A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in the University of Kentucky’s 3 Minute Thesis (3 MT) competition. The 3 MT originated out of the University of Queensland, and has become an international event. The idea behind the 3 MT is to help scientists to effectively communicate their research with the broader community, to make it relevant, comprehensible, and exciting, all within 3 minutes (similar to an elevator speech). However, the 3 MT uses precisely 1 slide and is really a talk to a large audience, rather than directed towards a singular person. Even though the end result is only 3 minutes in length, preparing for the 3 MT took a lot of work! A fellow student once commented that for every added 5 minutes of talk time, the work to prepare the talk decreases. Or in other words, the length of the talk is inversely proportional to the time it takes to prepare the talk, and I think there is quite a bit of truth in that statement.
The first thing I had to do was to identify the main idea, or story, of my entire thesis work. Which, when you work on multiple projects, for many years, is not as easy as it sounds. Next I had to
attend several workshops about the event, and to get feedback about my preliminary ideas. Then I had to come up with a hook, or an exciting element to my thesis work. Then I had to create a slide that conveyed the sentiment and context of both the hook and the results in a single image. This image had to also be aesthetically pleasing, and easily viewed from the back of a large auditorium in less than 3 minutes. And lastly, I had to prepare the talk into a cohesive story, edit it multiple times to be direct, clear, concise, engaging, and accurate. And then edit it some more so that it fit within the 3 minute time frame. Only then could I actually begin practicing the talk, and mostly memorizing it because in a 3 minute setting, every single word counts. There can’t be any repeats, any backtracks, any hesitations. However challenging this was, it was equally beneficial to help myself identify the important aspects of my own research, and to improve my communication of this to the general public.
I first presented the 3 MT in the preliminary rounds for the health science departments at the University of Kentucky. This included the College of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy, and several other departments and colleges. Even though I froze at first (I literally blanked in the middle of my presentation and could not form a single word for about 15 seconds), I made it through the preliminary round and on to the finals.
The finals contained the top 3 winners from all of the preliminary rounds throughout University, competing against each other. There were many good presentations, and I learned about a lot of cool research happening at the University of Kentucky, not just in the sciences, but also in the humanities. Even though I didn’t win in the finals, I still had a really good time, and the little gift for all the presenters was a nice touch (the refreshments afterward were almost reward enough!). I feel like I presented the best that I could, and I was able to walk away from the experience with a new tool to use in my future presentations!
If you’re interested in watching the 3MT presentations (including mine!), you can do so at this link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG9l-HdBhGg&t=0s&list=PL0vC9-Q8LFczHjnb7L58Boxk69ceN1YAU&index=3