Lightning Talk

A lightning talk is a form of short presentation usually with a limited number of slides and a fixed amount of time the speaker has to present each slide.

The most popular form of lightning talk is PechaKucha that uses 20 visual slides with a 20s time limit per slide. You can build a whole lesson around asking students to prepare and deliver lightning talks on a certain topic. 

Activity goal
Activate prior knowledge | Assess | Exchange knowledge | Reflect
In class
Hybrid | Offline | Online
< 30 minutes| < 60 minutes
Group size
Small | Medium | Large

Powerpoint or other presentation software.

Step 1

Choose a theme that is suitable for a short presentation, ideally a theme that enables visual storytelling. 

Step 2

Explain the assignment to the students. Specify how many slides (e.g. 20) and how much time per slide they will have (e.g. 20s). Highlight that slides should be minimalistic, containing a simple picture or a maximum of two-three words. You can assign a Lightning talk to individuals or small groups.

Step 3

Collect all presentation slides in advance and set a timer for each slide in the settings, so the slides advance automatically after a given time (e.g. 20s). An explanation of how to do this in powerpoint is included In the Tips & tricks section below. 

Step 4

Organize a presentation class with prepared Lightning talks. You can serve as a moderator introducing each new lightning talk. As the slides will auto-advance, the timing of the session should be simple. 

Step 5

You can follow up a Lightning talk with a short discussion and/or feedback after each presentation.  

Variation 1 - Individual presentation

Instead of hosting sessions of student presentations, you can use it to add a variety to your lecture and teach a new concept, topic, or talk about your research. 

Variation 2 - PechaKucha

Comes originally from Japan and it popularized this form of fast presentation. As mentioned above speakers are asked to prepare 20 visual slides with 20s time to present each, resulting in short 6min 40s engaging presentations. Usually, multiple PechaKucha presentations are shared during one event. 

Variation 3 - Ignite

Is a similar variation to PechaKucha, with the distinction that speakers are given 15s per slide, resulting in presentations lasting 5min.

Tip - Setting a timer in powerpoint

  • Prepare your slides
  • Set the View options on normal to get an overview of all your slides in the left side bar.
  • Choose the “Transitions” menu in the upper task bar.
  • Keep the transition style on the None-option
  • Advance slide settings: check the box After and set the clock to 20 seconds.
  • Last click Apply to all.
  • Run the slide show and check if it’s working properly

Consider the tools and materials mentioned here as suggestions. In many cases it’s possible to use alternative tools. Please turn to the Learning & Innovation team of your faculty (EUR or Erasmus MC) first to see which online and offline tools are available and how to apply them. 

PowerPoint or other slide software that enables timed auto-advance of slides. 

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