What is a lightning talk? According to Wikipedia, “a lightning
talk is a very short presentation lasting only a few minutes,
given at a conference or similar forum”.
I gave my first lightning talk at the Salt Lake City Girl
Develop It meetup this month ( October 2016 ). I’ve been wanting to give a talk for quite some time but I
finally took the initiative and thought of a topic I wanted to speak on, created slides and committed
myself to doing it. I won’t lie, I was really on the fence about it but what pushed me through was
realizing I had stayed up till almost three in the morning working on it so I might as well give the stinking
talk. Plus my husband came to see me and I wanted to prove to him that I’m actually pretty good a public
speaking and secretly enjoy it.
A challenge of giving a lighting talk is being able to give a presentation that is digestible and
informative for your audience in under ten minutes or less. Over the last two years I’ve attended a lot of
developer meetups / user groups. I’ve listened to interesting talks, informative talks and highly technical
talks. Let me just say this it is very difficult to speak about a topic you are passionate about in 10 minutes
The topic I chose to speak on was Flexbox. What is Flexbox? According to Mozilla Developer
Network, the “CSS3 Flexible Box, or flexbox, is a layout mode providing for the arrangement of
elements on a page such that the elements behave predictably when the page layout must
accommodate different screen sizes and different display devices.” I chose this topic because I
personally felt it was something that up and coming developers needed to be aware of based off of the
experiences I’ve had working as a web developer. I also felt that the general idea of what Flexbox is can
be understood in about ten minutes. So I prepared my talk. I started my talk off with an introduction of
who I am and why I wanted to give a talk and what the talk would be about From there I proceeded
going over the basics of Flexbox. I went over the Flexbox properties and their values with a few live
coding moments using Codepen. During the talk I tried to emphasize certain points with my tone or slow
down my cadence to make sure what I was saying would be understood.
A public speaking pet peeve I have is when the speaker doesn’t give their audience enough time to
think about what they are saying. You don’t need to speak like a tortoise but you need to provide some
sort of rhythm to let concepts sink in. Live coding can be a bit risky because you never know how
technology is going to behave when you are trying to present. So always make sure to practice the
technology you are going to present with.
One thing I did not account for was my transition from coding in Codepen to going back to the slides.
It wasn’t as smooth and seamless as it should have been and that was kinda my fault for not practicing.
I added links to my slides when I was preparing to try and account for that problem but at the last minute
I decided to not use the links and just leave my browser open to the codepen I was working on and
toggle back and forth. Toggling with a Powerpoint slideshow presentation is not the best idea. But hey I
learned what to do next time right? During the beginning of my talk I was pretty nervous but towards the
end I was really starting to enjoy myself as well as feeling more confident. When the timer went off and
my talk ended I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I even felt like this was something I wanted to do
again in the future. I had a mini-high. I was able to stretch out of my comfort zone and share with
others what I felt was important. I also gained a greater sense of empathy for those who do choose to
speak. Before this talk I was a little judgmental about people’s public speaking skills I took public
speaking in college so therefore I’m an expert right? But after giving it the talk I realized how nerve
wracking it can be.