This means that the lightning talk is, essentially, an entirely different genre. This weekend, I attended Now! Visual Culture, the biennial conference of the the International Association of Visual Culture, and Thursday night opened with a gattling gun of talks from a rather luminous group of sharp shooters. Some excelled at this speed-form, while others remained too trained in the traditional presentation modes of the long-talk to really embrace the form. Like most things, it simply seems that practice and re-framing are key.
So thinking about how alien this format might seem at first try, I determined to put together a running list of tips and observations, mostly for myself, but for anyone else who comes along:
- this isn't about shortening a 8 page paper to 2 pages--it fundamentally doesn't make sense. standard forms of linear, structured argument don't suit this: a lightning talk is, in essence, all about the punch
- attendant to this, a lightning talk seems well-suited to micro-readings of fascinating objects. The presenters who were most engaging at NVC2012 really seemed to get this--they offered a fascinating object, and with a couple paragraphs of poking, prodding and peeling, got it to unveil something for the listener that could be leveraged into a broader claim
- ditch the quotes, citations, or tracings of theoretical lineages. if you do need to make an off-hand gesture to another thinker, it seems best to work on the assumption that the audience knows what you're talking about. i.e., don't define deleuze's rhizome if you're discussing it in relation to, let's say, network theory--just say "the rhizome" and move on
- alongside this--tweeting has become increasingly popular at many conferences (no, we're not just playing with our phones!). think about developing pithy, terse phrases that stick to the mind and become touchstones for different ideas. a micro-thesis build on alliteration, a great verbal image, clever but not annoying wordplay, etc. this would seem to suit both the lightning talk (wherein each individual talk runs the risk of getting lost in the increased volume of presenters) and the genre of tweeting