How to throw a great infotainment event a la IgniteTalks

An infotainment event balances the seriousness of important ideas and the fun-focused feeling of entertainment. IgniteTalks are perfect examples of infotainment because the set structure (20 slides shown for 15 seconds each) keeps presentations short and sweet while still delivering the goods. With only five minutes to present an idea or tell a story, Ignite speakers have to play with style, technique, and, yes, laughter, to get their point across.

Alongside the creativity inherent in a successful IgniteTalk presentation, the time limitation also ensures that speakers with something important to say can’t delve too deep into the details of their subject matter. Focusing on the most important elements of an idea ensures that a diverse audience (that may or may not have expertise in the speakers’ chosen topic) can still understand and appreciate the talks on stage.

While it’s clear that balance is key to throwing a great infotainment event, that’s not the only way to ensure your evening’s success. Here are four ways to focus your planning efforts around an infotainment night to remember:

1. Pick a great venue

Location, location, location. In over 10 years of hosting IgniteTalks around the world, organizers have told us that selecting a venue can often be the hardest part of planning. If you’re throwing your first infotainment event, it’s probably a good idea to aim for a smaller space rather than a larger one. Think about it from the perspective of your audience — would you rather be soaking up the energy of an overflowing house, or whispering and glancing over your shoulder at a room full of empty seats?

It’s also a good idea to choose a venue that has a dedicated space for your group. If your event is open to the public, privacy may not be a priority. But even so, you want your audience to be able to pay attention, hear your speakers, and get the full experience, uninterrupted. A noisy bar may not be the best place to foster that kind of community environment. Of course, many bars also have separate rooms and areas that can be cordoned off specifically for events like yours. Work with the venue you choose (whether it’s a bar, local theater, gallery, library, or stadium) to make sure that their business is covered and your community is taken care of.

2. Curate amazing speakers

Selecting speakers is a crucial part of the infotainment event planning process because they’re the stars of the show. If you already have certain individuals in mind, you can reach out to them directly to invite them to speak at your event. Social media is also a great way to spread the word more broadly and find speakers that you may have never heard of before, expanding your own horizons to expand the horizons of others!

Some infotainment events are centered around a specific theme or industry. For example, when IgniteTalks began in 2006 it was centered around a focus in the technology world. Since then Ignite events have spanned virtually every industry around the world, and have in turn fallen more on both the “info” side and the “tainment” side of a traditional infotainment event. This kind of curating will have a lot to do with your audience, your community, and your goals as an organizer.

For us at IgniteTalks, the specific topics of the presentations are less important than the driving force binding all Ignite events together: sharing our nerdiest passions and most exciting ideas. Whether you start with a unifying theme or not, it’s always a great idea to empower your speakers to share what they’re excited about. From business ideas and inspiring stories to comedy sets and magic shows, if you and your speakers inspire passion, that passion will be contagious.

3. Focus on the community

The speakers you host may be the stars of your infotainment show, but your audience members are really the VIPs. If you find yourself struggling with big event decisions from venue logistics to speaker selections, just ask yourself what will best serve your audience. For some infotainment event organizers, the audience is made of an existing community so the planning team is intimately familiar with their preferences and general style. While for more public, open-ended infotainment events you and your team may have to go out and ask what will please your audience most.

If asking the audience isn’t an option, keeping the audience’s experience in mind is still a solid start. When you’re counting your chips at the end of the night, chances are that putting on a successful event will mean that your audience members enjoyed themselves, learned something, and will be excited to come back next time. Focus on giving your audience a night to remember, and whatever else happens, you will have done right by your community.

4. Have an amazing time!

When it comes down to it, event planning can be really tough! There’s a lot of grunt work involved — countless emails and phone calls and site visits. Not everything will go according to plan, you’ll have more or fewer audience members than you anticipated, someone will forget the auxiliary cord. You may end up with different speakers than you’d originally planned, or you may have to switch from your dream venue to a back up plan. Throwing a successful infotainment event means rolling with the punches, to a certain extent, and being flexible about the details.

But through all that hard work, don’t forget to have fun. Make sure you enjoy yourself throughout the planning phases of your event, when you and your team are huddled around spreadsheets and guest lists. You don’t have to wait for the event itself to celebrate and appreciate all the hard work you’ve done, although you should absolutely be celebrating when the event date does arrive. Maybe it’s a question of sharing that infotainment balance between serious and fun, every step of the way. Whatever that means for you, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

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Note: I advise on marketing for the global IgniteTalks org and help run the local San Francisco chapter.