Tag Archives: lightning talks

The 2021 CIEP conference: The lightning talks

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 12 to 14 September. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Ben Dare reviewed the lightning talks.

Lightning talks are unique at the CIEP conference – hosted by Robin Black with his usual honest and unexpected insights, the odd flash of self-revelation, and the maintainer of the consistently affirming atmosphere. As quick as each talk is (five minutes – do you fancy giving it a go next year?), I couldn’t possibly fit every pearl into this article. But I’ll try to give you a flavour:

Ema Naito: The most powerful people in the world

Ema works with many Englishes. But despite growing up speaking English, being Japanese means Ema is still spoken to as if English is a foreign language to her. With some awesomely honest thoughts on language and identity – hers and others’ – Ema’s talk certainly made me think. Growing in awareness of language and identity – both our own and other people’s – makes us better editors, Ema says. Editors are powerful. How will you use that power?

Joely Taylor: Bothersome backsides and other photo failures: a brief intro into editing photography

Key takeaways:

  • Avoid the dreaded rear-view
  • Look for fine details: embarrassing, offensive, not safe, illegal, visible personal details, etc
  • Check the caption!
  • Are there issues around copyright, printability, suitability, quality?

Wow. What a lot to think about. A superb reminder not to glance over photos while editing and think, ‘Well there’s no text there to worry about, I’ll move on!’

Sam Kelly: How proofreading helped me commentate on football

A proofreader never knows what they’ll get asked to do! So should you be asked to commentate on your next local derby:

  • Do your homework (read a guide)
  • Keep it clear (don’t give two characters/players the same name)
  • Focus (even when boring)
  • Watch those changes (midfielder substituted for a winger = moving text from one PDF page to another).

Okay, so football’s not my thing, but I’ll keep this in mind for whatever public speaking I’m asked to do!

Alison Shakspeare: Sussing out self-publishers

To work smoothly with a self-publishing client, ask yourself: What’s the author looking for? And remember these rules:

  • Editing/proofreading is always needed
  • Something is always missing
  • It’s always longer and more expensive than they thought
  • Clarity = happy authors.

And with some key questions to ask, Alison shows me it’s good to keep the whole of the publishing process in mind with self-publishing authors. But it sounds like it could be fun!

John Ingamells: Learning Korean

A lightning tour of language – and recent history: did you know that John worked for the British diplomatic service? No? Me neither. The presentation shows how different Korean script is from the English alphabet. The Korean alphabet dates back to 1446 (the language is of course much older). It has fourteen consonants, ten vowels and one bank holiday. But you might find yourself counting in Korean or Chinese, and it’s good to know your audience before you choose your sentence ending. Phew!

Michelle Ward: Bringing history to life

I must admit I didn’t realise the breadth of the re-enactment life. You could meet famous people (Bernard Cornwell and Sean Bean, and Prince Charles). You might make your own clothes, or sew up a bayonet hole at least. You will learn how to:

  • Shoot a rifle
  • Dress practically
  • Cook over a fire
  • Dress wounds
  • Take an enemy position.

Not forgetting the dances and parades. If banquets get mentioned, I might just be in.

Ben Dare copyedits/proofreads for projects on sustainable food systems and sustainable living (and almost anything else when asked nicely). His greatest desire is to find a bit more spare time for gardening, but he spends most of his non-work time with family, triathlon training or coastguarding (and, of course, ironing).


About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Tips for fearless lightning talkers

By popular demand, lightning talks are making a comeback to conference in September. At a lightning-talk session each person speaks for five minutes, and five minutes only – there will be a timer! The talks tend to present surprisingly personal revelations and excellent advice, along with a few hilarious and blush-inducing ‘confessions’. They are received with warmth and appreciation, and a lot of laughter. What’s not to like?

In our next blog post we will be looking at how it feels to be a lightning talker and what it’s like to be in the audience [spoiler: it’s great fun]. But first, Susan Milligan offers her insight and some tips for fearless lightning talkers.

Lightning talks are snappy five-minute presentations meant to enlighten and entertain

Lightning talks are snappy five-minute presentations meant to enlighten and entertain

Why be a lightning talker?

So you’re thinking about answering the call to give a lightning talk at conference. What an excellent idea – you will make a contribution, share your knowledge or one of your passions, and rise to a challenge – and you only have to keep your audience’s attention for five minutes.

Such was my thinking when I agreed to give a lightning talk at a recent conference. And so it came about that I found myself watching with detached interest a pair of shaking hands – apparently joined to my arms and holding my postcard notes but otherwise curiously remote from my person.

I not only survived the experience – I actually quite enjoyed it. Trying out new and scary things is good for your confidence. Getting your message across within a strictly limited format is a very interesting exercise and teaches you more about concise and effective language than any number of workshops.

So here are my five tips for fearless lightning talkers:

  • Write out in advance what you are going to say. How many words do you think you can speak in five minutes? A lot less than you can read. I was surprised to find that around 850 words was my limit, unless I wanted to do an impression of an express train. Even if you are not going to read out your talk – and you’re really not – this will give you a sobering insight into how much you’re going to have to leave out.
  • Practise your talk until you are familiar with it, and time yourself so that you know you can do it in five minutes. Do this before you leave home. Don’t assume you will find time to do it in your room after you arrive – time at conferences has a habit of vanishing faster than the ice in a warm G&T.
  • Supply yourself with notes in a format that will keep you discreetly on track. I used postcards onto which I had glued the paragraphs of my talk, and I used colours for cues to change slide. Postcards are good as they don’t flap about like a sheet of paper (see trembling hands above). Don’t just rely on your memory, which on the day may leave you in the lurch and go off to a different session, and don’t rely on your slides to prompt you as this will give your brain an unnecessary extra task.
  • Speaking of slides, get in as many pictures as you can. Audiences react more to an image than to words on a screen. You can be inventive and not necessarily too literal.
  • Stand up straight, take a deep breath, look your audience in the eye and smile warmly at them. You’ve already got them on your side and you haven’t opened your mouth yet. (Except to smile.) Keep looking at them and smiling as you give your talk. You will give the impression that you are enjoying it and this will suggest itself to the audience as the natural thing for them to do too.

What, is that it over already? That really wasn’t too difficult. Now you can sit back and enjoy the rest of the talks. And the feeling that you really have achieved something today.

Susan MilliganSusan Milligan joined the SfEP in 2000. She works mainly for educational and academic publishers, academic institutions and administrative bodies. She enjoys involvement in the SfEP Glasgow group, which she helped to start up, and is a mentor in proofreading for the SfEP.

Has Susan inspired you?

If you’re interested in doing a talk, please email your proposed title and a one-line summary to editor@lucyridout.co.uk by 22 June.