Guest Blog Post from Mara Götz the ‘People’s Choice’ winner of the 2013 University of Edinburgh 3 Minute Thesis Final
Why enter the 3 Minute Thesis competition? Why add another thing to do to my already endless list of things to do as a PhD student? Haven’t I given enough papers and talks, and am I not busy enough with my research as it is?
That’s what went through my head, when I first heard about the 3 Minute Thesis competition. But I did enter nonetheless. And I am so very glad I did. Let me tell you what it was like…
Agreeing to do it was easy enough. Then I had a look at the rules and regulations. Phew, they really are serious about the three minutes… And only one slide? No movement on the slide? What am I going to show? What am I going to SAY?!
That was when I realised: 3 minutes, one thesis, one room full of people to entertain who are NOT from your field – much, MUCH harder than any conference I had ever been to. Because at a conference, you share a common frame of reference with your audience. You don’t need to go back to the basics. You can talk about what you specialise in. In the 3 Minute Thesis, you also have to outline and explain the basics of your field BEFORE you can talk about your research focus. But what can and what should you explain in just three short minutes? And then, there is still the small matter of presenting your own research…
So I started to think about my research, and about my field. And I also thought about why I am doing this research. And it really changed the way I saw my field, my own research, and my role as a PhD researcher.
Having made it through School and College heats, which were loads of fun (not to forget the wine reception afterwards!) I found myself suddenly in the University final. Even though it was the first time that the 3 Minute Thesis competition was hosted by the University of Edinburgh, everything was running super smoothly – at least from the perspective of us finalists
I expected some very fierce competition that day from the other finalists – the competition got us all hooked, everyone was glowing and giving their absolute best, and it felt great! Standing there, speaking freely, the second counter ticking away, all eyes on you, everyone including the other finalists is just as caught up in the excitement than you are. 180 seconds pure adrenalin… The 3 Minute Thesis talk really was the best prepared and practiced talk I’ve ever given. All the preparation, the concentration, and the practice with the other finalists also made me realise a very important thing: A great talk, a convincing speech, a captivating presentation, has nothing to do with luck or sheer talent. It has very little to do with being a gifted speaker, or with being blessed with an exciting topic. A great talk is simply hard work, nothing more and nothing less. It is practice, and more practice, and then some more practice….
Writing a talk that lasted less than 180 seconds made me see my research, my field, and also my own role in a very different light. It made me question once again what makes my field, and my research, special and important enough for me to put myself through the struggle of a PhD… Not only have I found some truly refreshing new answers, but I have also learned bags of new tricks and skills for presenting and talking to audiences. Last but not least, I have also found a couple of great new friends.
The 3 Minute Thesis competition has also opened the doors for some other exciting events in my life, for example myself and another finalist were invited to give a talk for the Postgraduate Induction Day. This was great fun, and another fantastic opportunity to gain speaking experience.
I feel that the 3 Minute Thesis has helped to put me in touch with a lot of very diverse people from all walks of life, some of them in key positions in Higher Education. The competition has also given me a real boost of confidence; I am no longer hesitant to get touch with people on my own initiative. I also think it has been a very important step on what I hope will be my career path. All in all, success across the board!
Try it, I promise you will be hooked!!!