Charles Choueiri is a media producer and closeted claw-game addict -- well, was a closeted claw-game addict. Pushed by a good friend and inspired by the presentations at 2008's Ignite Phoenix, the the one-night information-a-thon featuring folks from the creative, technical, and business communities presenting five-minute nuggets of idea-spreading goodness, Charles decided he wanted to fire up people, too, and did, with his Ignite Phoenix 6 presentation, Up For Grabs: The Claw Game Philosophy. Here, Charles tells Jackalope Ranch what it felt like.
JR: Were claw games always the idea?
CC: I knew I wanted to present at Ignite Phoenix 6 but had no idea what I would talk about or if I would even get in. I just knew that it looked like a helluva lot of fun. I figured the idea would come to me when submission time came up.
JR: OK, so submission time's come up.
CC: While I wanted to present something profound, I felt it would be too serious for my personality. I had this unspoken addiction to claw game machines, so I decided to choose them as my topic and weave in life lessons in a humorous way. Since the submission can only be 350 characters, I had to focus on the most important aspects and create a pitch that I would ultimately build on. In all honestly, the hardest part of the whole process was clicking the "Submit" button!
JR: What was your reaction when you found out you would be presenting at Ignite Phoenix 6?
CC: Besides freaking out, I had to confirm that I was actually in, then make sure I kept my mouth shut until they announced it (which was the hardest part). I attended workshops for the presenters, which offered great advice on how to set up my presentation, what to avoid, and how to not panic.
JR: How do you put together a five-minute presentation on claw games?
CC: I started by writing everything I knew, did a lot of research, and created an outline of topic points along with an estimated time frame. I also played the claw game as much as I could and had a friend take photos for my slides. Then, I trimmed down my notes, built my slides, and wrote my final presentation. Since each slide is timed for 15 seconds, I had to make sure I stayed within the time limits. The biggest tip: practice, practice, practice. I practiced while driving, walking around the house, and under my breath in the store. I looked like a crazy person, but it helped build my confidence before I went on stage.
JR: So, what did it feel like to present?
CC: I was more nervous than I thought. When I arrived, the whole place was packed. Having my family there made me feel both nervous and relieved at the same time. Right before my presentation, when I felt as though I had forgotten what I wanted to say, the Ignite crew reminded me that the crowd was not there to see me fail, they wanted to feel as passionate I did. So I just took a deep breath and stepped out into the unknown.
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At first, I was very nervous and started stuttering a little. The silence was overwhelming. When my presentation kicked into gear, the room filled with laughter and applause, and it filled me with this tremendous feeling of relief and joy. From there, it was as if I switched to auto-pilot. I remember walking off stage, shaking uncontrollably and yelling out "Holy shit, that was a rush!"
After the event, I had people come up to me, shake my hand, and talk about how they wanted to present as well. There were quotes from my presentation on Twitter, and even a few photos of people who played the claw game after my presentation and won! It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever gone through.
JR: Would you do it again?
CC: In a heartbeat! The event is so much fun. The process, the camaraderie among the presenters, the topics, the audience, the atmosphere, everything. The Ignite Phoenix crew put on a great event. Without their help, I would have had a much different experience. And without the push from a good friend, nothing more than wasted passion and a trivial hobby.