CW14 Lightning talks - top tips

A good lightning talk informs and inspires in only two minutes. If you would like yours to be a good one and well remembered then read on ...

1. Finish on time

This is especially important when you are giving a lightning talk. Remember that the whole point of the exercise is to both summarise your work and make the audience interested in it. Hower, if you don’t finish on time, the audience has missed part of your talk, which can be a problem when the best part of it takes place after the two minute mark.

One useful strategy in this case would be to structure your talk so the important ideas and content come first and you can then spend the rest of your time explaining them in depth.

2. Get one thing across clearly

Getting the most out of your time requires a clarity of focus - you need to make sure you create a clear and concise message. While it might sound obvious, you should not try to fit too much in as you have a limited amount of time which is never enough for you to say all you want to. So select one key area to centre your talk around and keep to the bare essentials of what you want the audience to learn from your talk.

3. Make the best use of your slides

You will usually need a slide to accompany your talk, but what should it contain and what role should it play in your presentation? The first thing to remember is that slides should complement and not repeat what you say. Imagine them as a backdrop rather than the main attraction, which in this case is you. Slides work best for featuring links and references as well as diagrams and visual data that support your talk. With that in mind, images must be both high quality and memorable, as they will then serve as a springboard for discussion afterwards.

4. Know your audience

This might sound like a challenge at first - how can you predict who will be in the audience and what their response will be? Yet you can prepare for this by firstly deciding what you want the audience to take away from the talk and what you want to get from it in return. People also get annoyed if you try to explain the obvious to them, and if you don't pace and structure your talk properly. Don't overwhelm them or throw too much at them at once. Finally, you can still infer a lot about your audience based on the event itself - CW14, for example, is always going to attract people who are interested in both software and research, so tailor your talk to meet their needs.