Idea for Lightning Talk software

If I had more time, I’d love to create software to facilitate Lightning Talks … you can get by without custom software (using PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.), but custom software would increase the quality of the presentations and allow the speakers to focus more on their content.

Lightning Talks are auto-advancing talks with precise timing. At #bos2010, we had precisely 15 slides advancing every 30 seconds. There was a timer visible to speakers, but it was off by 2-3 seconds. I found myself getting slightly distracted by this, and I noticed other speakers getting distracted by it, too (not Portman, though … somehow he just nailed it). The natural response is almost universally “uhhhhh” accompanied by a terrified widening of the eyes … It would be much nicer if speakers saw a special view of the presentation with a 30-second count-down timer on each slide (and/or some other indicator that the slide was about to advance).

There is also the increased possibility of technical problems when working with decks from so many sources, different OS’s (and versions) and presentation software (and versions). We had one of those kinds of glitches. Would be nice if everyone just used the same software, using high-quality images for the slides.

And then you have to practice it, validate it, share it, etc. … custom software could help with all of that. This wouldn’t be difficult software to make it, but it would really add a nice touch to Lightning Talks, Ignite, or similar presentations.

So this is a great problem to solve with software … the second question is “can you make money” from the idea? I don’t know … seems like a perfect small example for using Lean Startup testing principles. As I’ve been recommending a lot lately, Rob Walling has a very concise chapter in his book that would help you figure out if this could make money.

I would love to do this one myself, but I don’t have time. I’m working on a grand, startup-like concept within Microsoft to share software stories (as Eric Ries argues, you can have a startup mentality even within a big company) … I’m going to have to focus all my startup energy on that until it succeeds or fails. I’m already preparing my Lightning Talk idea for next year, so I hope you can have it ready by then.

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