Virginia Professional Communicators

Lightning Talks Spark Sharing, Ideas

Lightning Talks Spark Sharing, Ideas

on Jan 22, 2018 in Events

By Cynthia Price

The talks were somber, inspirational, clever, funny and fast.

That was the idea behind Lightning Talks, which encouraged VPC members to share on a topic of their choosing with the caveat that they had only eight minutes to share.

Patty Kruszewski shared about the pain of her daughter’s death. Lanie was riding her bicycle home from work when she was struck and killed by a man who was texting while driving. She shared about her grief and healing. She frequently talks about her story and distributes bookmarks and magnetic stickers promoting the website,, which encourages others to “Please put away your phone in memory of Lanie.”

Today one in 68 people have been diagnosed with autism. “They are within our workplaces and our communities,” said Bonnie Atwood, who talked about how to interact with people with autism. She noted that for them every conversation is much like the pressure experienced in a job interview. Asking “why” questions may sound like a judgment. Her advice is to “be specific and concrete in your communications.”

Trying to convey complex information is a challenge Sunni Brown faces each day as a public relations professional. She is responsible for promoting stories from the science and math fields, and she often encounters words and phrases such as nanoparticle networks and amperometric biosensors. She often asks the professors to explain their research in terms her five-year-old son would understand. “That always helps,” she said with a laugh. She also encouraged using Google to check the meaning of words, asking lots of questions and having others read the copy for clarity.

Julie Campbell noted of her talk, “It’s a bit of a confessional self-help talk.” She focused on payment, procrastination and publicity and shared what she did wrong when writing “The Horse in Virginia,” which won the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award for nonfiction. She noted, for example, that she would negotiate to have her expenses covered. “By the time I finished the book, I was earning negative dollars,” she noted. One area where she succeeded was with people. “I had the support of so many people to help me along the way.”

With only eight minutes, the VPC audience was left wanting more from each of the speakers. Conversation continued long after the presentations had ended.