Ryan and I went to the London Python Meetup last week. In addition to a talk by the creator of Pinax, there were also a series of lightning talks. I’ve never been to an event where they did this before, and I find the format to be really wonderful. Basically, each person is given a short, set amount of time (usually five minutes) in which to give their talk.
The effect of this is that the person has to really distill down what they are going to talk about, which can give it a lot of focus. Also, the listener doesn’t have the same expectations they might have from a longer presentation (at least I didn’t), which (presumably) takes off some of the pressure from the presenter. Finally, you get to see a lot of different things with no danger of becoming bored, because even if you weren’t interested in something, a new thing is just a few minutes away. Shiny!