Update, September 6: The deadline to submit proposals originally published in this article has been updated to reflect the extended October 18 deadline.

Lightning will strike at NIRSA 2018! The Conference Program Committee invites NIRSA members to submit a proposal for a lightning talk. A lightning talk is a type of conference microsession where presenters share information in a brief time period. The Committee is currently seeking thought-provoking, high-energy topics that challenge attendees to think and learn, though laughing is a good thing too!

Below is some information to help prospective presenters prepare an effective lightning talk proposal:

How long should my presentation be?
The maximum presentation length is 10 minutes, though the preferred length is 5-6 minutes.

Is there a presentation slide count rule?
The maximum number of slides used for a lightning talk presentation is 25. There is no minimum.

Is there a slide advance rule?
No. Presenters may advance slides as they need to.

Why should I submit a proposal?
Presenting a lightning talk is great for both first-time and experienced presenters.
Are you a new professional or someone who’s never presented at an Annual Conference? A lightning talk gives you the opportunity to present for the first time without having to create a lengthy presentation. Are you more experienced with a lot of life and career behind you, but you struggle to articulate your knowledge in a concise way? This is a great exercise in keeping things short and sweet!

It’s an opportunity to practice your elevator speech delivery skills!
Sometimes you are forced to convey a big idea in a short amount of time. Perhaps someone has asked you for an “elevator speech,” or expected you to get a major point across in the time it would take to ride an elevator. If you have difficulty getting your thoughts together and expressing an idea quickly and comprehensively, this is a great opportunity to practice your oratory skills!

Top Ten Tips for NIRSA lightning talks

  1. Select a topic that will resonate with the audience.
  2. Get to the point—quickly; invest no more than one minute on setup and background.
  3. Plan to focus on one great idea. End your talk by restating your one great idea in a way that synthesizes what you’ve talked about.
  4. Consider telling a story.
  5. Be passionate about the idea you’re trying to communicate. Delivery is just as, if not more, important than content.
  6. Resist the temptation to explain in detail, but say enough to get your point across.
  7. Use more pictures and fewer words.
  8. Practice with a timer and in front of some friendly faces!

Are you ready to deliver your bolt of inspirational lightning in Denver?  Submit a presentation by October 18!


  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Professional Development Coordinator John Raskauskas.
Director of Professional Development at | NIRSA Profile

Kristen Gleason is currently the Director of Professional Development at NIRSA