Pass the Soapbox, Please

So, if you were given five minutes in front of a crowd to say anything—“I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen,” Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything (sorry, but who can resist quoting that movie?)—what would you say? I, for one, would have several potential topics to wax poetic on: the latest season of Project Runway (argument: I don’t care what you say, Seth Aaron is going to clinch it. Jay’s designs are inconsistent and Mila already has color-blocked her way into a corner); or my favorite subject du jour, the snow (discuss: Why is it so pretty coming down and such a pain in the posterior for weeks afterward?). Maybe I would mull the local ice cream preference controversy: Thomas Sweet, The Bent Spoon, or Halo Pub (for the record, I would never turn up my nose at any frozen confection); or persuade people to ditch their Bics and get on the Sharpie Pen train. Maybe I would present the case for universally using the Oxford comma (P.O.V.: some may feel it’s redundant to put a comma in front of an “and” in a list of items, but I surely do not). I might even chat about why it’s imperative for a healthy social life to sign up for the PrincetonScoop newsletters (I mean, how many times do I have to tell you people before you listen?).

Now imagine a whole room full of people all with their own passions, inspirations, professions, who want to enlighten you—but in five minutes or less. Apparently, gabbers the world over already have put together events to allow people like me the opportunity to showcase their thoughts. Well, perhaps that’s underselling the concept a bit, but truth be told, if I was looking for a forum in which to exercise my vocal cords on whatever topic might tickle my fancy, I would have to look no further than The Nassau Inn on Palmer Square.

On Tuesday, March 2, The Nassau Inn will host “Ignite Princeton”: A presentation of talks that are exactly five minutes long, each using only 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The content? “Ignite” presenters share their personal and professional passions on life’s imponderables, improbables, and the decidedly offbeat, from orbiting garbage to the intersection between art and commerce. The whole thing sounds like it could be a tad overwhelming, but consider the event’s overarching theme: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.” Public speaking on Red Bull? Brilliant.

“Ignite” was started in Seattle in 2006 by technology “evangelist” Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Media and’s Bre Pettis. Since then, hundreds of five-minute talks have been given around the world—there are thriving “Ignite” communities in Seattle, Portland, Paris, and New York. But the coolest part is that from March 1 through 5, there will be more than 50 Ignite events simultaneously flaring up in cities around the world, from Munich to Montreal, and each will be recorded live and archived on the new “Ignite” video site. Oh-so international, don’t you think? I heard someone refer to it as “a geek’s paradise,” but methinks most of the people in this town could get on board with this global coffee klatch without a second thought.

So, if you think that a case should be made, let’s say just for kicks, against repairing Mercer Street so that it doesn’t take 40 minutes to go two miles, then I suggest you start working on your PowerPoint slides and register now

Doors open at 7 p.m. Warm-up begins at 8 p.m. And at 8:30, the whole thing ignites. “Ignite Princeton” at The Nassau Inn, 10 Palmer Square West, Princeton; 609.921.7500 or —JH

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