Prepared by Darryl Herron

What is a lightning talk?

A lightning talk is, well, what it says… a lightning talk. It is a short talk on a topic – your poster. Presenters are given four minutes to present their work with a minute afterwards for a quick question or two. You don’t have any slides but you can use props to help you explain concepts, like using a sponge to demonstrate absorption, a magnet to show attraction for pheromones, etc. You can be creative here.


Delivery is more important than content. Four minutes isn’t a lot, in fact it’s about 450 – 500 words; that is a little longer than your abstract! Use the time wisely. In four minutes, you really only have a minute for an introduction, two minutes for the science and a minute for the bigger picture, the “so what” and the “what it means.”

Make your point. Make it quickly. Get the most out of the four minutes and communicate one idea from your talk. This is not the time to explore your materials and methods. Get to the interesting bits – that’s what we want to hear.

Tell me a story. Structure your talk like a story to help you communicate your message. Storytelling is an effective tool when trying to communicate. People will remember your work if you tell a good story.

Practice makes perfect. There’s nothing better than a polished talk. Practice, practice, practice. Looking for a “how to?” Watch some examples of lightning talks on YouTube to help you prepare a great talk. FameLab is a good example and there they use only three minutes. It doesn’t have to be as simple as FameLab, since you are not communicating to a general audience.