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Lightning talks are short-form talks, which are unlike traditional conference presentations, panels, or lectures. Each speaker gets five minutes and must use a limited number of PowerPoint slides.

The main goal is to spark new conversations and collaborations across disciplines with fast-paced presentations. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the work of a large number of colleagues across campus with similar interests in a relatively short period of time.

As you prepare your own lightning talk, think TED Talks! Here are some helpful hints:

  • Practice.
  • Don’t be intimated by the format. Instead, use it to get to the point quickly and tell your story.
  • Don’t sweat the five minutes. You do NOT want to compress a 20-minute conference presentation into a 5-minute lightning talk. In fact, instead of starting with a prior talk and cutting it back, you might just start from scratch.
  • You only have time to say four (maybe five) things, so choose them wisely.
  • Leave out the details.
  • Do not talk fast in order to get everything in! Instead, cut down the “everything.”
  • Practice.
  • Figure out your key points before you build your slides.
  • Tell your story with words and with pictures.
  • Beware of clutter – visually and verbally. Your audience will not have time to digest much information on any given slide.
  • Simple is often better.
  • Use a sparse number of words on your slides. You audience can’t both read your slide and listen to you at the same time.
  • Include in your talk a short phrase like Think like a rootworm or Get better at getting better, something people can take home with them and will remember a month later.
  • Practice. Rehearse aloud and with the slides. Practice is everything in a 5-minute talk.