A challenge of a different kind

Recently, the organizers of the Indiana Bankers Association‘s Mega Conference invited me to participate in an Ignite session – which, as I understood it, was to be a Ted-style talk on a topic I was passionate about that was not my job. The real twist was that it was a timed talk, where a predetermined number of slides (20), autoforward at a set interval.

Having collaborated with the organizer on a topic – Lessons I learned on my bicycle – I got to work, dedicating more hours and brain space on those 20 slides than I did on the Content Marketing presentation I was scheduled to give the next day. What had me stumped was the timing, how was I supposed to fill 1 minute of time with 1 slide?

You see, I had understood the challenge to be “20 minutes, 20 slides, autoforwarded each minute.” This was incorrect. Sitting in Indianapolis, six hours between me and my presentation, I re-read the description:

Imagine that you’re in front of an audience made up of your peers, colleagues and coworkers, about to present a five-minute talk on the topic you’re most passionate about. You’ve brought 20 slides, which advance every 15 seconds … whether you’re ready or not. You have a few last-minute butterflies, but off you go – and the crowd loves it. Welcome to Ignite.

Do you see the problem? Five–minute talk… Slides advance every 15 seconds. 

For the first time in my life I understood the description “cold sweat.”

But if there was one message I wanted to convey through my Ignite session it was about taking on challenges – so after considering the professional repercussions of running away or telling the organizers I had a migraine, or mono, I retreated to my hotel room, paring down my lessons and reorganizing my slides with the goal of having my new Ignite session ready to go.

As we prepared to begin, I met my fellow Igniters – each of us expressing a certain level of nervousness (and relief they had understood the directions unlike yours truly). The MC looked at me, legs bouncing and arms twitching and said, “you seem like you are high energy.”

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If he only knew.

Fortunately, I was not the first to speak, giving me time to calm down and contemplate how each of them seemed to have SO MUCH TIME! (How did they have so. much. time?) I was moved, in particular by Terry L. Stevens of Alliance Bank who shared his story inspired by his recent cancer diagnosis.

And then, before I knew it, it was my turn.

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It. Was. Awesome.

Hitting play was like getting on a roller coaster – no turning back, the only place to go was forward. It was not perfect – I can tell you exactly where I started to lose my line. I know that I gave Helen Wyman credit for advice her husband Stef gave us during High Tea with Helen. I didn’t quite explain the challenge and reward of joining Team Betty. I’m sure I did not get Julie Lockhart’s age correct (but she’s still a badass). And didn’t wrap as strongly as I would have liked – what I wanted to say was:

“I’m 43, and I’ve learned that I’m just getting started. I have many miles to ride. Many years left to try something new. To make a difference. To be a role model. To be a badass.”

(I still managed to say “Badass” in front of a group of bankers which feels, well, badass).

But I crossed the finish line on time and I enjoyed every second of the ride. I loved sharing the photos of my family and my squad (Alex & Nancy, I’m looking at you), and reflecting back on the journey that began 5 years ago but really hit overdrive when I started cyclocross 2 seasons ago. Like the best rollercoaster, now that I’ve caught my breath, I’m already looking forward to the next ride.

In the meantime, I’m going to face down one more challenge – sharing it with you. Because while watching it is squirm-inducing for me, I’m trying to remember that perfection is overrated, as long as I enjoy the ride.

5 thoughts on “A challenge of a different kind

  1. You are a badass, an athlete, an amazing mom, and beyond all an amazing friend who I am privileged to follow into the woods, through the mud, and into great joy!!!


  2. I LOVED your nervous energy during the intro and how you channeled it into engaging energy during the talk!

    A tactical question–was your presentation showing on the computer screen in front of you? And, did you have a timer running so that you knew where you were on each slide?

    Back in March, I gave a talk to a Charles River Wheelmen group. The title was DIRT and it was about this roadie’s 2015 experience off the pavement. It was really a photo essay brought to life–I’m thinking now how it might have worked with the 15 second/5 minute cap. I may turn the talk into a coffee table book … you know, when I get some free time.

    It was fun seeing a few of my pics–very cool!

    I hadn’t heard the “failing to prepare/preparing to fail” line before–excellent. Excellent, because I’m an over-preparer. As you no doubt no, it’s not enough to have the parts, though, you need the ability to use them out on the road. I learned at the foot of Bob J–he held a 4-session build/maintain/repair clinic a few years back that took me from dangerous to competent (fear not, STBG doesn’t have to worry about competition from me!). Might be time for Bob to dust off those sessions.


    1. Thanks Jeff – My “nervous energy” is often the only thing that gets me through these presentations!

      The slides were showing in front me, actually the NEXT slide was in front of me, which was very helpful to keeping me on track. The biggest challenge was not “riffing” or responding to the audience as the timing was so tight). I didn’t have a timer running, but I had figured I had about “a tweet” a slide. I think the timer would have been distracting.

      Thank you for taking some of the great photos I used (although I’m sure my audience was like “jeez she likes to take pics of herself!”) DIRT sounds like a fun presentation – perhaps we can have you give it at the Studio! We’re trying to get more items on the calendar through the spring and summer.

      Gotta give it up for Benjamin Franklin for the quote “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Wise dude. And definitely a good idea to have some basic bike knowledge!


      1. I’d love to do a DIRT encourse at STBGstudio this summer.

        I’ve done a LOT of presentations and LOVE doing them. Not bad for an introvert, huh? I’ve thought about starting a presentation training business–maybe if the wheels fall off of everything else at some point.

        When I present, I want a display between myself and the audience so that I don’t have to turn my back. I want the display to show the current slide as it builds, the next slide in full, and a timer.


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