How to Win the Three Minute Thesis Competition


Hayley Stainton 3 minute thesis competition

There’s no denying it, fitting three years’ worth of work into three minutes is ridiculously difficult, and that’s without making sure your presentation skills are top notch, you’ve put your research into layman’s terms and what you’re saying is actually interesting. But it can be an enjoyable challenge, giving you the opportunity to both improve your presentation skills and promote your research. After my recent victory at Staffordshire University I thought I’d share my top five tips with you on how to secure your 3MT victory!

  • Practice, practice, practice

You only have three minutes and the chances are you’ll need all three. Therefore careful consideration of wording is required in order to ensure that your presentation is concise and to the point. This is something that most academics find difficult. Ask most PhD students about their research and an hour and far too few breaths later you might wish you hadn’t. We are great at talking about our research, but with so much to discuss this can make it difficult for us to stop! Practice your presentation in front of the mirror, record yourself, show your partner, friends, parents or room-mates. Most importantly however time-yourself!

  • Know how to engage your audience

We all know that you find your research interesting, but how can you enthuse your audience about it too? Presentation style is key here. Use images that are inviting, make sure your tone is welcoming and speak in a way that all of your audience will understand.

  • Keep it simple

You might have spent a year on writing your methodology and a further six months undertaking your data collection, but your audience don’t need to know the exact details of your regression output or your coding technique. This also applies to specific terminology and theories. Chances are your audience are not familiar with these and you don’t have time to explain them all.

  • Learn from your colleagues

There are hundreds if not thousands of three-minute thesis videos on the Internet. Watch some examples, decide which approaches you like and which you don’t like. See which methods might suit you. Think about which presentations had you engaged and which lost your interest. Learn from these.

  • Have fun

Whilst winning the competition might look great on your CV and boost your confidence, it’s not all about winning or losing. Confining your entire PhD thesis into a three-minute speech is a challenge that will stretch you, maybe to your limits. But at the same time it gives you the perfect opportunity to emphasise why your research is so great, to share your dedication and enthusiasm and to show your colleagues what you can do. It doesn’t have to be scary, stand up in front of the crowd and enjoy yourself, you will only be a PhD student once-enjoy!

Have you entered a three-minute thesis competition? I would love to hear about your experiences or watch your video, please comment below!