How to be a Lightning Talk speaker at BoSUK

DEADLINE: 20th May 2014

The Lightning Talk Competition is coming to BoS UK 2014! We’re delighted to be running this in the UK because it has always been one of the highlights of the US Business of Software Conference programme.

The Lightning Talk Competition entrants receive a free pass to the Business of Software Conference they are speaking at, the chance to share an idea they care about with a live audience of 200 (as well as the viewers of the Business of Software videos which reach a very large audience worldwide), and the respect of their peers. (Don’t underestimate the last one).

If you want an opportunity to speak at Business of Software Conference, please consider sharing something you are passionate about with a great group of software people.

So how to do it? Lightning Talks follow a simple format – every speaker gets 15 slides and 30 seconds per slide to talk about a subject of their choice. The slides advance automatically. Warning, they are a challenge!

Patrick McKenzie, winner of the Lightning Talk Competition in 2010 (‘Hello Ladies’) and a speaker the following year (Engineering your marketing outcomes) was very clear when we spoke that he found the Lightning Talk to be the most challenging, (I think he said in fact, “terrifying”), by far.  It is a challenge worth rising to though and Lightning Talk speakers over the years have told us that doing a Lightning Talk has been of real value to them – not least because those talks have often been a platform to a lot of other speaking opportunities.

Send an email to and enclose:

Your name

The title and description of the talk you propose

A link to a video of you speaking – ideally about what you want to do a Lightning Talk about.

We will review all of the submissions, and pick what we feel will be the most appropriate ones, to talk live at BoS UK 14.

To enter, make sure you send us your submission on or before 20th May 2014.


Lightning Talk alumni have been generous with their advice and support for anyone considering entering the process this year. Here’s some of the points that were frequently raised:

Treat your submission video seriously. ‘I filmed about a dozen takes of me trying to say it.  The submission itself is work and you should set aside a few hours to do it.’ Tim Cull.

Practice, practice, practice – should go without saying, really. ‘Practice helps, but that’s table stakes. Everyone expects you to have practiced.’ Des Traynor.

Don’t get clever with powerpoint – ‘Your slides are context not content’. Joe Corkery.

Get feedback – ’you also need to have the support of a friend who will give you candid feedback and support (I would be happy to be that person for any BoSer, BTW, just give me a shout).’ Jody Burgess.

Prepare for disaster and be OK with it. ‘If you watch the video of my talk, there’s a point in the first third where I’m just standing there like a dummy saying nothing in front of a room full of 300 people.  It lasts for about fifteen agonizing seconds’. Tim Cull

Was it worth it?

‘It was a great experience and  a serious confidence booster.’ Jody Burgess

‘I got a lot out of the process, way more than just my linkedin profile picture!  I got to meet a great group of Lightning Talkers, many of whom I’ve stayed in contact and discussed projects with.  It was a great icebreaker to chat with other attendees and presenters’ Gregory Menvielle

‘First and foremost, giving a lightning talk is awesome and totally worth the effort’ Tim Cull

‘I gave a Lightning Talk at the 2010 conference and for me it was one of the absolute highlights of the conference.’ Joe Corkery

‘If you’re considering attending BoS, I strongly recommend you apply to give a lightning talk. I wasn’t sure I could do it well, and I’m still not sure I did, but it was a great experience. Give it a try.’ Des Traynor

If you want more top tips on preparing your Lightning Talk, then I particularly recommend these blogs as a bottomless pit of information and inspiration (plus they made me laugh):

Des Traynor: Talk: They’re all just perspectives

Tim Cull: How to be a Lightning Talk speaker

Jo Corkery: Preparing for a Lightning Talk

Go on, give it a go! What’s the worst that can happen in 7 minutes and 30 seconds? Remember the deadline for submissions is 20th May 2014.