This page provides some points to consider when preparing your 3MT presentation. If you are planning compete at 3MT, it is a good idea to start working on your talk as soon as possible to give yourself the best chance of delivering a winning presentation.

Have you watched any previous presentations?

A great way to start planning your presentation is to watch some of the presentations from previous years. The University of Queensland has an excellent showcase of winning presentations(opens in a new window) from around the world.

Think about what qualities the best presentations share and how you might be able to apply similar techniques and ideas to your presentation.

Pay particular attention to:

  • The presenter's style (professional or casual, serious or fun, etc.)
  • The presenter's pace (how much do they say in three minutes?)
  • The slide (what does it add to the talk?)

Designing your slide

You are only allowed a single static slide to support your talk, so you need it to make an impact.

When designing your slide, you should remember to:

  • Create a slide that enhances your talk
  • Be clear and concise
  • Use a simple design that doesn't detract from what you are saying
  • Replace text and graphs with images
  • Use high quality graphics and photography
  • Create a slide that is fresh, modern and engaging
  • Making an emotional connection can work very well
  • Humour can work but be careful not to make it distracting
  • Avoid clich├ęs

Keep in mind that your slide is not like your own child (just because it's yours it's beautiful). You have to work on it to make it fabulous and be prepared to take constructive criticism on board.

Some of the common mistakes you should avoid include:

  • Overcrowding the slide
  • Distracting or hard to read colours
  • Blocks of text
  • Complex graphs or data
  • Specialist formula or jargon
  • Trying to replicate your whole talk in the slide

Writing your talk

The most important point to consider when writing your talk is how you are going to fit what you want to say into three minutes. You want it to be interesting and understandable for a general audience, whilst highlighting the importance of your research project.

Some other factors to think about include:

  • You can try using your abstract as a guide
  • You don't need to have final results - many competitors may be in their first year
  • Put your main research point first - get straight to the point of your research
  • Remember that your audience may know nothing about your discipline or topic
  • Cut out anything meaningless or unnecessary
  • Don't use tricky jargon, formulas or equations
  • Use simple metaphors to describe complex ideas or technical concepts.
  • Limit your quotations

The length of your talk in number of words will depend on your presentation style. In most cases, it will be around 200-250 written words. Remember that your talk should be delivered at a comfortable speaking rate and you should avoid talking faster to fit more information into your presentation.

Rehearsing your presentation

The more your practice your presentation, the more comfortable you will become at delivering it in front of an audience.

Some things you can do when rehearsing your presentation include:

  • Start by just reading it out loud.
  • Learn your talk ASAP - don't use notes or cards in your presentation.
  • Try out different versions of the same talk.
  • Practice in front of anyone who will listen (family, friends, colleagues, your pets, the mirror, etc.)
  • Try video recording your practice sessions and look for areas to improve.
  • Are you doing anything distracting with your hands? Do you pace around or look frozen with fear?

Remember that the three minute time limit is strictly enforced and if you go over at all you will be disqualified.

Delivering your presentation

For many people, actually presenting their 3MT talk is the hardest part. Fortunately, the 3MT audiences are enthusiastic and the atmosphere is friendly, so it makes for a good opportunity to practice your presentation skills for conferences and other events in the future.

Some things to think about when practicing your 3MT presentation include:

  • Where are you going to stand? Avoid blocking your slide and feel free to move around the stage.
  • How is your stance and posture? Do you look and feel confident?
  • Try vocal and physical warm-ups
  • Use action verbs and talk with conviction.
  • Be enthusiastic about your research!

What to wear

This can be a tricky decision and you really need to think about the image you want to convey to the audience.

  • Most competitors choose to dress 'smart casual'.
  • You don't have to dress formally (i.e. a suit), but you are welcome to if you prefer.
  • Think about the audience and how you would dress for a comparable event.
  • Be kind to yourself and avoid the distraction of feeling self-conscious or uncomfortable.

Is this really a good idea?

Some people start to worry that 3MT will be too time consuming or risks exposing that they are not confident talking about their research. However, it is important to remember that activities such as 3MT are an important part of becoming a well-rounded researcher. Communication skills of research degree graduates are highly prized and are a critical element of your skills development.

Many competitors say that the exercise of preparing and presenting at 3MT helps to crystalise their thoughts and benefited their overall studies. It also offers the opportunity to win lucrative prizes that can be put towards supporting your research project.

Finally, Professor Alan Dench, Dean of the UWA Graduate School, told the 2011 Trans-Tasman audience that it is the responsibility of all publicly funded researchers to explain their work. Higher degree research candidates are expected to contribute to their field of study and should be expert communicators at all levels.

3MT 2016 Finalists