Mini Presentations as a First Step Towards Conference Speaking

The path to speaking at conferences can come with some pretty large leaps. When you start out you often have to go from never having spoken before to filling a full session, which tend to clock at 60 minutes at most events, give or take. For people with a facilitation or teaching background, that’s not too uncomfortable place to find yourself. But if the most you’ve ever spoken in front of a group before is announcing your name when joining a conference call, that 60 minutes might feel completely alien to you. Sure, some might feel they can give that leap a try, but what about people who could use some intermediate steps in between?

When you’re a conference organizer trying to figure out ways to bring in even more new speakers, these are the kind of questions that gnaw at you at inopportune times (and yes, conference organizers obsess about nerdy questions. It kind of comes with the territory, especially in L&D). The jump from 0 to 60 is a real barrier to people, and a barrier that’s going to delay some of them from putting themselves forward as speakers until they feel more confident, if not fully stop them from trying in the first place. And we as a community lose out on amazing knowledge and voices because of that.

We’ve been looking at a number of ways everyone at the eLearning Guild can support new speakers, and one of the more interesting solutions that’s come out of this work started with a simple idea: what if we made shorter presentation opportunities… much shorter? That thought brought us to Mini Presentations: a series of three minute presentations.

Everything about Mini Presentations is meant to make the leap a new speaker needs to take substantially smaller.

  • Length: Three minutes is relatively easy to plan out.
  • Theme: We’ve also looked at how the theme for the talk can make speaking simpler. This year we’re asking each speaker to share a single app, resource, or tool they find helpful in the work they do. Talking for three minutes is reasonably easy to do, but talking for three minutes about something you’re passionate about is even easier.
  • Audience Engagement: There’s a nice bonus with this talk theme – people love discovering new tools and resources that can make their work easier, which makes it easier for Mini Presentation speakers to keep their audience engaged as well.
  • Who Can Apply: Because these speaking slots are only open to people who haven’t spoken at eLearning Guild conferences before, this levels the playing field a bit by ensuring those who propose are only up against others with a similar level of speaking experience.
  • Support: The process of submitting and getting a session selected provides a ton of support, from a quick proposal form that also helps structure the talk, preparation resources shared with accepted speakers, and a direct line to conference organizers for advice.

Mini Presentations started out as an experiment at Learning Solutions 2018 with the hope that there might be some interest, and it managed to become even more than we expected. We received a surprising number of proposals (enough to make us add a second Mini Presentations session so we could include more people), the audiences at both sessions loved the content, and afterwards many of the speakers mentioned how useful the experience had been for getting more comfortable with giving conference talks. And yeah, when the session proposals came in for Learning Solutions 2019 you had better believe I was elated when I saw some of the speakers from the 2018 Mini Presentations had put themselves forward to take on full length sessions.

If you’ve never spoken at an eLearning Guild event before, Mini Presentations are a great way to try out speaking at a conference and see if you like it. And if you have spoken at a Guild conference before, they’re a great way to encourage a co-worker or friend who hasn’t to take a small leap and share their their experiences with a bigger audience.


The call for proposals for Mini Presentations at Learning Solutions and Realities360 2020 is open from now until Monday, March 2nd. You can find the proposal form here and it only takes a few minutes to fill out.

Have any questions about participating? Just email


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