The Monday morning quarterbacks of Ignite Lansing just don’t get it

It’s unfortunate that the only exposure some people in the mid-Michigan media market will have to Ignite Lansing 3.0 is a poor review on a blog post by Lansing State Journal columnist John Schneider.

I’m not sure exactly what Schneider was expecting and, I’d agree with his point that some of the promotional activities for this round of Ignite may have over-promised on the total package. But to give a scathing review after only staying for one-third of the event isn’t fair.

I bring a unique perspective to this discussion. I was one of the winners of Ignite Lansing 1.0 with my presentation about the characters you meet on Twitter. At Ignite 2.0, my wife, Jessi, and I presented “How to Survive Planning a Wedding.” We didn’t win, but we had a blast. I submitted a presentation for Ignite 3.0 but was asked to step aside so that folks who had never presented had a chance. Still, I remained involved in the planning committee in a small way by assisting with media promotion. I had my doubts about the event being over-produced, that it might be getting away from its core mission by adding in so many extras. But in the end, I attended Ignite 3.0 and saw something very different from Schneider. This is what he saw:

…we entered a Knapps Office Centre filled with some kind of fog and a throbbing crowd of young, hip-looking  young folks holding bottles of beer.The emcee told Lansing’s hipperati that the Lansing they were about  to see in the presentations was not  their parents’ Lansing; he didn’t say it would be, instead, their grandparents’ Lansing.

What I saw was an interesting laser-light show, a powerful sound system and exciting entertainment bringing life to a building long-ago abandoned by the movers and shakers Schneider usually pays homage to. I saw a community of people joining together to celebrate networking, entertainment and the chutzpah it takes to get on stage and make a presentation in front of a crowd of more than 600 people. (Ignite Lansing 1.0 had an attendance of more than 200, so you can see it has grown exponentially in less than a year.)

I saw a high-tech voting system and webcasting of the event to hundreds of people who couldn’t get in because all the free tickets were snatched up within 24 hours. Let me stress a point here: this event is free. A big reason it’s free is because of the tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, supplies and labor donated by area businesses and community members. It’s free because the Michigan Brewing Company stepped up and helped with alcohol costs. It’s free because Cravings Popcorn is committed to being a part of this community and provided a huge popcorn bar without charge. It’s free because of all the other sponsors listed here. And it’s free because the Eyde Company opened the Knapp Center to a group of young community members who have a vision and the backbone  to lead this region some day to where their parents  could not.

Schneider said he was disappointed because the emcee didn’t tell him he would see “his grandparents’ Lansing.” Well, if our grandparents’ Lansing is one filled with hope, creativity, compassion, passion and raw talent, then that’s the kind of Lansing I hope we see every day.

As Jessi and I were leaving the Ignite after-party at MBC, we both commented how alive Lansing still was at close to midnight. I told her “it felt like a city,” and that’s something we haven’t felt downtown for a long time.

What I also saw that night was a news organization that cares about finding good things in its local community and offering a positive story about it. So a tip of my hat goes to TV 6 for coming to the event and producing a positive piece about it, which you can see here.

I haven’t heard if there’s going to be an Ignite Lansing 4.0. But if there is, I hope John Schneider and any other doubters get involved as more than Monday morning quarterbacks. But even if they don’t, it won’t matter. The next generation will not  sit idly by and wonder what Lansing could be when they know they have the ability to make Lansing what they want it to be.

3, 2, 1…ignition.

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30 comments on “The Monday morning quarterbacks of Ignite Lansing just don’t get it

  1. I composed and deleted no fewer than 12 comments for Mr. Scheider’s blog post. I really couldn’t believe that someone who claims to be a community advocate could sound so uninformed, out-of-touch and just plain nasty.

    It is absolutely apparent that he had no idea what kind of event he was attending, let alone the dynamic that can be established when creative-class people become truly engaged in the community around them. His attitude is so old-school as to be laughable. Really a shame that someone with such a loud local voice chose to use it for so unfriendly a purpose.

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    • Thanks for the comment Ryan. When you look at the replies John posted to the comments on his blog, it seem he doesn’t believe his one opinion really matters that much to people. Hopefully, seeing the flood of comments on his post will make him realize he does command a following as a local, long-time columnist and he should be careful about jumping to any conclusions about something before blogging about it.

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  2. Good perspective, Ari. I honestly have struggled with how I felt about Ignite Lansing 3.0 since it ended. (Full disclosure: We did leave before the final two presentations of the night.)

    I, too, am buoyed by the enthusiasm and energy and engagement that surrounded Ignite. I love it. It’s something I’ve been drawn to for the past year, and I’m thrilled to finally be connected with so many people who are committed to making Lansing a cooler, stronger, more vibrant place. It’s vital.

    On the other hand, I felt a little let down by some of the presentations for a combination of reasons:

    — It was entirely too loud in the room, so it was hard to focus on the presenters. High-top tables at the back of the presentation space were, understandably, ringed with people who were networking, catching up or just sharing a beer. But it pulled focus from the stage.
    — Some of the presenters seemed unprepared. I realize nerves easily come into play here, but some didn’t even seem to know their material. That made it hard to pay attention, too.
    — A few of the topics didn’t seem to fit the format. I think you can get away with that if you’re able to deliver an edgy, fun, engaging presentation, but when the material is flat and so is the presentation, it’s sort of a double-whammy of boring.

    Perhaps a setting more along the lines of a traditional theater where people are focused on the stage would alleviate some of these issues. I love that the Eyde Company opened up the Knapps Building for this — I was so excited to see the space — but I think the setting might have been more conducive to a networking event instead of presentations that deserve attention. Perhaps something like the Hannah Community Center’s theater — with adjacent lounge space — would divide the activities more appropriately so people who wanted to hear the presentations could hear them and the people who wanted to network could do that, too.

    I loved the interactivity on the screens — the real-time #ignitelansing tweets, the cell-phone voting, the lights, the fire, the beer, the popcorn. Really did love it all. I worked hard to stay focused on the reason we were there, but in the end, the noise won and I couldn’t fight it any longer, so we left.

    If there’s an Ignite Lansing 4.0, I’ll absolutely be there. I think we need more of these kinds of events. I was just hoping to feel a bit more “ignited” by what was going on onstage and less like a hall moniter trying to pay attention to the school assembly.

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    • Robin, thanks for adding to this conversation. I agree with some of what you said and I’m sure there is room for improvement in any event like Ignite. It sounds like there will be an Ignite 4.0 and if I can, I will probably help the committee out again. If nothing else, I’d like to be involved in a debriefing where we can hash out what worked and what could be improved — from the location and event logistics to presentation submissions and speaker selection. Having said that, I don’t think we want to focus on having only expert-level presenters because we might just miss out on a diamond in the rough who is floating around Lansing with great ideas but who has always been too afraid to speak up about them. Ignite Lansing should be a welcoming, supportive atmosphere for speakers at all levels, and I think it currently is.

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      • Oh, I totally agree they shouldn’t be experts. But I do think there’s a difference between being a professional and being prepared. In fact, a run-through with a small group to offer constructive feedback prior to the event might help people feel more confident in their presentations.

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        • I’m sure that some of our local community college public speaking instructors (I’m one) would be glad to coach next year’s presenters at no charge. That might help some of the folks “kick it up a notch.”

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  3. Amen, Ari. You nailed it, and so did you Ryan. The energy at the event and afterward was outstanding. Everywhere I went downtown after leaving the Knapp’s building was so…alive. It was a great event.

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    • Lansing after dark these days is a far cry from when I started working downtown in the mid-1990s, that’s for sure! At that time, when the last state employee left for the evening, I swear they turned the lights out behind them.

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  4. See, and that’s the stuff I like, Ryan and Daniel — all the ancillary stuff that surrounds an event like that. I spent a few hours downtown prior to Ignite, hanging out at MBC, and had that same great vibe. And I love that it continued long after the event, too. I just have a small wish that the cream in the Oreo had been creamier, so to speak.

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  5. Robin, I can totally understand what you’re saying. There are always ways to improve. My problem is Scheider’s total lack of understanding and/or respect for what this event represents. He didn’t like the presentations and apparently felt out of the age demographic, so he said it “flamed out.” Just plain wrong. He was condescending and mean, and there’s just no call for that.

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  6. Well Done Ari. It sounds like Mr. Scheider needs to spend some more time embracing the positive things that are happening in our community and stop being bogged down by the overabundant negativity that our state has offered recently.

    I stand by my comments to many people that Ignite Lansing 3.0 was up there with some of the most enjoyable events and evenings I’ve experienced worldwide. How great is it that I’m able to compare a night out in Lansing, Michigan with similar events in Las Vegas, Chicago, or London?

    Let’s keep the positive energy flowing for ourselves and community, and let the cynicism go the way of the dinosaur.

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    • Thanks Paul. It seems John Schneider didn’t get the point of Ignite, and I’m sure he’s not alone. It is a great, positive event for the city and we need to make sure everyone understands what Ignite is about and why it matters. That’s a task that the volunteer committee cannot handle alone. I’m hoping the 600-plus people who attended Ignite Lansing 3.0 will help in that regard before Ignite 4.0 kicks off.

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  7. Sticking with John’s sports metaphor, my 2 cents is that the real blame here lies with the coaches. As pre-event hubbub peaked, I was curious what this even was all about. Looking at the event’s website, I learned a little. Very little. I learned that it’s a thing where people make things, and people say stuff. Enlightening? No.

    If the organizers truly want community buy-in, tell us what it is you want us to buy into. Vague references and nebulous descriptions of the event may have been intended to act as a teaser of sorts, but it really just gave me the impression that Ignite was for childless chronic socializers with loads of time to burn in pursuit of hipness for hipness’ sake. And I’m not *that* old 😉

    I’m not saying any of this to be mean-spirited. In fact, the only meanness I feel right now is a sense that I was cheated out of a pretty cool event by the fact that information about the event was essentially meaningless. I have plenty of friends who are part of the “Ignite crowd” and could have popped them a few questions to get to the bottom of it. Frankly, it didn’t appear worth the effort. I now regret not asking around.

    There are an awful lot of folks involved in Ignite whose job it is to communicate ideas. I can only conclude that this is the way they wanted to portray the event, but I can’t imagine why. If these are the types of events that are supposed to help Lansing drag itself into the present, get the word out!

    So, a learning experience? I hope so. I’m looking forward to the next one, I’ll tell ya that!

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    • Dane, as I replied to Paul on his comment, I’m sure not everyone understands what Ignite is about and why it matters. However, that’s a task that the volunteer committee cannot handle alone. I’m hoping the 600-plus people who attended Ignite Lansing 3.0 will help in that regard before Ignite 4.0 kicks off. And, of course, it’s incumbent upon people in Lansing to figure some stuff out on their own by doing a little research — especially the media!

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      • Ah, but my point, Ari, was that I did do a little research, because Ignite looked like a potentially interesting event. It’s just unfortunate that my little bit of research led me to conclude that it wasn’t worth any more research. As time becomes an increasingly rare commodity, we must be ever more careful about how to invest it. Frankly, a thing where people do stuff just isn’t very compelling. Imagine how many photographs I’d sell if I promoted myself as a guy go goes places and does things. Would you hire me? Didn’t think so.

        I’m definitely looking forward to the next time ’round!

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  8. Ari, I typically agree with your perspective… and this time is no different.

    A review of the event needs to take into account that the entire Ignite experience includes:
    -Social media
    -Traditional media
    -All-but-abandoned spaces
    -Creative, forward-thinking people
    -New ideas
    -Networking
    -Something different

    The same people that complain about the downtown night life are probably the same people complaining about any event or venue that’s “different” from what is normally seen. I would bet the bar and restaurant owners would concur that Friday night was probably their busiest since New Years Eve.

    Over the years John Schneider has done some great things and used his celebrity to help out good people in need. It’s unfortunate that he uses that same celebrity to downplay the importance and effort of dedicated individuals within Lansing… individuals not afraid to try new things and bring fresh ideas to the community. I will bet that more people stayed to see the end of Ignite 3.0 than stay to read the end of John’s column.

    My first thought when I read his post: If somebody walked out of “The Sixth Sense” 30 minutes into it, they would have thought it odd, boring and irrelevant.

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    • Bil, your Sixth Sense analogy made me laugh! Seriously though, it’s amazing to me that someone like John Schneider would only attend a small portion of the event and then write a bad review based solely on that. If he didn’t get it or was disappointed to the point where he felt he needed to leave, then he should of at least followed up with the committee volunteers or the Ignite organization to hear “the rest of the story” before publicly bashing the whole thing.

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  9. This was the first Ignite event that I have attended, in Lansing or elsewhere. After hearing about it, I knew that it was the type of positive event that Life in Lansing tries to promote, and that people NEED to hear about.

    It is exciting that a group of young(er) professionals are passionate about staging an event of this magnitude, all at no cost. It is exciting that they are able to bridge the generation gap by securing the type of sponsors necessary, and bring 600+ people to the event. It’s exciting that every single one of the presentations were of a positive nature and celebrated the great things going on in our community. It’s exciting to see the power of social media, community involvement, and the passion to make Lansing a fun place for people to work and live.

    Events like this one go a long way toward making our region attractive to an educated and skilled workforce that we are trying so desperately to attract and retain to revitalize our economy. I believe that John Schneider plain and simply missed the point. Some events aren’t meant to change the world, but simply to make it a more fun and exciting place to live.

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    • Good comment Anne. Ignite Lansing wasn’t designed to change Lansing so much as it was to be a part of the change that’s occurring. Maybe the hype incorrectly made John Schneider and others think the presentations would be some kind of earth-shattering revelations about how to shift Lansing into high gear. That’s something to consider when reviewing the promotional materials for Ignite 4.0.

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    • Good stuff Terry. I’m glad you expanded on this conversation with your own blog post. And I really l like that you told people not to bash John Schneider but to get him involved. That could ring true for a lot of people in this community and we’d all be better off if we could make something like that happen.

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  10. Thanks for posting your blog. I appreciate your comments and wish I could have attended Ignite 3.0.
    For full disclosure I am the digital news director and an editor at the LSJ.
    I am also a blogger and yoga instructor in town and have come to love Lansing.

    I just wanted to say for fairness to please read some of the coverage that the LSJ has had on Ignite. To only credit Ch. 6 would not be fair.

    http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20100306/NEWS03/3060324

    http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20100305/NEWS03/3050319/1004/NEWS03

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    • Belinda,

      I was remiss in not pointing out that the Lansing State Journal did a positive story the day after the event. Of course, in the middle of your positive story is a hyperlink to John Schneider’s blog lambasting the whole thing. It’s interesting that you provided that link, but you didn’t bother to put a link to the Ignite Lansing web site in your article the day before, where people could have gone to find the webcast of the event since tickets were sold out.

      And, of course, your unmoderated reader comments section was as crazy and laughable as usual. When will the publishers of the LSJ realize that your reader comments section destroys your credibility as a beacon of truth and leadership in this community? Allowing unmoderated comments from hurtful people focused only on their own agendas of hate is the last thing this region needs and making it an official record by hosting it at the LSJ web site is a disservice.

      I find it interesting that the LSJ reached out to me via Twitter and my blog to distance yourself from one of your own columnists and yet you never seem to have a problem with the ridiculous rants posted at the end of nearly every story published in the State Journal.

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  11. Ari, it strikes me that some folks are getting awfully defensive about Ignite 3.0, so kudos to you for an excellent and balanced post that really captures where Ignite 3.0 excelled…and fell short. My wife and I were there for all of Ignite 1.0 and 3.0 and had a terrific time at each event. Who knew Lansing could generate such energy and excitement?

    But honestly, I have to say that my first thought at the conclusion of 3.0 is that particularly for first time attendees (like I assume Schneider was) the first-rate sound system, light show, jugglers, Tweets, MC, etc., created an expectation that the presenters were also going to be world class. With a few exceptions, they clearly weren’t.

    I don’t know that I have a solution. Maybe have the presenters audition? Or try a less kinetic venue next time?

    Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to bring Ignite to life. I’d like to help with Ignite 4.0, if it’s held.

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    • Thanks for everything you said Mike. I agree that getting defensive or personally attacking someone who disagrees with you is not the answer. That’s why I made that point on a second comment I posted to John Schneider’s blog.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the Ignites and want to support them. You raise good points that the committee should consider.

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