Giving a 5 minute talk at the Kodak Theater (140 Characters Conference)

Doing the Ignite presentation and chatting a little bit with Scott Berkun (who has a book coming out on public speaking) I figured I'd do a followup on another 5 minute talk and some things I learned from doing a non-Ignite, 5 minute talk. For 140 Characters Conference in LA, they started playing the music - the dreaded music - when you need to start closing down your talk. I wasn't the only speaker caught short, but since nowhere else in my world did they ever start playing music to shut me up before:) , I figure I'd share what I learned.

You can see how the talk came out here.  For those who wanted to know how it was meant to close down, summary of the slides you missed..

  • Stefan's Expression upon seeing me in his office the next day at 6 am
  • Twitter Stats from the overall launch period 
  • Hugh McLeod's Gaping Void cartoon about purists being the ones with no skin in the game (be relentless for your customers, it doesn't have to be perfect at all times, and after being up all night, how can it be?)

I figured from the fact I was giving the talk people would figure out that the Bing team actually supported everything I did that evening, but next time I'll front load some of the closing message up higher. I gave this talk again as a part of an hour-long NW Entrepreneur University  presentation this past week ( and it was nice to be able to give Hugh his due as well as credit to the twitter-friendly nature of our PR team.

All photos here taken by, otherwise known as Stef Michaels. :)

darker podium photoTiming and pace

First, don't let Ignite presentations, hard as they are, make you overconfident. I had less than 20 slides for my 5 minute talk but what I really should have had, was 5. Maybe 10. The fact I went over 10, set me up for danger.

 I also did not auto-advance the slides, as I did with the Ignite talk, which would have forced me to complete on time (I was a couple slides short)

 Instead, I drilled the talk at 4 minutes and 30 seconds. This was good for keeping me brief and moving off the slides without a timer, and I believe was the reason I finished with my story intact (though my kicker slides not exposed).

Expect what happened to me, will happen to you. They will start the 5 minute clock but your slide deck won't be up. Keep talking even as you fuss with it.



  •  For a 5 minute talk, do a brief overview and front-load. That's what saved me (once the music started) - my most complex and entertaining story was the first one I told (and possibly could have been the only one I told, but I wanted to balance the presentation with more data).
  • Ignite has it right - memorise your words and use vivid pictures. In my case I had to animate some twitter tweets because I was talking about them - but if you have a more visually oriented talk, go the Ignite route and do minimal words, big photo.
  • For 140 Characters, I saw some presenters lose their audience (10 minute was the longest, so not even that long a period in which to lose people) by being dry and not conforming to the "story" format that Jeff Pulver really espouses. The best stories were human and vivid (Wm. Marc Salsberry's photos didn't work and he had us all weeping from the narrative of his foray into tech photography and the support for his brother dying of cancer).
  • AV fallback = interpretive dance. I joked with my manager Stefan and coworker Aya that if I couldn't use the slide deck of the tweets I'd do an interpretive dance of what happened on launch night. I actually DID think of some poses I would have to do, if I got no visuals. That cracked me up and helped me mentally before going on stage.


  • The Kodak Theater is a 3,000+ seat venue. This is where people receive their Oscars and by custom Jack Nicholson has his own marked chair. If you have a chance to speak here, do, but be prepared to think "Holy crap, this place is REALLY BIG!"
  • The nice thing about Kodak is that it is a beautiful piece of architecture. There are lush balconies, an awesome sense of history, and while enormous, it doesn't quite scare the way a stadium or arena venue could, because it has STYLE.
  • The AV guy, JT, was awesome but I wasn't used to the cameraman actually flipping from me to the screen of my laptop. Other panelists I talked to, who had to sit in front of monitors showing thier faces, also had eerie feelings. There may be no way to rehearse the sensation without being in the venue, but practicing in front of a mirror could help people get over their own faces.

This photo is more of what I looked like to myself when the camera was on me and not my laptop. Lights are super bright when you are onstage -people warned me and it is true that you really can't see any faces in the audience.


  • I wore a skirt thinking I'd be miked and walking around, but I actually ended up behind a podium (to work the laptop). This meant that a key element of my presentation,a 1920s style cloche, stole some of the show (which was fine by me, its an homage to the decor of the theater). I know most of you won't want to wear 20s hats, but it helped disguise my bad hair day and turned me into a "character."
  • If I had walked around, I would have tried to imitate Berkun (see his ignite video mentioned in prior post) and his wider gestures. From my high school theater daze, I remembered that people see you as mostly tiny on stage and you can get away with more exaggerated arms and motions.
  • I saw killer boots at this conference (after all, it was LA). Next time I'm going for OSSM  footgear and walking around the stage.

Hope  this helps others in the same boat - live it vivid!