Technology has helped grow the popularity of Ignite Phoenix

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MESA - Ignite Phoenix just held their sixth event a few months shy of two years since their first event in August of 2008. If you are not familiar with Ignite Phoenix it was born out of the non-profit Phoenix Innovation Foundation. The format of the event consists of a number of presenters who have five minutes to talk about their passions, with the objective of informing, inspiring and entertaining the audience.

I attended Ignite Phoenix #5 and was at the event on Tuesday evening for Ignite Phoenix #6. Both times I have come away learning a little bit and excited about the creativity and thought put into the presentations and the event itself.
This time I spoke with two people who are involved in running the event, Brian Carson and Alan Daley. I asked them questions about how technology has really caused the audience for Ignite Phoenix to grow. I learned about Ignite Phoenix via Twitter, so I wanted to get their thoughts on how online influences have played a role in the growth of spreading the Ignite message.

1.Social media, online, the iPhone app have continued to further the reach of the Ignite Phoenix message. How do you think the tech side of things has aided Ignite in growing the popularity of the event?

BC: SM and online technologies have certainly helped us reach out to and communicate with our audience. However, I would say the biggest contribution to the popularity of Ignite Phoenix is the event experience itself. The passion of the presenters, the ideas you'll hear, the professionalism of the execution, the networking you'll experience - these are just a few of the core drivers that make Ignite Phoenix events so popular.

AD: I found out about Ignite Phoenix #1 one week before the event from a tweet on Twitter.  I loved it so much, I had to be a part of it!
The first Ignite Phoenix had no "traditional" media coverage.  Nor the second.  Maybe the third did.  By the fourth event, we sold out a 600 seat theater at Tempe Center for the Arts.  That was the first time we had the word out through traditional channels. Word-of-mouth, amplified by Twitter, Facebook and other electronic media drove the first part of the growth.
The submissions for the first few events were drawn almost completely from social media connected people.

2.For Ignite Phoenix #6 you added the iPhone app. Is mobile an area the Ignite team wants to look into utilizing? Where do you see the advances going as you continue to try to extend the Ignite message in the Phoenix metro?

BC: Having access to information while you're mobile is essential.  Since the beginning of Ignite Phoenix (just a year and a half ago) we've exploited mobile communication to plan, deliver and interact during each event - independent of the mobile device.  The iPhone app allows us to consolidate those key communications and interactions into one single sexy platform.

AD: The initial supporters are among the early adopters of mobile Internet technologies. All the events have been "live tweeted" and reported by texting and mobile video devices carried by those in attendance. I did not know about the coming iPhone app so it caught me by surprise.  It is a natural progression to make sure the event's information is in the medium many of those involved expect.

3.Is there a specific sector or target audience you look to market Ignite Phoenix to? Is that target best served by online/technology/social media/mobile.

BC: Our target audience is specifically those individuals in Phoenix who want to share passion. Whether it's people who are delivering or receiving, we're targeting anyone who wants to get involved with their neighbors, come together and share ideas. I would agree the those connected by mobile technology are best served in the bunch - but it's not a requirement. In fact, I first got involved with the group when selected to present at Ignite Phoenix #3.  I got up on stage and pretty much chastised everyone in the audience for spending too much time connecting on-line and not enough time out in the real world connecting via the volunteer service organizations in their communities.

AD: Creativity and passion is found everywhere, in every sector.  Members of a knitting or motorcycle club are just as passionate and expert about their hobby as computer "geeks" are around theirs.  We started in the technological communities because that is where we could be heard while we were still small.  We want to reach everyone.

We recently had asked people to take a survey so we could understand this very question.  About half of our respondents heard about the event through "traditional" media.  We think that our initial technologically savvy base of supporters spread the word and pushed into the other channels. Now those channels are helping more people to find us. This is great!

4.How have you seen Twitter change Ignite Phoenix from the first time it was held until this being #6?

AD: Twitter has been part of the Ignite Phoenix communications channels from the beginning. This use of the channel has just intensified over time.

5.As you continue to build innovation and community in the Phoenix metro what influences from technology would you like to see happen?

BC: More collaboration is what I'm hoping to see. Ignite Phoenix is a good example of a Tribe that utilizes technology for our facets of our mission, how the mission is independent of technology.  What I mean by that is you don't really need technology to get folks together to talk about their passion in the hope that it will inspire and enable others.  The technology is what helps us turn something great into something incredible. I would like to see people utilizing technology more to collaborate and rapidly evolve the splattering of great ideas across the Valley.

AD: For me, social media has expanded my number of "real life" friends. People I have connected with online that turned into connections in person. Some of these people I would not have befriended in any other way for lack of any visible mutual connection. Technology facilitates this type of friend making.

I also see the Phoenix area communities and businesses suffering from what I think of as "bigness bias." Governments, groups and business seem only to talk of multi-million dollar deals and big developments. Laws and behavior are focused on landing that next big corporate center or shopping mall. The truth is that most people live and work in small businesses, building their dreams as best they can and having relatively small successes that are big to them.  Technologies like Twitter, email, blogs, etc. give these people a voice. This voice can grow and join with similar voices until the small becomes visible. I hope technology influences Phoenix-area people and government to support one another in their dreams and passions. It's less important that we land another corporate center and more important that we make it easier for small businesses and passions to explode right here where we are!