Ignite Philly: using powerpoint for inspiration and laughs

Every couple of months, a crowded bar in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood becomes the place to spot what’s fresh and inspiring in Philly. Each presenter at an Ignite Philly gets five minutes — and a fast-moving powerpoint — to win over a noisy crowd.

It’s a night full of ideas from the entertaining, to the heartwarming. “It all started with a vacant lot at the bottom of our block [in Germantown] and there were two burned out houses and we rode by them every day and they were really horrible and we kept thinking what can we do about this. And one day we cleaned it up,” said Aina Doley.

She says then the projects just kept coming. “People started reaching out and saying they wanted to help, and other people started reaching out and saying they wanted to help.”

Then there are the presentations that sound like this: “What then is the next stage? What could happen that we could have more self-reconfigurable modules or we can even have different social conditions that happen with building that can move or change over time?”

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Architect Simon Kim is more used to presenting to a class full of students than onstage: “In a certain way you want to make sure that what you do resonates with a larger audience than just architects or even a small section of architects,” Kim said.

Ignite got started with a geeky crowd in Seattle and now takes place in hundreds of cities around the world.

Geoff DiMasi founded the Philadelphia chapter. Asked if he understands the appeal that gets people to come see powerpoints at at a bar after work, he answers this way:

“I mean saying it that way, power points at a bar sounds so lame but I always tell speakers tell an engaging story. Put the slides up behind you and somehow it will make sense; and so if you have a good story to tell, that’s all that matters,” said DiMasi.  

Over the course of the night, the stories and ideas ranged from creating a shared space for sculptors to tearing down Interstate 95 through Philly.

I can’t tell you about the last one, because Pam Selle gave a talk about how people who work too much should stop working and go home. So I turned off my recorder and did just that.

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