. She has also been known to play Mortal Kombat on the PS2 and win. It is one of her greatest accomplishments to date. Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor Avalon Jacka at

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