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Originally published February 20, 2013 at 6:20 PM | Page modified February 20, 2013 at 6:19 PM

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Ignite Seattle sparks creativity of all kinds — in 5 minutes

Ignite, a showcase of 5-minute talks about anything of the speakers’ choosing, attracts hundreds of spectators for each event and offers tips on everything from building pogo sticks to buying a car.

Special to The Seattle Times

EVENT PREVIEW

Ignite Seattle

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., talks start at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $5 (www.igniteseattle.com)

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What can you learn about online dating, making indie movies or giving up cheese in five minutes? A lot, as it turns out.

These and other topics are planned for the next Ignite Seattle, an event at which speakers have five minutes, and can use 20 automatically rotating slides, to give a talk on anything they want.

“It’s magical; you never know what’s going to happen,” said Bryan Zug, a Seattle video producer who helps organize the event.

Ignite started in December 2006 as a kind of “geek variety show” for Seattle’s tech community, as Zug described it. Many people who were there that night still remember it well. During the icebreaker, participants built bridges with glued-together Popsicle sticks. One speaker described how she created a 10-person Pogo stick for a Burning Man festival project.

The event has since spread to more than 300 cities around the world, changing and evolving along the way. The Ignite motto stayed the same: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

The next Ignite is Wednesday, and it promises to be as much of a variety show as always. The program includes Seattle entrepreneur Hillel Cooperman’s summer-camp story about meeting the entertainers Donny and Marie. Wendy Hinman will talk about traveling the world on a boat for seven years. Bruce Ryan will share tips on how he lost 140 pounds. (If you can’t make it, don’t worry. Zug records all talks and posts them online.)

Co-founders Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis conceived Ignite as a way to bring together geeks to share ideas. The event attracted techies, designers and “Burners,” as Burning Man festival enthusiasts are known.

It was two or three years ago that organizers realized Ignite wasn’t a niche anymore, but a part of Seattle culture.

“Remember when the movie ‘Social Network’ came out? That’s when we realized we are mainstream,” Zug said.

More than 500 people typically turn up for events. The videos of talks posted online serve as a resource, with some getting tens of thousands of views. Not all are geeky. The most watched talk in Ignite history is about how to buy a new car.

Events are held at Town Hall now, and many in the Ignite crowd think of it as a kind of endorsement. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn gave a talk at the November event.

“We are leaders in the community now,” Zug said.

How do you know the talks are going to be worth it? Organizers look through as many as 80 pitches submitted on the Ignite website to select a lineup of 16 talks. A friendly coaching session is available to speakers who want to hone their presentations. Of course, less-than-stellar talks do happen, Zug said.

But: “If you are not into it — hey, it’s only five minutes.”

Katya Yefimova: kyefimova@gmail.com

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