Meet the Ignite Denver 30 Speakers

Sparks are voted in by the community. For one week, we open up the voting and encourage the community to take 5 minutes and vote. We strive to be a supportive community and ask that each person takes the time to rank each and every Spark. Anyone can speak at Ignite! There is no set requirement, other than that each talk is 5 minutes with 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds.


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Carlin Hixson

How to Survive Middle School

We all go through middle school like troubles in our daily lives. Weather you have a child who is struggling to get through school or you are having some problems of your own; we often forget the lessons we learned in middle school.

Sandy Sarge

I Am SOOOOOO the Boss of You!!

In today’s world of abuse, public scrutiny, and phone cameras, we’ve forgotten how to parent. Or better yet, we’re afraid to parent. Well, I’m here to tell you to Get Over It! Let me share some tricks on how to take back your parenthood.

Ben Lovejoy

You Are Creative

I believe every person is inherently creative. In this reprise of my Ignite Boulder talk I will talk about how we lose touch with our creativity, and how we can reconnect with it and tap into our creative genius.

Matt Ingwalson

The open office doesn’t have to suck

Are open office plans making us ill and killing creativity? Or is the real problem us? I’ll show you how to borrow work habits from artists like Warhol and Byron to make open offices cool again.

Norbert Peyfuss

Fuzzy dice…do we wish at-risk kids “good luck”?!

It hit me yesterday… I have 9 months in which to bring James, reading at 2nd grade level, up to 4th grade level. Thereafter…he’s on his own…

Alejandro Vera

Prosecutorial Discretion in Denver

When a prosecutor evaluates charges against an accused person they use a ‘Reasonable Likelihood of Conviction’ standard. I’m leading an effort in Denver to review the prosecutorial discretion privilege and improve criminal justice outcomes.

Joe Fleenor

Two Months and 10 Days on the Missouri River

In 1981 I and four friends paddled one canoe and one homemade canoe catamaran from Fort Benton Montana to Sioux City Iowa. That’s one thousand three hundred miles. It took two months and ten days. That trip changed my life.

Rich Hopkins

The TrumpSpeak Revolution

TrumpSpeak is truly revolutionary, freeing, and effective. It can be used to change every part of our lives, when we learn how to use it strategically and intentionally. And…hopefully…for the power of good.

Lora Polowczuk

The Most Underrated Skill to Master Freedom

What if we stopped being so serious? You work hard to have the dream life yet something key is missing. What if you can work AND have fun? What if you unleashed a playful spirit into everything you do?

Sarah Brown

ALS Association Rocky Mtn Chapter


Ignite Alumni



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Byron Stanford

Why you suck at powerpoint

I have been a presentation designer for companies big and small for the past 8+ years. Sadly, most people suck at powerpoint and don’t even know why. In this quick talk I go over basics of presentation design and how to make a killer deck

Elise Roth

Destroy, Build, Destroy!

What have you destroyed lately? Charting a pathway between divergent and convergent thinking can be a powerful tool, to increase creativity in all aspects of our lives. This concept holds true across personal and professional realms.

Lisa Akers

Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Star

You’re under pressure, thinking big, & you get the hungries. You grab a coffee & a twinkie to tackle the urge. Ack! You’re caught in the impulse of urgency. See the bigger view and be more productive, more energetic, and more spectacular.

Katie Bessert

Why We Swipe Left

Car selfies. Gym selfies. Bathroom selfies. Golfing. A step-by-step guide on how to create an online dating profile that gets you dates.

Stephanie Vail

The things you learn driving for Lyft


Kïrsten Blake

15,887 Miles of BEing

What if we stopped asking ‘what do you do?’ And started asking ‘how do you want to BE in the world?’ Last summer I traveled to all 48 continental U.S states on a 90-day road trip, talking to almost 400 strangers about their story of BEing.

Bruce Daley

How to Be a Difficult Employee

There are many books about finding your dream job, but none about how to get out of a job that sucks. The speaker has been fired from companies large and small, public and private and will show you how to be a difficult employee.

Eileen Lambert

Pets make us better humans. Pet food banks help us to keep pets through life’s bumpy ride.

Dave Glaser

BTW, Your Stoic Mask is Killing You

The masks we wear as business owners, parents, and partners holds us back from reaching out truest potential in life, love, and business. The stoic mask shows up as “I’m fine” or “I’m ok” and ruins our relationships!

Vance Watt

Revisiting Langtang

Hiking In Nepal 2015 50 miles from 7.8 quake epicenter in a narrow valley the hills suddenly become alive…

Michelle Lucero

Raising a Champion (& kickass girl)- no seriously!

Raising kids is fucking HARD! Raising a kickass girl, a champion, at a time when lots of kickass girls are needed is imperative Share a Tiger-Soccer Momma’s kickass & fun journey in raising a smart, confident, badass, literal…champion.

GT Bustin

 Jungle boys guide to changing the world

We each are responsible for the voices we choose to listen to. They help set our attitude. Critically, attitude sets altitude. The equation:
Influence = attitude + altitude. Influence changes the world. So, who speaks loudest to you?



Chris Englert

10 Ladies Walk into Denver…

Walking Denver’s 78 neighborhoods in one year challenged our sense of self, fear, and connectedness. From Athmar Park to Wash Park, we found friendship while exploring Denver’s history. We’re all connected–one neighborhood at a time.

Michael Jennings

Even More Love…

It seems like our society needs more; more success, more money, more, more, more. As we pursue more, we have to be reminded that we also need more love. This talk will focus on the lessons of love learned while working at a high school.

Julia E. Torres

Love is a verb. Education is liberation.

No longer are teachers keepers of knowledge. Education today is about asking the right questions. Today’s students know we love them not only by how we show up and fight for them, but how we encourage them to fight for themselves.

Curt Bean

Creative solutions to modern day problems

In WWII there was a Unit called the Ghost Army. They were a unit of creatives that used creative solutions to the war at hand. I want to speak about finding creative solutions to modern day issues like depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.

Jackson Stevens

You Should Delete Facebook

We don’t fully realize it, but every day we are trading our precious time for an experience that has been proven to make us unhappy. Imagine putting that time towards something else: reading, working out, meditating. I did. You should too.

Brian Inderwies

Rising Together: Growing With Foster Kids

As a technologist, I’m inclined to the predictable. Yet my world was turned upside down when we decided to grow our family with foster children. Allow me to share the beautiful, the hilarious, the ugly, and everything in between.

Gregory Kotsaftis

The Truth About Lies

Can telling just one lie put you on a path to prison? The Truth About Lies depicts one man’s story from a small businessman to building a 10M$ business, to ending up in a prison cell. All because he could not face the truth. He was a liar

Russell Agnew

One brave smile

Trauma is an epidemic, here is why. I needed a therapist to stare at me and say “dude you were shot at when you were 17” to open up to the idea that my problems (PTSD) anxiety, drinking, adultery, etc. What I did and what anybody can do.

Meridith Marshall

Captain Planet gave me a Complex

Remember the eco-concious 90’s cartoon? Five powers each protecting the Earth, but heart was clearly the fifth wheel. I related w/ heart as my super power and it gave me a complex! Let’s examine how we societally view our own super powers.

Pavel Reppo

Britney Spears said it best, you drive me crazy

What goes on inside the head of someone experiencing OCD? I’ll recount personal stories of fear, sadness, joy, and hope in my journey towards recovery. I’ll share the ways I have tried to feel ‘normal’, and why normal is overrated.

Jim and Louise Gunderson

Robots, AI, and the workplace of Tomorrow

Over the next few years robots and artificial intelligence will dramatically change the landscape of employment. How will this impact the arts, business, and individual lives? We’ll help you explore the possibilities.

Ellen Penrod

American Lung Association




Sarabeth Berk

Imagination: That Thing We Have But Stopped Using

It drives me crazy that most adults have forgotten how to use their imagination. On a daily basis, I require adults to brainstorm, and quite simply, they don’t generate anything wacky. Let’s remember how to tap into this awesome resource.

Teena Evert

Root Rot

Rejection is painful, it feels deeply personal and when the root of rejection stems from your family system, I call it root rot. It’s painful on the inside, but on the outside, it can be expressed as regression, rebellion or complacency.

Aaron DeLay

Middle Schoolers Are Not Demons

My field experience was the pit of despair – Middle School. I wanted to hate it. It took 5 weeks. And I fell in love with them. I”ll share what they taught me – from the tears of heartbreak to the joy of redemption and back again.

Ian Harwick

Healing Our Country Through Mandatory Service

I would talk why we should bring back national service. The reasons would include people getting know one another despite color/age/orientation, learning new skills, infrastructure improvements, small towns getting a boost.

Matt Need

Learning from Bullet Holes

In college, I heard a lecture from an aeronautical engineer who was stationed on an aircraft carrier during WWII. His unique experience in aircraft design sticks with me whenever I apply myself to a problem.

Sherisse Hawkins

This Isn’t Political

Why it’s worth standing up for someone different than you. (Delivered by someone with a little more melanin). Amusing ways to constructively deal with “isms” (sexism, racism, triumphalism, atheism) especially when they’re not directed at you.

Lauren Gardner

Jackpot! I’m Not Dead!

On July 7, 2007 I woke up from a coma after having survived a near death experience. I want to explore some of the key lessons I’ve learned my last nine years in recovery and how they highlight the privilege of being alive.

Jermaine Charles

How to Infiltrate Circles of Influence

Do you want to be considered a major player in your industry/field of choice? Do you want to go from asking how to get in the room to having a seat at the table? I’ll tell you how I built my network without ever handing out a business card.

Norbert Peyfuss

Dizzying Days – Dealing with the Needs of One Aging Parent, or Two?

Dad got cancer, died 2.5mths later. He was the crutch for mom’s ALZ. Their outlook changed radically, quickly. I educated myself on choices needed to guide & help them. Every day dad had one less, and I could only keep helping…

Greg Roche

Don’t count on motivation

It’s 2017, and you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolution. You fail because you rely on your buddy Motivation. He’s your friend who bails at the first sign of trouble. To succeed, don’t count on Motivation, count on Discipline.

Jason B. Kendrick

Heart Power

Consciously connecting to your heart as much and as often as possible in your everyday life will increase your happiness, groundedness, connection to others, improve your communications and make you a master manifestor!

Ethan Simonton

Starving, Dancing, And Surviving: The Homeless MBA

Shaking my booty on the streets of New Orleans taught me more about entrepreneurship, hustle, and courage in one weekend than 4 years of business school. I went seeking gratitude; I returned with a knapsack full of juicy nuggets of wisdom.


Danielle Norris

Danielle Norris

The Language of Poverty

There is a language barrier that separates us in ways that make it almost impossible to make change happen in our world today. When we think in the context of a language gap we tend to automatically make the assumption of language in the terms of foreign languages. But there is a bigger problem than not understanding a person if they speak Spanish, English, or Mandarin. That problem is the barrier in the “language” of socioeconomic status. The real obstacle is the hidden rules and languages that plague the people in poverty and everyone else from seeing the magic hidden beneath.

Pete Winterscheidt

Pete Winterscheidt

Where’s my Rosie the Robot?

The Jetsons first aired 54 years ago, since then we put a man on the moon, built the internet, and have cars that can drive across the country. So why can’t I get a decent robot to clean my house for me?

Marjorie Alexander

Marjorie Alexander

The Future of Transit is in Coffee

There is a direct correlation between US cities with the best transit system and the amount of caffeine being consumed.

John L. Forrest

John L. Forrest

Science Fiction Saves the World. Or not.

Science fiction has gone mainstream, and what was once fiction is becoming fact: in communications, medicine, travel, manufacturing, and so on. Our stories of the future tell us less about these artifacts, though, than about ourselves.

Amanda Erck

Amanda Erck

Gut Explosions and Funnel Cakes

After being diagnosed with celiac disease and not being able to eat anything delicious without burning holes in my intestines, I started a food truck full of breaded deep fried things.

Danielle Bilbruck

Danielle Bilbruck

Private Life, Public Forum: Sharing Your Personal Life on Social Media

Doesn’t oversharing private details on public spaces leave you open to scrutiny? I will argue that there is power in sharing one’s personal experiences and private life details on a public forum, including building community.

Lia Moran

Lia Moran

Born at the Right Time

When I was a baby, my young unwed mother took me to an orphanage in New Delhi. I was cared for by nuns before my Midwestern parents chose me. As a kid, I wanted to be light skinned and blue-eyed; I wanted to fit in. As an adult, I know I fit in because of my differences and unique history.

Heather Nelson

Heather Nelson

The Win-Win-Win

Organizations look for a “win-win”–profit/fulfilled mission and happy customers. There is a third “win” right in the middle, the win for the staff. This is actually what the new American Dream is all about–a fulfilled staff innovates.


Matt Hyder

Matt Hyder

How To Be Taken Seriously As A Young Entrepreneur

I am a 23 year old Fail-a-preneur until recently. Through my journey I have failed many times and have four key things that helped me break down the doors to achieve success with professional athletes, teams and being featured on national TV. Here are my four keys: Passion, Research Research Research, Relationships and Honesty.

Jamie Shapiro

Jamie Shapiro

The Foundation of Leadership: Real Food

I am here to share with you what I have found both personally and professionally to be the foundation of leadership performance – Food. Food has a profound impact on how you lead and show up for others. We are in a culture where businesses are focused on driving for results and being fueled by caffeine and sugar. 

Elizabeth Giorgi

Elizabeth Giorgi

My Bad Job Reviews Made Me an Awesome CEO

In my “grown up” jobs, I regularly heard that I didn’t smile enough, I was too competitive and too aggressive. Putting aside any misogynistic undertones, these same skills formed the foundation for being successful when I started my business three years ago. And believe it or not, I smile more because of it.

Brenton Weyi

Brenton Weyi

Humans Are Paradoxes

The world is anything but a simple place. And as human beings, we fear uncertainty. And yet, life is a constant representation of tension — a juxtaposition of opposites that makes us feel truly alive. Good and Evil. Love and Hate. Altruism and Greed. From the best stories to the most compelling movements, we are inspired and enlivened by the paradoxical desires be unique, yet forge deep connections to others. Learning to navigate and accept this tension in both ourselves and the world leads to the greatest impact on the outside world and our own lives.

Doyle Hanks

Doyle Hanks

Love: the Bridge to Laughter

Love and humor are intertwined. As a comic, I’ve seen many people who’ve sought both, frustrated because developing a sense of humor seems so elusive; at the same time, many people say they would have more love in their lives, and are equally frustrated when it doesn’t show up. But I say we get to have both…and they help one another. Having a sense of humor can improve our capacity for love and our capacity to love can improve our sense of humor.

Brian Gryth

Brian Gryth


In 2014, I walked away from an award winning first of its kind program I founded and ran, and I ended my marriage of 8 years. Tl;DR I quit. I quit in a world that believes that winners never quit and quitters never win. So in that world, is it ever okay to quit? Of course and I’ll tell you why in my 5 minutes, based on my experience of being a quitter!

Sandee Billen Maas

Sandee Billen Maas

“You Don’t Look Sick!” – When Public Opinion Goes Wrong

Everyone has a list of things they believe to be true. One of those beliefs is that sick people look a certain way- that they may be in wheelchairs, or disfigured. The real truth is that in 2011 I became a walking contradiction to most people. I was diagnosed with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues, sometimes without obvious visual symptoms. Over the years, I have found my strength in educating people about this disease and would like to share my story to encourage kindness.

Emily Stones

Emily Stones

Ban the Brand™: The Dark Side of Marketing 101

Branding drives today’s market, as consumers are increasingly interested in the personality of a product, its positive effect on society, and its political message. This speech dissects feel good advertising – those brands that make you smile and say “awww” – and it reveals the dark underbelly of these advertising techniques.

Meghan Saylor

Meghan Saylor

Square Peg, Round Hole

Ever feel like an outsider? A lone wolf? A troublemaker? Or just different? Yeah, me too. In a world full of round holes, I learned how to use my experiences as a square peg to build castles, bridges, platforms and shelters. Life is unexpected, and it’s easy to feel like an isolated, terminally unique outlier. This is how I made my difference my strength without cutting any corners.

Kelly Underell

Kelly Underell

Life Is Too Short To Not Do What you Want To Do And Be Who You Want To Be

We often talk about bucket lists and what we will do “one day”. About who we want to be when we grow up and the legacy we want to leave behind. But then we tuck these wish lists safely away in the drawer behind the excuses of our everyday distractions, always thinking we will get to it tomorrow. We blink and years go by, and we are left wondering how it can go so fast. It is hard to think about, but I often wonder what people will say about me in my eulogy when my time here ends. I know someone won’t be reading my resume out loud or talking about what is left in my bank account because that is what life should be measured by. Our bucket list should not just include what we want to do, but who we want to be and what we are going to do to get there. Achieving this requires vulnerability and intentionally. So, what is on your list? And what are you waiting for?

Lori Heisler

Lori Heisler

Enough is Enough: Somebody Needs to Speak Up

Martin Luther King did it. Blake Mycoskie did it. The Broncos did it. Why can’t we? What does it take to inspire a movement?

Chrissie Hodges

Chrissie Hodges

Pure OCD/Intrusive Sexual Obsessions: It’s Not As Pure As It Sounds

Welcome to the dark side of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There are many forms of OCD, and one in particular is rarely talked about openly due to the shame and embarrassment surrounding the nature of the obsessions. I live with Pure O/Sexual and Violent Intrusive thoughts. As an advocate for mental health and OCD, I use humor and storytelling to help audiences grasp the severity and torment of this crippling disorder in a society where every other person claims they are ‘so OCD’ in one capacity or another. My talk will include my personal journey with Pure O as well as information on OCD and how to walk the road to recovery. I often say Pure O is like the dirty little secret of the OCD world, however it is one of the most common yet silent types of the disorder.


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