Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Lightning talks

Let me start by saying that I love conferences. But speaking in conferences is not easy. First of all, it's quite intimidating in the beginning to talk to hundreds of experts in your industry. Second, it's a numbers game with very difficult odds. For example, JSConf EU (to which I submitted proposals as well) had almost 1000 proposals this year with only 50 slots.

This year was my big break into conference speaking. Out of my about 50 proposals, 4 of them were accepted and I ended up giving 2 talks, 1 panel discussion and 2 lightning talks in international conferences during 2019. I'm so grateful to PyCon CZ, PyCon Estonia and PyCon Sweden for trusting in me and finding my talks interesting to their communities.

I love talks as a form of sharing information. At best, they provide you with new ideas, new approaches and new tools to become better at your craft. In addition, they can be very inspiring and entertaining, bringing extra value. And most importantly, they spark discussion. After each of my talks, I've had great discussions with dozens of people participating in these events about the topics, learning from them and hearing their opinions.

One format I like a lot in conferences are lightning talks. If you're not familiar with the term, lightning talks are short, often 5 minutes, talks done ad-hoc at the conference by anyone who's participating. You just sign up your name on a paper at the venue and you get 5 minutes with a mic and slides.

5 minute ad-hoc talk is a wonderful concept. It's short enough that you don't even need slides. You can present a conference or community in your area, showcase a project you made, sing a song or - like I did in PyCon CZ - talk about your travels and mental health.

I wish more people would participate in lighting talks. In some conferences, they are fully booked in minutes after the signup board appears and on others, they might not even get full at the end.

For me, lightning talks offer an opportunity for the community to come together in a very casual way. They are a nice change of pace in the conference and they give an opportunity for anyone to speak without having to send dozens of applications to get accepted. I highly recommend trying them out if you attend conferences.

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