Simon Willison’s Weblog


What are some tips for giving a lightning talk at a conference?

10th September 2012

My answer to What are some tips for giving a lightning talk at a conference? on Quora

Tips for general public speaking still hold for lightning talks. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Five minutes is not a long time. The lightning talk format forces you to get straight to the point and stay there, so you need to edit, edit and edit. This means dropping anything superfluous (who you are, your background etc) and making absolutely sure to rehearse your presentation out loud as early in the process as possible, to give you time to trim material out.
  • Practice out loud, a whole bunch of times, to make sure you’ll be within the time limit. You have to do this out loud, or you’ll mess up the pacing. Speak slower than you would normally.
  • Don’t have too many slides. A reasonable rule of thumb is one slide per minute, so for a lightning talk you probably have a maximum of 5 slides. And don’t ever put more than three bullet points on a slide (ideally don’t have any bullet points at all).

One thing that might help is to watch a bunch of lightning talk videos online (easily done since they are only five minutes long) and try to figure out what makes the good ones really good. We have a bunch of videos on Lanyrd which you could take a look at: