3 Ways Lightning Talks Can Change Your Office Culture
What are Lightning Talks?
Lightning Talks are a presentation format where speakers slam a topic for a max of 5 minutes per speaker, and each speaker has a different self-picked topic. There are no constraints on topics aside from being HR safe. They’re designed to keep audiences engaged and to be presented back to back during a session, which gives the audience opportunities to learn a lot in a short amount of time. They debuted at the 1997 Python Conference but earned their energetic name at a Perl conference at Carnegie Mellon University in 2000.
1. Develop & Grow Public Speaking Skills
As a speaker, you get to practice public speaking in a time limited format, which builds a bunch of separate skills that comprise public speaking. I noticed a marked difference in my effectiveness as a public speaker after presenting monthly LTs through Cerner’s DevAcademy Lightning Talk Culture program. LTs are a great low risk speaking platform, as if you don’t pull it off well, your audience isn‘t “stuck in some boring lecture for forty-five minutes.” Lightning Talks are an exceptional learning tool.
2. Generate Company Culture
The true value of Lightning Talks is in generating culture. Because of the ease of entry, new employees and associates can get involved in the culture of a company from day one without yet understanding how they fit in to that culture. When new associates see senior leadership and their peers from across the company all laughing and participating, they inevitably view them as a low-cost entry device to begin fitting in and feeling valued.
This actively generates new culture as people grow closer together. I’ve witnessed this unexpected phenomenon (in both admiration and surprise) first hand in Kansas City at both Cerner and Artisan Technology Group.
3. Create Inclusive Office Environment
It’s important to focus on a holistic approach when incorporating Lightning Talks into your existing culture initiatives. You must have buy-in from leaders throughout your team for existing associates to truly value them. That means that everyone from C-Level leadership through brand new associates have equal footing and flexibility to present after one another. Lightning Talks are just show-and-tell for professionals, and the reality is everyone likes show-and-tell. When they become something intrinsically valuable to leadership, Lightning Talks don’t just expand culture, they cycle it.
Implementing Lightning Talks is Easy.
- Dedicate somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour every month or two.
- Put a sign-up sheet somewhere on your network or facility.
- Have open signups where associates who want to speak write down their name, topic, and a link to their (optional) presentation slides.
- During the talks, set up a 5-minute timer for each speaker, as not going over time is important to the integrity of the talks!
- When one talk finishes, everyone generally gives applause and a targeted question and answer session if needed, and the next talk begins.
It’s really that simple, but the off-paper effects to your culture are incredible! At Artisan, Lightning Talks are a key component of our core culture generation strategy, and we love how effective they are for the minimal effort they require. They are one of many efforts within our company that allow us to foster a culture of collaboration, innovation, and empowerment.
Senior Software Engineer