What do Godzilla, PTSD, asteroids, and the tango have in common? They’re somebody’s passion, which is why they took center stage for the last Ignite Phoenix. It’s a live event that gives locals the chance to share their passions with a curious crowd.
But there’s a catch. Ignite Phoenix speakers get just five minutes to talk about that singular idea, hobby, or cause that really moves them. It’s a way to make sure they drill down to the core of what they’re really excited about, says Ignite Phoenix founder Jeff Moriarty.
“We can all talk and talk about what we really love,” Moriarty says. “The time limit helps people think about what they really want to get across.” They get 20 slides, too.
Participants have shared some intriguing topics through the years.
For Marshall Shore, it was Phoenix’s quirky history. For Melissa Rex, it was life without hair. For Mike Olbinski, it was chasing storms. For Sara Santiago, it was being a nude art model.
Every Ignite Phoenix talk has been recorded, and posted on YouTube. So, it’s easy to get a feel for how the event works before you decide to give it a try. You may want to think of a topic quickly — the deadline to submit on Ignite's website is this Friday, August 24.
People do Ignite Phoenix for a wide range of reasons. “Some do it to challenge themselves or conquer their fear of speaking in public,” Moriarty says.
It’s an easy crowd for people who aren’t used to being up on stage. “Our audiences are very accepting and willing to listen.”
That’s especially critical nowadays, he says. “Sharing these things that are really important to us is harder in an inflammatory online world.”
It’s been two decades since Moriarty started Ignite Phoenix, inspired in part by the city’s many creatives. “I was connected to a lot of groups doing cool things, and most of them didn’t seem to know the others existed,” Moriarty says. “The Valley is so spread out; I wanted to find a way to bring diverse groups together.”
Typically, Ignite Phoenix gets 70 to 80 submissions for 18 slots. He’ll huddle with about a half-dozen previous presenters this weekend, working to curate that perfect mix of ideas. “Every Ignite has a different flavor,” he says.
But every Ignite has a common element, as well.
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Speakers linger after the on-stage presentation, so people who want to learn more about particular topics can make the connection. Organizers bring in live music and food trucks, so there’s a lively, informal atmosphere.
Sometimes Ignite Phoenix helps people discover a new passion, or make an important community connection. Rex met an ASU professor exploring the role of hair in American culture. Steve Belt heard a talk about how to run a coffee shop, and left his real estate career to start the Scottsdale coffee shop he still runs today.
“That serendipity is so rare,” Moriarty says. “But when you get people together who are hungry and want to listen, amazing things can happen.”
Ignite Phoenix. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 17, at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 East Second Street, Scottsdale; 480-499-8587; scottsdaleperformingarts.com. Tickets are $19 and go on sale Saturday, September 15. Visit ignitephoenix.com.