In the world of entrepreneurship, most people are familiar with the term elevator pitch: which is a 30-second, prepared response to the question, “What do you do?” A lightning talk is a very brief presentation given in a conference setting, focused on a single topic.
Regardless of the content and context, all oral presentations have one main objective: giving a concise and effective presentation on a particular topic. But how?
Know your topic
Short presentations = little information, right? WRONG! If anything, you should know even MORE about your topic. This will allow you to speak with more precise language and explain your topic in a way that won’t lose your audience. Knowledge of your topic also allows you to speak more confidently – you are the expert in the room.
Know your audience
What does your audience know about your topic? How does your topic relate to your audience? Why should they care?
Your job as a presenter is to make your audience care about your topic. Many tools can be used to connect with your audience:
- tell a story
- provide a shocking statistic
- ask a question
These are ways your audience can reflect on their own experience and behaviours and connect with your topic.
Be aware of the level of field-specific jargon you use. For example, in my field of animal behaviour, I could state that I am training my dog with positive reinforcement. To an audience unfamiliar with my field’s jargon, I should say that I am training my dog by giving her a treat each time she completes a behaviour I want her to do, such as ‘sitting’. The latter is more understandable and relatable to a wider audience and you do not lose the meaning.
Lastly, be aware of your on-stage presence by dressing appropriately and professionally. You want to connect with your audience as an authority on your topic and how you dress can speak volumes about your level of professionalism.
Use visual aids thoughtfully
Any visuals you choose to use, should not be more interesting than you! Avoid using too many words or distracting graphics when using a poster or PowerPoint slideshow. Keep backgrounds simple and never use distracting animations. Follow the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Simple, Silly!
Be aware of your delivery
Your blitz presentation is as much about your non-verbal as your verbal behaviour. In order to connect with your audience, you want to maintain eye contact and use deliberate gestures and movements. Your voice should be enthusiastic and energetic. Avoid using filler words, such as “um” and “uh.” Be aware of how fast you are talking – do not try to say 10 minutes worth of information when you have less than 5 minutes to deliver!
Practice, practice and practice
Above all, the most important thing you can do is to practice. This will give you more confidence and decrease your nerves. You will be clearer in your language, use fewer filler words, and have a better sense of your timing. Try rehearsing in front of other people, especially friends willing to be brutally honest in critiquing your presentation.
By keeping these ideas in mind:
- Knowledge of your topic
- Consideration of your audience
- Thoughtful use of visual aids
- Presenting a polished, practiced delivery
You are well on your way to blitzing that oral presentation!