Last June, Chengcheng Kang participated in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition during her first year of the PhD. It felt like beginner’s luck to have been shortlisted, and even luckier still with all that she learned…
When I first saw the advertisement for the 3MT competition, I felt very scared and not sure how anyone could do it, let alone how I could talk about my research in front of a large audience. My dearest friend Bo (whom I really need to thank here!) encouraged me to sign up for it and just give it a try. It took me some time to listen to Bo, but I eventually decided to join the competition – one night before the deadline to apply!
As required, I made a short video about my research and uploaded it to the system. It really wasn’t a complicated task to complete: I found a tripod, attached my phone, adjusted the height, then shot. During my first few takes, I was very nervous and forgot the words (but kept smiling for the camera!). I probably completed a few unsuccessful recordings for about 25 minutes. Suddenly it clicked: I realised that I couldn’t get this done when I was feeling stressed. So, I gave myself a pep-talk: this is my research, I know my research, I just need to tell the story of it. And just like that, my video was done in the next 5 minutes!
A few days later, I got the email informing me that I had been shortlisted. That was the biggest source of happiness for my whole week! Of course, I immediately had to tell Bo… and my mom. They were both very excited for me! A sweet surprise was when Bo told me that she had also been shortlisted, which was great because we were then able to rehearse together.
I really need to say that rehearsing with an audience, whether friends or other 3MT presenters, was really, really important. It helped A LOT! For the first rehearsal, I really didn’t prepare much for my speech: usually the words I want to say come to my mind when I am doing a presentation. I guess I trusted it was going to be the same. However, when I stood on that stage and in that vast room, I couldn’t remember a single thing. My mind went blank. I felt quite sad when I saw that there were well-prepared presenters, with organised thoughts and clear speeches. So, I left the room, found a desk and wrote a script in 20 minutes. I had the chance to stand on the stage again, and while I still forgot a lot of what I had just written, I also started to feel more and more confident. The other participants who had been shortlisted and were at the rehearsal helped me out by saying: “Don’t think of us as an audience. You can tell us your research like telling a story to your friends.” It was what I needed to hear! I seriously relaxed when I got into the mood of pretending that I was talking to my friends. Honestly, one of the many benefits of this experience was actually turning those presenters into wonderful friendships!
In spite of all the rehearsal, on the day of the presentation I accidentally forgot my script when presenting my thesis. 10 seconds of absolute blank-ness. Utterly no idea what was the next thought I wanted to express. So, I smiled and then continued. At that point, I knew that I probably wouldn’t win the competition so that helped me to relax a bit. I then simply aimed to finish my presentation. I continued. However, when I saw the “30-seconds-left” sign, I panicked again. I honestly don’t remember how I walked back to my seat. What I do know is that I am glad I didn’t stop: I persevered and finished this challenge!
My friend Bo (Bozhena Kelestyn), through her hard work and confidence, became Warwick’s 2017 3MT Runner Up! Here’s Bo’s reflection about the 3MT experience:
“The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition was an amazing experience! Condensing four years of work into 3 minutes, roughly 400 words, is by far one of the toughest challenges for researchers, who naturally love talking about their research. Timing, pace, ‘theatre’ of your presentation all had to be spot on. It was nothing like presenting at a conference or a seminar. I was completely out of my comfort zone.
I am so immensely pleased to have finished as the Warwick’s 2017 3MT Runner-Up, representing the Business School. The training as part of the experience was superb. My presentation skills, confidence, and motivation have all skyrocketed. I made so many new friends and have been overwhelmed with the breadth and quality of research in other departments, which we do not always get exposure to. The challenge was also a great opportunity to showcase how valuable, interesting and, more importantly, impactful Business research can be. “
So, my advice for you, is the same advice I have for me: keep trying, keep learning, keep growing. There’s a valuable lesson in any challenge you set for yourself. I know I will definitely sign up for the next 3MT competition which in Warwick is scheduled for 20 June 2018, so I have to send my submission by 2 May 2018. Will you sign up for your own 3MT?
Have you signed up for a 3MT competition on your campus? Or have you already done this in the past? What were or what are your hesitations? We want to know! Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Chengcheng Kang is a PhD candidate from Beijing, China in Group of Information System Management at the Warwick Business School. You may contact her on Twitter at @cckkcc29