Lightning Talks

Five minute lightning talks, to practice public speaking.

By Mathias Verraes
Published on 05 May 2016

I submitted proposals to conferences for almost two years before getting accepted. When it finally happened, I found myself in front of a 250 head audience, realising I didn’t actually know how to do proper presentations. I wish I knew then that there are better ways.

Lightning talks at meetups are ideal to practice public speaking, and experiment with explaining or pitching something in a short time. I’m trying to write one each month for the Software Craftsmanship Belgium meetups. It’s only 30 attendees, so it’s an opportunity to try things that I wouldn’t do as a proper conference talk yet. And I can recycle the ones that do work for other meetups or conferences.

My self-inflicted constraints:

  • 10 minutes max, or 5 minutes + Q&A.
  • Write the slides in a single evening.
  • Take a topic that I haven’t talked or written about before. Trying to explaining a topic you don’t know well, is a great way to learn.
  • Assume the audience doesn’t know the topic either, so it needs to cover the basics.
  • When showing code, it needs to be understandable for people unfamiliar with the language, and within the 30 seconds or so that the code is on the screen. I might write unidiomatic Haskell, or leave out anything complicated, or just show pseudo-code.

Not constrained by:

  • Being original. It doesn’t have to be my own inventions, my own examples, etc. Presenting a blog post written by somebody else is perfectly fine.
  • Being precise, perfect, or nuanced. First get it out there, then perhaps iterate later.

I’ll post the slides here (reverse chronology). They’re probably useless without the explanation, but perhaps someone gets something out of them.

How to Find the Bar

August 2016, SoCraTes Belgium

The Monty Hall Problem

May 2016, SoCraTes Belgium

Property Based Testing

April 2016, SoCraTes Belgium and CukeUp London

The World’s Shortest and Most Chaotic Introduction to Event Storming

April 2016, CukeUp London This was a hands-on Event Storming session with a short introduction.)