One of the highlights of the annual Business of Software conference is the Lightning talks. This is a competition between speakers judged by the audience on pure merit – it is action packed (15 slides with exactly 30 seconds on each). There is no room for a mistake infront of a packed audience expecting only the best and able to smell blood.
Short of climbing Everest or the reintroduction of gladatorial combat there is probably no bigger adrenaline rush you can legally experience. You also get a free ticket and a huge opportunity to promote yourself and talk about something you care passionately about. It is well worth entering.
I wrote a long article last year with advice for potential speakers so I will not repeat that. Neil Davidson says you have to be ‘clinically insane’ to consider doing it. I think a certain recklessness (or maybe fearlessness) is helpful but the people who do the talks are actually very smart. What you do need to be is:-
1. Engaging. The best entries are very engaging, passionate and entertaining. They are very personal. The audience can tell the genuine article.
2. Have something to say. You need to be more than just amusing. You need to have a concise, clear message behind it which you genuinely feel. Do not try to say too much – keep it simple and clear.
3. Very well prepared. Like any really good performance it needs to have an almost effortless quality which makes it look easy but is in fact the result of a huge amount of preparation. Usain Bolt does not run lightning times for the 100m just by turning up on the day and winging it.
Watch the winning talks from the last 3 years and see if you agree?