Lighting talks night

Lighting talks night

Lighting talks night is a meetup format when the even consist only from lightning talks. It’s already been successfully used in Brisbane and Melbourne ruby meetups. In short: “If you come to meet-up be prepared to talk about something. You might not have a chance, but if asked you should talk.”

It is a fun event format with a huge variety of topics. Lighting talk is the best and the easiest way for new people to present. Ruby community is dependant on people sharing their knowledge and it’s important to encourage everybody to do that.

What is lightning talk?

Lightning talk is a small presentation on a variety of topics. It meant to be some quick introduction to a topic. Quick summary:

  • 5 minute hard limit
  • No slides required
  • Talk can be shorter than 5 min



  • Give early notice to the audience that the next meetup is “Lighting talks night”. It’s important to communicate that people come with the correct expectations. Give topic examples (see below).
  • At the beginning of the meetup have a person at the door to mention that it is a lightning talk night.


  • Meetup host talks about the format
    • Give topic examples (see below)
  • Meetup host selects the random Person A to speak
    • Prefer the first speaker to be experienced presenter to set the pace, but without any slides to keep the standard low.
  • Person A has up to 5 minutes to talk
  • When the talk is finished Person A selects the next Person B
  • Person B has up to 5 minutes to talk
  • etc


Topic examples

So far lightning talk nights have only been hosted as a last meetup of the year. But it doesn’t have to be. Give the audience ideas what they can talk about:

  • What have you learned in the last 1, 6, 12 months?
  • What did you learn at the meetups?
  • What do you like/don’t about ruby?
  • What’s your favourite gem?
  • What did you do before doing ruby?
  • What’s your favourite book? What it is about?
  • Anything else interesting to share?
  • Anything you can teach others?

Brisbane variation

Because Brisbane has a small community (up to 30 people per meetup), they do it slightly differently. They have a hustler (meetup organiser) who personally knows the most of the community. At the beginning of the meetup as the people arrive the hustler asks everyone what are you going to talk about and then writes the title on the whiteboard. No everybody has to present, but it’s all depends on the hustler’s skill to encourage the audience.

Once the meetup started the meetup organiser sets the order of the talks (random or sequential) and presentations start.


Andrew Harvey suggested a variation:

Everybody have to talk. If you don’t want to speak make a donation to X charity.

To not deal with money that could be done online. For example RubyTogether website has one time donation option. Attendees could show the receipt at the entrance or list their name as one of the speakers.


You can’t push people

So far many people (most of them haven’t experienced Lightning Talk Night) raised strong concerns that it’s forcing people to do things that they don’t like/scared/stressful/outside comfort zone/shy/other. While I’ve seen 4 events in that format and all were received very well. However I understand that’s a real concern people have, so there are some options:

  • Give softer requirements and give option to pass: “If you come to meet-up be prepared to talk about something. You might not have a chance, and if asked you can pass.
  • Just go with it and see what happens. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Deal with it only if it is proven to be a problem.

It will scare people off

Lightning Talk Night is not a format for every month. It excels with topic variety but lacks topic depth. Even if some people might be scared to come you won’t host that format often. Due to huge variety of topics it will appeal to a larger audience.

The first time this format was used in Melbourne there was a 30% drop in attendance. Considering it was the first time, it’s expected for the difference to shrink the more familiar people become with the format.



This is just a guide to help you get started. Do what you think is right for your community and share your experience.

Remember: You can’t keep everybody happy and some people will always complain. Don’t make them scare you to try new things and keep improving the community.