I did an Ignite talk, and you should, too

Caren Gussoff Sumption
4 min readFeb 18, 2022
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

Last night, I did something difficult: I stood up, in front of ~100*-ish people (author’s edit on 2/22/22: I have been told by organizers there were at least 240! people in the audience) — and a bunch silently watching on a livestream) — in one of my city’s most respectable venues, and, for a full five minutes — with no notes, and a relentlessly auto-advancing 20 slide presentation — and spoke on a topic that is really important to me…like intrinsic to my deepest, truest self (why “Gypsy” is a goddam racial slur and everyone who is not Romany needs to stop using it immediately).

I went third, bookended in either direction by a total of 9 other talks, all engaging, all vulnerable, and, by the end of the evening, I was absolutely exhausted and completely energized.

Last night, I did an Ignite talk. And I really think you should do one, too — especially if you don’t think you want to, and particularly if the idea terrifies you.

Ignite started in Seattle, so I know my audience definitely has a reputation for being superlatively enthusiastic and proud of being OG. But, seriously, while the (very loud for being smaller than usual) applause was nice (not gonna lie), the adrenaline and brief validation of strangers is not why I’m telling you to find your local event and submit a talk, posthaste.

It’s because of all of the work the Ignite staff puts into getting their speakers up there, to the point where they can walk off the stage so highly spent, they pass out on a cloud.

Especially if you don’t think you want to. Particularly if the idea terrifies you.

We had a month, more or less by a few days, from acceptance to event (from what I understand, a bit shorter than usual). We also had a pandemic. But from the day of acceptance, staff was attentive and communicative (sometimes 10 emails a day communicative). Date and milestones were set, including an early general coaching session, with a seasoned public speaker (who’s done Ignite, as well as a ton of other speaking engagements).

The coaching session is where shit got real. I’m not exactly a n00b at being on stage: I spent 5 years a decade-and-change-ago as a burlesque dancer, sometimes emcee for burlesque and fetish events; I’ve taught classes for 20 years…

Caren Gussoff Sumption

Writer, dabbler, bon vivant. Nerdy words for nerdy people.