Tips for Lightning Talks

This page serves as a resource for trainees developing 3-minute lightning talks for public audiences (including the BU URBAN Spring Symposium). There are tons of great resources online with advice and guidance, and the list below includes specific tips and tricks that have come up throughout prior practice sessions.

  • Download and use this slide as your name/intro slide
  • When introducing yourself, say your name, year in your department/program, and year in BU URBAN: “Hi, I’m XYZ and I’m a second year PhD student in the Department of Biology and a first year URBAN trainee.”
  • Your audience will only be able to absorb 1-2 key points, so limit the points you are trying to make accordingly. Focus on the most important 1 or 2 things you want to say, and cut everything else. No one will remember the details, so don’t waste time explaining the nuances.
  • It is always nice to end with the bigger picture, or the so what. “In the end, this study will help us better understand XYZ so that we can do XYZ.”
  • Acknowledgment slides are nice, and to save time, you can leave it as your final slide but not read off the specific names/organizations.
  • A reference slide is not needed for public talks!
  • Figures show what you want them to show! (They don’t speak for themselves.) If you’re going to show a figure, walk the audience through important parts (x- and y-axes, colors, legends, locations, trends). Anything not worth describing out loud is not worth including in the figure.
  • SLOW DOWN! It is tempting to talk quickly when you only have 3 minutes, but it will make it harder to understand you. Try recording yourself and listen back, or write reminders to slow down. It can also help to use clicks or slide transitions as reminders to take a big pause and let the audience catch up.
  • Avoid having a “solo word” alone within a group by widen the text box. No one likes to see words by
  • If you’d like to be able to see your notes while sharing your slides, follow the instructions here so you can have your slides contained to the Powerpoint application, rather than take up the full screen. You’ll need to have your notes in a separate file in order to see them at the same time as your slides (rather than the presenter notes)