Congratulations on having the smarts, fortitude, and/or lack of foresight to join the growing ranks of Nerd Nite speakers! You too shall soon know the sweet taste of free booze and the adoration of a nerdy crowd. But before that happens, there is a bunch of stuff you should know. Therefore, we present to you, this: the Nerd Nite Pittsburgh Speaker FAQ.


Ok, yeah there’s a lot here.  If you don’t want to read it all here’s a brief list of the most important things.  If you’re just looking to be a speaker: send us a description and if we like it we’ll ask for a video.  If you’ve already been selected to be a speaker:  Teach something, but have fun and don’t be too serious, Nerd Nite Pittsburgh is all about the lecture/comedy show vibe.  Practice and shoot for 15 minutes, we will cut you off at 20.  Send us your slides ahead of time, we will be using our laptop to avoid technical issues.

What is Nerd Nite?
Nerd Nite is a monthly lecture event that strives for an inebriated, salacious, yet deeply academic vibe. It’s often about science or technology, but by no means is it limited to such topics. And it’s definitely entertaining. Our unofficial tag line is “It’s like the Discovery Channel – with beer!” There are Nerd Nites around the world, Pittsburgh is just one of them. Take a gander at for more info.

What isn’t Nerd Nite?

There are lots of nerdy lecture events in the Pittsburgh area. They are fantastic, and we are big fans. But these other events tend to be family-friendly, sober, and very accessible to a general audience. Nothing wrong with that, but we’re different. A good Nerd Nite presentation should violate at least one of those, preferably more.  You are also totally welcome to pitch your business, charity, school, or whatever else you may be doing, but Nerd Nite is NOT a place to do a presentation entirely about it.  If you want to pitch something it should be 14 minutes of teaching the subject and 1 minute about your thing.

Nerd Nite is also not a paid gig.  Our organizers and speakers are all volunteers with revenue from the events going to various non-profits associated with the speakers or general nerdery after covering our costs.

What is the Nerd Nite format?
Nerd Nite begins with one of the co-bosses warming up the crowd. Then we have three presentations, each separated by a 10-20 minute interlude. Nerd Nite Pittsburgh will also begin or end with some kind of networking game to help people mingle.

What do I get to do as a presenter?

Pretty much anything. From PowerPoint to rap, we’ve seen it. We give you a stage, an audience, some booze, and any audio/visual support you need. You provide the nerdy awesomeness. The parameters are:

* up to ~20 minutes of presentation time, but aim for 15.

* 5 minutes of Q&A

Ok, I’m interested.  What are the first steps?

For us in Pittsburgh the first step is to reach out to the two co-bosses listed below.  Let us know you are interested in being a speaker along with a talk subject and a brief summary of who you are.  If it sounds like a good fit we will ask for a one minute video preview.  This video can be the first minute of your talk or just a one minute ramble about your subject.  We’ll be looking for passion and humor primarily so include a joke or two and show off your personality.  If everything looks good at that point we’ll let you know and figure out when we can have you on!

Who are these Nerd Nite co-bosses? 

In Pittsburgh, the co-bosses are Rorry Brenner, Ralph Crewe, and Karen Hoang. Our contact info is:, , and .  You can also reach us both at

Where and when is Nerd Nite?

Nerd Nite is held at SpiritPgh, 242 51st street in Lawrenceville.  Shows on Thursdays approximately monthly, Doors open at 6:15, Speed Friending runs till 7:30, show starts at 7:45. Typically done by 10pm.

What advice do you have for presenters?

Have fun. Seriously. Get tipsy. It’s on us.

Be funny and entertaining. While this is an educational event, it’s also about entertainment. Steer clear of show-and-tell. Be creative. Don’t take your subject or yourself too seriously.

We are huge fans of Radiolab for making complex topics accessible without dumbing them down – see for inspiration. Drunk History would make a fine Nerd Nite, though we’d prefer not to have any vomiting. And not least, please watch videos of those who have gone before you! Many more on our on youtube channel here.  Feel stumped? Talk to the co-bosses, we’re here for you.

If you’re a grad student (at any university, not just CMU) and like communicating your nerdy interests to the public, and want to improve your skills, consider attending the CMU graduate student group Public Communications for Researchers. Meeting regularly during the academic year, this group teaches and practices real-time communication and discuss strategies and pitfalls. Visit their site or contact jwhitman at for more information.

Any restrictions as a presenter?

Definitely don’t have to keep it PG unless you want to.  Aim for PG-13 with some flexibility, as opposed to R. Dropping more than 1 F-bomb is cool, but avoid other R rated things like powerpoint images with graphic sex/violece or R rated comedy topics that are edgy with political correctness standards.  We generally don’t want a speaker to offend or upset a reasonable adult, but if someone in our audience is offended by a PG-13 dick joke they shouldn’t really be in our audience.

What do I, the presenter, need to do besides present?

Send us a brief and funny:

* Topic title

* Teaser Summary

* Bio

The topic title, teaser summary, and bio will go into our PR materials and appear on event websites, Facebook, newspapers, etc. We ideally need these by the previous Nerd Nite event.

Send us a copy of your presentation twice!  First should be a rough draft at least a week ahead of time so we can test the format you are using on our laptop and make sure there won’t be any issues.  If you are going to have video or sound be sure to include it in this draft.  Then don’t forget to send the final copy the day of.

You can give us a guest list of up to 10 people.  They all get in free!  Also, your cellphone number. Also, also, let us know if you have any issues with us using photos or video of your presentation in our promotions. If you are talking about your work, make sure you aren’t violating your NDA!  We will also be assuming it’s ok to post your email address / website for people to reach out to you after the show unless you tell us otherwise.

Lastly, promote, promote, promote! We’ll do our part, but any evangelism you can do is appreciated.

Oh, @#&$%, I’m going on stage TODAY, what should I know?

You should get there at 6 if you just want to quickly make sure everything looks as expected, 5:30 if you really want to triple check it all thoroughly.

Upon your arrival, seek out one of the co-bosses and we’ll hook you up with water and drink tickets, walk the stage, show you how to use the laptop remote, laser pointer, etc.

During your presentation, we will try to have a timer to let you know how long you’ve been on stage.  Be sure to practice, we will cut you off at 20 minutes.

You can call one of the co-bosses If, heaven forbid, there is an emergency and you can’t make it, let us know ASAP and we’ll scramble to get a replacement speaker.

Anything else?

We are here to help! Proofreading, joke testing, image hunting, whatever. The co-bosses are here to help you deliver an awesome show so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Additional resources!

Here is another sheet with info on sharing science with the public!

It looks like this page covers the fundamentals, and would be a good place to start:
Then for presentations this page has a section:
Here is an article (which was linked to by the AAAS site above) on how to give a great presentation:
Stanford has a science communication resources site too.
For the Q+A session, gracefully handling the nearly nonsensical questions that come up is an acquired skill. This blog has some advice:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution also has a collection of additional links and resources:
A lot of the above are listed from the CMU graduate student group Public Communications for Researchers group’s site:
They hold weekly events during the Fall and Spring semesters on CMU campus, and grad students and university researchers from any school are welcome!