Back in 2006, two self-proclaimed geeks in Seattle started Ignite, a fast-paced event with an “Everyone Speaks” mission. The founders believed that public speaking builds confidence in individuals and that events like Ignite build community.
Their goal was to make it possible for anyone, anywhere to learn to present their stories, ideas, and passions. It was also about having fun, and showing that presentations do not need to be about “death by PowerPoint.” Since the first Ignite took place, the Ignite Talks have been popping up everywhere, becoming an international phenomenon.
The first Ignite Howard County event took place in April 2015. Hosted by the Howard County Economic Development Authority, the goal was to co-mingle the business and creative communities in a collaborative environment, with the hope of creating an entrepreneurial spark. For the past two years, Conscious Capitalism of Central Maryland (C3MD) has been hosting the annual event.
We sat down for a Q&A with one of the organizers of the fifth Ignite Howard County, Wendy Baird, president of insight180 brand consulting & design and member of C3MD’s Leadership Team, to learn more about the event and why it’s important.
Q: So, what is C3MD? How did they get involved in Ignite?
A: Conscious Capitalism of Central Maryland is an organization of purpose-driven and like-minded business owners who believe that business is about more than just the bottom line. Members believe that entrepreneurs and businesses can make an impact on their world, that they can create positive change, do good, and elevate humanity — all while making a profit.
In 2016, when then-Ignite-organizer HCEDA was inundated with requests after the first major Ellicott City flood and had to let go of organizing and producing the Ignite Howard County event, Conscious Capitalism saw an opportunity to help out. C3MD recognized how Ignite was aligned with its core principles and decided to step up to plan the event. This is not a money-making event for C3MD, it’s about getting communities together to share innovative ideas.
Q: Why do you choose to host the event at Jailbreak Brewing Company?
A: Well, the first Ignite Howard County was hosted at Jailbreak, but for a little while the event moved to Howard Community College. We’re back at Jailbreak because we really like the open, collaborative feel of the space. The interior is one large room with high ceilings and large tables, which means you’re sharing a table with others – maybe sitting with some people you don’t already know. It’s a great opportunity to foster discussion. Plus, they’ve got a great AV system and large screens, which makes the presentations easier – and better looking and sounding! Plus, well, a great selection of craft beer and great food!
Q: What topics have speakers covered in the past?
A: Really, the topics run the gamut! Ignite is all about sharing something you’re passionate about, so we’ve heard it all. We’ve had people share tech ideas they’re passionate about, time management tips, what it’s like to be on a professional jump rope team, the perspective of an adolescent “going through” the divorce of her parents, environmental innovations, benefits of meditation or a keto diet, living with mental illness and the list goes on! Last year, one speaker talked about the night he found a dead person!
One of my personal favorites was from a speaker who did photography at the end of someone’s life. Not morbid, but a beautiful gift for those who were going through a difficult life transition. Her photographs showing closeups of the hands of generations, grandchild and grandfather, for example, were beautiful and telling. Very moving.
Q: Why should I apply to be a speaker?
A: There are many great reasons to apply to be a speaker! Do you have a story to tell? A passion to share? A business idea you want feedback on? A great idea that you just can’t wait to talk about?
The only rule, other than the timing, is that there is NO selling allowed. Your Ignite talk is not a sales pitch and any applications that come across as trying to sell will be automatically disqualified.
Q: How can I apply to be a speaker? How are the speakers chosen?
A: The Ignite Howard County website has the speaker application. All you have to do is fill it out! It’s important to make it compelling: a committee will do a blind review of all the applications. Not all Ignite talks are what they seem – make sure and give yours a great title, but also make sure to tell us why your topic is compelling.
Everyone on the committee picks their top four choices for speakers. If everyone selects you, then you’re automatically chosen as a speaker. From there, it goes based on the number of committee members who voted for you. For the proposals with fewer votes, the committee discusses the choices and decides as a group. August 30th is the last day to apply!
Q: How many speakers are there?
A: We select 10-12 speakers for the event, as well as a couple of backups. The selected speakers must present to the planning committee before the event, which allows the committee to provide coaching if necessary and confirm that no sales pitches sneak in by accident.
Q: What if I spoke at a previous Ignite but have a new topic, can I still apply?
A: Absolutely! Past speakers are always welcome to apply again with new topics. After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll be chosen again!
Q: I’m interested in applying, but I’m not really sure how to prepare. Is there anyone who can help me?
A: We are here to help, for sure. If you’ve got questions or just need some assistance with the process, let us know in your application!
Q: Public speaking is not my thing…how else can I get involved?
A: We are always looking for sponsors for the event! Sponsorship comes with a range of benefits, including but not limited to getting your company name listed on the Ignite Howard County site, printed on the program materials, and mentioned throughout the evening. Plus, sponsors receive a number of free tickets to this inspiring event.
We already have some companies sponsoring us. Jailbreak Brewing Company, my own company insight180, and Howard Tech Council are already signed up. But we’re always looking for more sponsors, and it’s a great way to get involved without having to do any public speaking!
Ignite Howard County #5 takes place on October 21st, from 5:30 – 8 pm at Jailbreak Brewing Company.
- Buy Your Ticket Now – Want to join in on the fun? Get your tickets now to be a part of the discussion.
- Apply to be a Speaker – Speaker applications are due August 30th, don’t miss your chance to apply!
- Sponsor the Event – If you want to learn more about the different sponsorship levels, check out our website. Ready to be a sponsor? Contact Wendy Baird or Tracy Turner for more information.