A lightning talk is a concise, oral presentation. Lightning talks usually last 3-5 minutes and are most commonly made using a series of PowerPoint slides. The best lightning talks tell a simple story - What motivated your project? What did you do? What did you find? Why does it matter? As you can imagine, there is very little time to discuss the details of your research experience. Instead, think about the big picture! Each conference or symposium will have specific guidelines for how long a lightning talk should be and how it should be delivered. It is important to keep these guidelines in mind when creating your presentation.

We are offering the following support sessions for making lightning talks:

  • Virtual lightning talk workshop (how to make one): May 10th from 5-6 pm.  Here’s the link to join via Zoom.
  • Virtual lightning talk help session (get specific questions answered): May 13th from 5-6 pm. Here’s the link to join via Zoom.
  • Virtual drop-in advising hours (help with anything!): Join us any Monday or Tuesday during weeks 1-10 from 1-3 pm using this link.

What makes a good lightning talk?

  • Who is your audience? Adjust the presentation so that it is understandable by the folks who are listening. It is usually best to avoid jargon and technical terms unless you know that your audience will recognize those words.

  • Remember: less is more! Think about the “big picture” when selecting visuals and communicating the research.
  • Focus on these four questions: Why did you do your project? What did you do? What did you find? Why does it matter?
  • Think about the flow of your talk. Does it tell a short, compelling story?
  • Include only one major point per slide.
  • Limit your use of text and utilize simple visuals.
  • If you do include text, make it clear and large enough to be viewed from a distance.
  • You may have one of your slides up for only 30 seconds. Ensure that your visuals are simple and easy to interpret in a short amount of time.
  • Ensure that the length of your presentation falls within the specified time limit.
  • Keep in mind that you may have audience members that are color blind and cannot distinguish certain color differences, such as red and green. Below are some guidelines to making a color-blind friendly presentation.
  • Prepare in advance: Practice, practice, practice!
  • Practice with a family member, a colleague, and friend with a different major to ensure your talk is approachable to a broad audience. You can also practice with us during drop-in advising hours!

Click the video below to watch a workshop on how to make a lighting talk!

What Does a Lightning Talk Typically Include?

  1. Title, Authors, and Affiliations (Slide 1)
  2. Background
    • Hook the audience in! Start with something that makes them want to hear more (e.g. a quote, a statistic, a question for the audience).
    • Set the stage: Identify the issue you are addressing.
    • Specify the study’s motivations—hypothesis and objective(s).
  3. Methodology
    • Describe how you approached your research question.
    • Remember, only include information that is absolutely necessary for the audience to understand your project.
  4. Major Findings
    • Identify the key findings.
    • You may want to use simple diagrams, graphs, and figures to tell this part of your story.
  5. Conclusions and Implications
    • Identify the significance of your findings.
    • Describe why this is useful to the community (e.g. applications, future directions).

Helpful Links:

  • You can download OSU-approved photos, icons, and an official OSU PowerPoint presentation template here!
  • Here are ten simple rules for short and swift presentations.
  • Here is a color blind simulator for checking how things on your presentation will look to folks with different types of of color vision deficiencies.
  • This site has more information about how to make presentations that are accessible to those who are color blind.