Preparation


There are a range of great resources to consider when preparing your 3MT presentation. It's a good idea to start working on your talk early to give yourself the best chance of delivering a winning presentation at your School or Institute round.

Where can I check out previous presentations for inspiration?

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.

You can also watch some of the presentations(opens in a new window) from our own Western Sydney University 3MT Finals.

Start to think about what qualities the best presentations share and how you might be able to apply similar techniques and ideas to your presentation. Also think about what you don't think works well and how you can avoid making those mistakes.

You should pay particular attention to:

  • Presentation style - professional or casual, serious or fun, etc.
  • Presentation pace - how much does the presenter say in three minutes?
  • Slide design - how does it compliment the talk?

How do I design a great 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.
  • Avoid clich├ęs.

Making an emotional connection between yourself and the slide or the audience and the slide can work very well if it is a natural connection. Humour can also work, but you should be careful to make sure it doesn't distract from your message.

You should be prepared to take constructive criticism about your slide. You have to work on it to make it work and revise it to support your talk.

Some of the common mistakes you should avoid include:
  • Overcrowding the slide with too much information;
  • Using distracting, hard to read or non-contrasting colours;
  • Using blocks of text that the audience has to read;
  • Using complex graphs or data; and
  • Using specialist formulas or jargon.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to replicate your entire talk on your slide. Remember, it's supposed to be a backdrop to support what you are talking about, but it doesn't need to convey any detailed information. Some of the most successful talks use a single photograph without any text or other content.

How do I write a successful talk?

The first thing you need to work out is what message do you want to leave your audience thinking about? What is the point of your research and why should the audience care about your work? You want it to be interesting, insightful, understandable to a general audience and make an impact that highlights the importance of your research project.

Some other factors to think about include:
  • You don't need to know your final results - many competitors may be in the early stages of their research and still collecting data.
  • You can be aspirational in your talk - what is it that you want to achieve?
  • Get straight to the point - it's okay to lead with your most important or most interesting points first, and then explain how you got there or plan to get there.
  • Remember that your audience might not know anything about your discipline or topic - your job is to help them to understand a complex topic in a short amount of time.
  • Cut out anything that is meaningless or unnecessary from the point of view of the audience.
  • Don't use tricky jargon, formulas or equations - if you need to explain something complicated you should try to use a metaphor or a plain language interpretation.
  • Make it conversational - this is not a conference paper or a presentation to experts in your field.

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. Your talk should be delivered at a comfortable speaking rate and you should avoid talking faster to fit more information into your presentation.

How do I rehearse my presentation?

The more you practice your presentation, the more comfortable you will become at delivering it in front of an audience. You can start by rehearsing on your own, and then in front of a friend or colleague, and then to a small group. You will begin to build your confidence and the later versions of your talk will get better and better.

To rehearse your presentation, you can try techniques including:

  • Read your talk out loud - don't try to present it, just read it at a comforable speaking voice.
  • Start memorising the talk in small sections that you can then put together.
  • Try out different versions of the same talk - what happens if you move your closing statements to the beginning?
  • Practice in front of anyone who will listen (family, friends, colleagues, your pets, the mirror, etc.).
  • Video record your practice sessions and look for areas to improve (try setting up a Zoom meeting with yourself).

The three (3) minute time limit is strictly enforced and if you go over, you will be disqualified. A good tip is to have a strong closing statement that you can jump to at any time to make sure you finish within the time limit.

How do I confidently deliver my presentation?

For many people, actually presenting their 3MT talk is the hardest part of the entire process. Fortunately, 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 preparing to deliver your 3MT presentation include:

  • How are you going to look? Wear something that helps you feel comfortable and confident.
  • Where are you going to stand? Do you want move around the stage? Do you use your hands to talk?
  • How is your stance and posture? Do you look and feel confident?
  • Do you want to try some vocal and physical warm-ups?
  • Talk with conviction - this is your research and you are an emerging expert in this field.
  • Be enthusiastic about your research!

What should I wear at 3MT?

This is a funny question but it can cause a bit of anxiety at any type of public speaking event. The answer is easy - dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. You are not being judged on your appearance, so you don't want the way you look to distract from your message.

Some points to think about include:

  • You can't wear a costume or use any props.
  • Most competitors choose a 'smart casual' approach, but that is open to your interpretation.
  • You don't need to dress formally (e.g. wear a suit), but you can if that makes you feel confident.
  • Think about your audience and how you would feel if you were in the audience.
  • Be kind to yourself and avoid doing anything that will make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable.

Is participating in 3MT really a good idea?

Occasionally, some people start to worry that competing in 3MT will be too time consuming or risks exposing that they are not confident talking about their research. However, activities such as 3MT are a great way to develop your communication and knowledge translation skills and a are a critical step towards becoming a competent and well-rounded researcher.

Participating in 3MT can help you to crystalise your thoughts and the exercise can benefit your overall studies. You can also win lucrative prizes that you can put towards supporting your research project and it can give your research exposure across the University and beyond.

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