3MT training = being competition-ready +

According to recent 3MT trainee, Vikkitharan Gnanasambandapillai, attending the UNSW Researcher Development 3MT Development Series is essential for preparing to enter the annual 3MT competition, being held on 13 September 2017 and organised by the Graduate Research School.

3MT trainee, Vikkitharan Gnanasambandapillai
Vikkitharan Gnanasambandapillai

“If you’re seriously thinking about entering the 3MT competition and don’t know where to start, attend the 3MT training series,” he advised.

“Don’t think that 10 hours training for a three minute competition is too much. You’ll learn a lot. You’ll learn how 3MT is different from your usual presentations, like annual progress reviews. You’ll present in front of other competitors, tutors and judges, getting valuable hints and feedback.”

Vikkitharan’s research is about customised computer architecture for genome testing and he is from the School of Computer Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering.  The reason he decided to undertake the training and attend the  full series, was because he was inspired as an audience member at the last 3MT competition.

“I attended the 2016 final 3MT competition. I was very excited and decided to participate in this years’ competition. However, I realised 3MT is very different from presentations which I normally do and was curious to know what the 3MT evaluation criteria are, what are the techniques and how to prepare myself for 3MT competition. So, I decided to participate in 3MT training,” he said.

Vikkitharan won the School of Computer Science and Engineering 3MT competition and People’s Choice Award in the Faculty of Engineering 3MT competition. He will be competing in the UNSW 3MT final so watch out for him.

Researcher Development Director, Cecilia Stenstrom, said that undertaking 3MT Development Series of workshops are beneficial to refining your overall presentation and communication skills, whether you enter the competition or not.

“The training helps you focus on the subject matter at hand and verbally deliver your message clearly and concisely, so anyone listening can understand.  It really cuts through the verbiage and crystallises your point,” she said.

“Anyone who wishes to truly develop their career, no matter what it is, can benefit from this intensive training. It provides practical tools that won’t just help you enter the 3MT competition, but can be applied to your future career.”

Patrick Tung with Laura Poole-Warren
2016 winner, Patrick Tung with Professor Laura Poole-Warren, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Training)

To ensure 3MT training is for you, an introductory webinar provides a clear overview of the 3MT competition – including rules, eligibility and judging criteria – plus the overall benefits of the training and what support is available if you decide to enter. This is usually scheduled and promoted before the three-part series begins, but can also be viewed in the university’s online training platform Moodle. Webinar details can be found here.

To begin with, the first three-hour workshop gets you straight into practical mode.  You are taught the essential principles of an effective 3MT presentation to enable you to draft a first script and begin to develop a visual slide based on the essential principles and rules of the competition. You will then get a first practice at delivering your draft script to a small group of peers in an encouraging environment.

The second workshop builds on Part 1, focussing on the verbal and non-verbal (body language and facial expression) communication of your script, all of which impact delivery and audience understanding.  In Part 2 you will receive practical tools to help calm those nerves and plan for competition heats, whilst being coached on what it takes to deliver a great performance. More importantly, you will be filmed presenting your draft 3MT to the group; provided copies for your review; and written feedback from your peers.

Finally in Part 3 it is dress rehearsal time!  This workshop provides a unique opportunity to deliver your 3MT in a competition-style environment, complete with mock judges.  Once again, this will be filmed with feedback provided. 

The 3MT development series is held well before the UNSW Interfaculty 3MT final event in September to give you ample time to prepare for the heats in your schools and faculties and usually commence in April.  Keep a look out for this series in 2018 via GRS newsletter and RDU Bulletin.

According to Cecilia the 3MT Series allows participants to review their performance over time so they can practice refining their performance alone.

“We offer a very concise training program which lets participants continue to develop after the event, so I would recommend everyone who can to get involved.  I am also pleased to say that the rating for each section of our last series, attended by 104 people, was from 95-99%, so most seem to agree it’s worth attending,” she said.

Here is some feedback from those who attended the last series:

"The spacing between workshops gave me time to work on things and forced me to dedicate time to working on my 3MT."

"Getting the chance to practise, try out ideas in front of others and get feedback was really helpful."

"Peer feedback was an excellent way to improve our scripts."

"Providing feedback and guidance in a supportive environment."

"Learning new skills and building my self-confidence."

"Opportunity to be filmed and provide peer feedback."

"Progressive learning and staged/step based preparation was really valuable."

Another participant, Victoria Gernedl, who is developing new therapies for childhood cancer at the Children’s Cancer Institute in the Faculty of Medicine, said she sought training to learn about establishing the most important points in a presentation when writing a script for 3MT.

“It is always important to learn how you can ‘translate’ scientific content to a language which can be understood by everyone,” she said.

"The key things I learned were: How to write the script for 3MT; how to keep calm before a presentation, which included different techniques to reduce stress and nervousness; and how to deliver important messages by creating the right background slide, creating a hook, a pitch and a take home message, using metaphors," she said.

Victoria will not be entering the competition this year, but aims to do so in 2018.

Overall, the 3MT series not only delivers career-long skills, the competition, which is the ultimate goal for some has great prizes.  This year the are:

  • First prize is $3,000 plus entry into the 2017 Asia-Pacific Competition at the University of Queensland as well as the U21 final, a virtual event with judges watching video entries rather than live presentations
  • Runner-up prize is $1,500
  • People's Choice prize is $1,000
  • ASPIRE prize is $500

ASPIRE is a UNSW widening participation program that works with school students to support their educational aspirations.  This year 3MT will have some of the students as VIP guests who will award their prize for the presentation they enjoy most.  Here's a video about the last 3MT competition, its winners and comments from others involved.

If you want to hear more about what others feel about their 3MT experience watch this video. If you have any questions about the 3MT Development Series 2018, contact researcherdevelopment@unsw.edu.au.