How to ace your lightning talk

Posted on by Floor

Categories: blog and tips and tricks

Rails Girls Speakers

Many of you get to attend a conference as part of your Summer of Code. Else you might also go to local meetups or user goups. For all of these, we highly encourage you to share your story in a lightning talk and spread the Rails Girls word. A lightning talk (usually about 5 minutes long) is a perfect way to show people you’re there, share your knowledge, inspire others with your story and get in touch with many wonderful and interesting people.

Talking to a large group of people, especially those more experienced than you, might feel like a large hurdle to cross. This is completely normal, even the most seasoned speakers still carry that feeling with them when they go on stage. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and lightning talks are the best ‘somewhere’. There is even a conference dedicated to lightning talks!

“But what am I supposed to talk about? I only just started!”

Well, the talk could be about your project and your contribution, how you found out about the project, why you decided to take on this task, the overall Rails Girls movement (there are still so many women out there who wanna learn coding and seldom have the chance to do so), the motivations to learn coding and sometimes change your complete life path along with it, … The options are endless!

It doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re talking tech or social. Lightning talks are designed to be a kind of “have a sneak peak at this little thingy” chat.

Alright, let’s talk!

There’s a massive amount of tips & tricks out there how you can prepare for a talk. We gathered those in “How to go to a conference”. There you can also find helpful nuggets on how to prepare your talk. They’re especially useful when that flutter says ‘hi’ again.

In addition to those:

  • Try out your slides at home or within your team. Get familiar with different projector types, speaker notes (they can come in handy) and timers so you know how much time you have left to convince the crowd of your amazing project!
  • Try and put as little text as possible on your slides and have them support your chat in a visual way. We are all visual people and like nice pictures of you (two) coding, or a screenshot of your commit bar on GitHub ;)
  • We will prepare a slide deck with some factoids and numbers about Rails Girls Summer of Code. Shoot us a mail if you'd like to have that as a template!

Sweet, now I only need a time and a place

To get you talk on the agenda, contact the conference organizers about the possibilities. We could also get you in contact with them - just ask us!

Alternatively: many conferences have a CfP (Call for Papers) where you can submit your talk proposal. It should have a choosing where you say how long your talk’s supposed to be. If it hasn’t got a separate checkbox for this, you can also add questions to your description or write an email to the organizers.

A lightning talk is a great way to get some stage experience. And it’s over before you know it - promised ;)

If you know more great tips, please add them in the comments!

Photo Credits (from left to right and upper to lower row)