Brief and to the Point – ITA Short Talks Lecture Evening

The ITA's October lecture evening offered a collection of short talks.

couple of weeks ago the ITA treated us to a lecture evening format it hadn't tried before – short talks.
Over the past decade or so I attended quite a few open source/free software and Perl conferences where one of the most popular sessions was the lightning talk session. The common format for lightning talks was a session of 30-60 minutes, with 5 minute talks, given in succession with no breaks between them.

During the past few years the idea has spread, with some variations, beyond the open source crowd. Naturally, I was pleased to see that that ITA has decided to adopt the concept as well.

The format chosen by the ITA was 10 talks of 10 minutes each split up to session with a dinner break between the sessions.When people first hear lightning talks, or short talks, the first reaction is usually "what can you possibly say in just 10 minutes." Apparently, quite a bit.

Good short talks are typically focused on one idea, one concept and present it clearly and concisely. The format is a good choice is you have something you want to share, but it's not big enough to fill a 40 minute talk. They're also also a good way for new speakers who might not be comfortable doing the longer talks for the first time. Furthermore, in any given session of short talks there's some variety, so you're bound to find something of interest.

Most of the speakers in the recent ITA event hit the mark. They presented one idea clearly, briefly, with just enough examples.Doron Greenspan discussed issues of Hebrew as a gendered language, Shakhar Pelled gave an amusing talk about procrastination, Mark Levinson discussed an interesting case of song localization, and those were just a few of the interesting talks.A couple of speakers overloaded their presentation a tad too much, and I got the impression that they tried to meet the 10 minute mark by talking faster. Fortunately this was the exception rather than the rule.

There was also some overlap between Doron Greenspan's talk and another talk that discussed issues of gender in Hebrew. That is an organization issue, and not due to the individual speaker.

I mentioned above that most of the short talks sessions I attended before this were part of larger conferences. While I would welcome another stand-alone evening of short talks, once or twice a year, I would also welcome such a session in the annual conference. The ITA is currently accepting proposals for the upcoming conference. Usually talks are 20 or 40 minutes. Specifying that shorter are acceptable could prompt enough people to submit some, especially after the recent successful event, perhaps even enough for a short talk session.

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