Friday, October 02, 2009

Lightning talks

Lightning talks are 5-minute (or less) presentations on a single simple topic. Usually you have 7 to 12 speakers in a row, presenting a variety of talks one after the other on the same laptop using only PDF slides or no slides at all. The Ignite events take this even further by making the slides auto-advance every 10 seconds.

This is great training for any other speaking you want to do. Lightning talks (LTs) teach you a number of things which are key for doing longer talks:

•How to engage your audience in the first 60 seconds.
•How to stay on topic.
•How to pace yourself.
•Not to rely on fancy animations, complex demos, or in some cases, how to present with no slides at all.
•To rehearse your talk until you can deliver it without stalling, "ums" or reading notes.

Some additional tips on giving a good LT:

•Keep it simple: one narrow topic only.
•Tell at least one joke or have at least one funny image.
•Rehearse it until you don't need notes and don't need to look at the clock.
•Engage your audience in the first 30 seconds with a question, joke, or startling pronouncement.
•Slides are completely optional.
•Lists are very good "Top 10" or "5 ways" or "3 things".
•Skip the introductions, TOC, conclusions, or contact information; you shouldn't have time for that.
•Better to finish early than run over: target 4 minutes.
•If you have slides or a demo, keep in mind that you will probably need to present them on someone else's computer. Video is probably better than a live demo for this reason.

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