Show&Tell Talk Instructions « 2018 Quantified Self Conference

Quantified Self Global Conference 2017
Show&Tell Talk Instructions


All of the Quantified Self talks are delivered by attendees like yourself. We are an enthusiastic group of experimenters, tool makers and learners. Our main method for knowledge dissemination is the Show&Tell talks. Because there is so much information to share, we use the “Ignite” style (i.e., auto-advancing slides) with time for a few questions at the end. We find that this format helps people be more diligent in preparing what they want to say. Still, the format can be a bit challenging, so please read the rest of this message for some logistics and resources.


A typical Ignite talk has a set time and slide limit. The QS-Show&Tell format is a 7-minute, 30-second talk (7:30) with 30 slides that automatically advance at a pace of 15 seconds per slide. There are about 5 minutes afterward for Q&A.

Here is what we really want to know: What did you do; How did you do it; What did you learn?. The most important part is: What you learned. Make sure this takes up at least 90 seconds of your talk. We really want our audience to learn from your personal story of self-tracking, self-experimentation, and self-transformation.


Your talk is limited to 30 slides. However, you do not need to have 30 different slides. You can have one slide that just repeats 30 times even if it’s just your name or pictures of cute kittens. Feel free to be creative and hack this format any way you want. Just remember that we will be auto-advancing your slides every 15 seconds. Although it seems tough at first, it is a great structure, and produces great talks.


I’ve helped hundreds of speakers put together their Show&Tell talks for various QS events. Here are the pieces of advice I most often give to speakers during our practices:

  1. Pay attention to the format: 30 slides total (this includes your intro and outro slide) that auto-advance every 15 seconds.
  2. Watch other Ignite talks. This is probably the most important, and most overlooked thing that every Ignite speaker should do. There are numerous examples of great Ignite talks scattered around the web. We’ve included a few links here but be sure to check out for more examples.
    1. How to give a good Ignite Talk – Scott Berkun
    2. Know Thyself, Know Thy Cycle – Ilyse Magy
    3. Effect of Ketogenic Diet On Heart Rate Variability – Paul LaFontaine
  3. Write it out first. Make a 30-point list and write out exactly what you want to say, or at the very least, a brief outline of what you want to say. This helps you think about what you’re going to talk about, but it also provides a great basis for developing your slides.
  4. Practice your talk. You can practice your talk 8 times in an hour. (That should be plenty of practice!) Seriously, arrive at the meetup without having read your talk to somebody beforehand. Also, remember that your slides will be auto-advancing every 15 seconds. Take this into account when you’re practicing.
  5. GO SLOW! Don’t think you have to speak fast. It is not a race. Edit your talk rather than speed up your delivery. It’s better to say fewer things well, than to talk about many things too quickly. Feel free to add a “take a breath” slide to the middle of your deck.
  6. Establish the “why”: The beginning of the talk should establish why you started tracking.
  7. Focus on your story. A good Show&Tell talk is grounded in lessons learned from personal data collection. Make sure that you’re highlighting what you’ve done with your self-tracking and/or self-experimentation. 
  8. More pictures, less text. The fast pace of the Ignite talks limits the audience’s ability to read large amounts of text and long bulleted lists. Try to use your slides in way that they reinforce what you are speaking about with a picture or a sentence instead of a block of text. If you are showing visualizations of your data, it’s good to have them occupy multiple slide slots so that people have time to digest them. Keep it Minimal: It’s better to explain a few things well than rush through a lot of points. With slides, people have to process whatever is on your slide while you are talking, usually within 15 seconds. Make their job easy. Have the slide show only the most salient point they need to know to follow along. A trick I use is that if there is some anecdote or point that I like gets cut, it’s fairly easy to bring it up during the Q&A.
  9. Don’t use stock photography. This is your personal story. It shouldn’t look like a slick marketing presentation. Keep it simple. Keep it your own.
  10. Make good use of Charts:
    1. Make sure the axes are labeled clearly (remember, people are listening to you as they are looking at the slides, so make their job of understanding the talk as easy as possible).
    2. Let the Chart slides repeat. It’s a lot of information to take in.
    3. Rather than have the Title Text above the Chart be a traditional title, make the Title Text be the takeaway of what the chart showed or taught you.
  11. Keep it grounded: Take the time to explain how you collected the data. For example,  did you record the event on your phone in the moment? Did you wait until the night and record it in a paper journal that you entered into a spreadsheet during the weekend? People should be able to visualize how the data is collected.
  12. Specialist Vocabulary: Be careful about which terms you use. If it’s not a widely known term, you need to explain it (please don’t use specialist vocabulary without explaining it. It makes your talk a lot less understandable and enjoyable), which takes a lot of time in a short talk. Ask yourself, how does the audience knowing this term help them understand the rest of the talk?
  13. Sequencing: Our own stories are so complex. Often, there seems to be a lot that you have to explain so that someone who hasn’t had all of your experiences can understand your project. When establishing any idea or contextual information, think about how it helps people understand some later part of the talk.
  14. Keep the “What I Learned” Personal: When talking about what you learned, use “I” rather than “you” statements. For example, instead of “Tracking steps makes you more mindful about your activity level” it should be “Tracking steps made me more mindful about my activity level.”
  15. Contact Info: Your last slide should be how about people can contact you, follow you on Twitter or learn more about your self-tracking project. We are all about fostering connections and the more ways people can get a hold of you the better.
  16. Be honest: No one expects you to be an expert. Just be an expert on your own experience. People want to hear your story. The more honest and vulnerable you are, the better it will work. Remember you are talking to your peers. You don’t need to be fancy or theatrical. We want to know who you are and what you are working on. Just tell us, and we will love your talk.


We will run the presentation off of our own laptop (Macbook Pro running macOS Sierra). We will accept presentations in either Keynote or PowerPoint. Please use the 16:9 aspect ratio for your slides.

In Powerpoint 2013 and later, the default aspect ratio is 16:9. If you are using an earlier version of Powerpoint, the default is 4:3. Here are instructions on how to change the aspect ratio.

If you are using a non-standard font, please send the font files along with your slides.


One of the trickier parts of the ignite format is knowing when the slide is going to change. That sense comes with practice, but a fellow QS speaker made a tool that may be helpful. It’s a small animated gif that you can put on the bottom of your slides that will countdown to the time of the next slide change. This could be really helpful as you practice. Or if you really need it, you can leave it on the final draft of your slides to help during the actual talk. The gif can be found here.



Can I really say what I need to in 7.5 minutes?

Yes, but first you have to decide what you need to say. Focus on what the main idea is. Then use details that support that main idea. If something is interesting but doesn’t support the main idea, leave it out. It’s hard to do, but it helps people focus on the main idea of your talk.
PRO TIP: If there is a detail that I left out of my talk, I’ve found it easy to shoehorn into an answer during the Q&A period.

How can I be sure my talk is working?

We want to take an active role in helping you give the best talk possible. Therefore, we are requiring that all speakers send in their slides and schedule a practice talk.

What aspect ratio is the projector using?

All slides should be 16:9.

Does my opening slide at the beginning and my contact slide at the end count towards the 30 slide limit?

Yes, it does.

How do I set up my slides to auto-advance in PowerPoint?

Here are some instructions:

I have a question not addressed here.

Other questions can go to Steven Jonas: