“Enlighten us, but make it quick.” The motto of an Ignite event is a concept that translates well to introducing candidates to an electorate both online and off. If you’re new to an Ignite event, the concept is simple, a presenter goes through 20 slides in 5 minutes. That allows for 15 seconds per slide and the slides advance automatically to ensure the presenter doesn’t get hung up and ramble on with any single slide. The objective is not to dive deeply into any single topic, but to quickly touch on some talking points and raise issues that may then be discussed more thoroughly at another place and time. For more about the history of Ignite events and instructions on how to produce your own, visit Ignite’s web site.
Ignites are very well suited for introducing candidates and issues to your voters. An electorate’s lack of familiarity with candidates and issues is a leading contributor to low voter turnout. Campaigning is frequently no more involved than a candidate publishing his or her biography on a web page and hoping it gets as much traffic as possible prior to the start of the election. I’ve seen a fair share of these biographies and while some have been very professionally produced and do a good job of communicating the candidate’s background and education, the piece that’s glaringly missing is a compelling reason why a voter should care to vote in the first place. In other words, how would not voting, regardless of the candidate they might vote for, affect a voter and their relationship to the organization. An Ignite event offers an ideal format for introducing not only candidates, but the reasons why a voter should care enough to vote.
In full disclosure, at the time of this writing, while I’m encouraging Ignite events as one possible tactic for increasing awareness of issues and familiarity with candidates, I do not know of any organizations that have actually done this. Yet. But an Ignite event is really just a new twist on a traditional Town Hall meeting which as everyone knows has been a preferred method of outreach by candidates since the dawn of elections. The things that makes an Ignite so especially well-suited for organizational elections are:
- Quickly enlightens voters. Remember the motto, Enlighten us, but make it quick. If done properly, Ignites can quickly enlighten voters about why voting is something they should care to do. Remember you’re not conducting the election for President of the United States. The pressing issues of the day are not being covered and debated on the national news. It’s up to your organization to raise awareness about its own issues and why voting matters.
- Ignites may be republished online. Unlike traditional Town Hall meetings, Ignite events are really just fast-paced slide presentations and slide presentations can be published online. Obviously attending an Ignite in-person, at a Town Hall-type setting permits the possibility for interaction between the presenters and voters afterwards, but the ability to publish on your web site at least the slide presentation of an Ignite event further extends the reach of the message to those who couldn’t attend in person. This ability to have something publishable that can live on after the event isn’t something that comes out of a Town Hall meeting.
To be clear, this should not discourage Town Hall meetings. If you have an electorate so engaged with your organization they’re willing to show up at Town Hall meetings and pose well-informed questions to the candidates for a full-length response, please write to me and let me know how you’ve achieved that! Most voters in private organizational elections are not nearly so engaged so we’re aiming for a format that’s more well suited for them. One that appreciates the demands on their time and the magnitude that issues facing an organization they’re associated with have on them personally.
- Ignites are inherently web-friendly. What’s meant here has nothing to do with the technical act of simply shoveling the slide presentation onto a web site. This refers to actually capturing an entire 5-minute Ignite session on video and publishing it on your web site. Consider the psychological state of a user who may be visiting your organization’s web site to complete some very specific task and move on. In this moment, the user is not likely to be in the mental mode of someone who’s prepared to devote concentration to an in-depth examination about whatever issues facing your organization might compel them to vote. After all, they are only there to complete their task and move on. But watching a fast-paced, 5-minute video does not incur a high interaction cost. It’s something a user can add on to a web site visit without it adding considerably to the interaction cost of that visit. And if something in that Ignite piques the voter’s interest enough to learn more when they have the time to do so, make sure there’s somewhere on your site that gives a more in-depth explanation and each candidate’s position on it.
Who is this right for?
Anyone and everyone! But perhaps you’re a small, close-knit organization or already conducting Happy Hours or Town Hall meetings? If so, your voters may already feel an affinity and connection with your organization and voter turnout would not be much improved with an Ignite. However, for larger organizations where there’s greater separation between rank and file voters and the governing body, an Ignite could be a very effective tool to raise awareness of issues and nurture voter engagement.
How to do it?
See How to Produce an Ignite Event for a definitive reference. Remember also that the venue will need to be able to provide you with a monitor and projector for the slide presentation.
How to do it alternative
Consider doing an online-only Ignite. Same concept, 20 slides in 5 minutes with the slides advancing every 15 seconds, but rather than doing it in-person, it’s recorded and optimized for online publication. The slide show would be accompanied with either the presenter’s voice-over or video of the presenter with each slide. Professionally produced, this would not be cheap so it may be within reach only for those organizations with deep pockets. As fate should have it, those tend to be the same organizations with the greatest separation between the governing body and general members which means the least voter engagement, so this could be one of those occasions where it’s very well worth it for those organizations to reach inside those deep pockets.
What is the primary objective?
The primary objective is to introduce issues to voters and give them a reason to want to vote. It is not for candidates to ramble on about their background and qualifications. Background and qualifications are not what makes a person want to vote in the first place. They might be the things that make a person want to vote for one person over another, but educating the voters about the issues and about the candidates are two different objectives. The primary objective of an Ignite should be to enlighten about issues. A secondary objective, say 20%, or 1 minute of the Ignite, may be devoted to a candidate’s background and qualifications with links to where a voter may learn more about a particular candidate if interested.
Supplementing the Ignite
If an Ignite’s primary objective is to quickly raise awareness about issues, then a voter needs somewhere to go to become more fully informed of the issue after the Ignite. Make sure to include such content on your web site and that the content may be easily shared through social media.
For more tips to increase voter turnout, see 18 Tips to Increase Voter Turnout.