Have you got talent? - 3MT contest is on


PhD candidate Mark Roberts delivering his winning 3MT presentation in 2016 on the nutritive value of dog food



3MT 2017 heats start next week

Last year’s win went to the dogs. A beautiful image of a Siberian husky and riveting talk on the nutritive value of – yes – dog food, by Massey University PhD researcher Mark Roberts, won the 2016 3MT finals. Now, organisers are urging postgraduate students to share their research passion in the ultimate ‘elevator pitch’ contest.

3MT, or Three Minute Thesis, is a spectator sport for scholars and their supporters. An “X Factor-for-academics” and popular around the world, it is a quest to find postgraduate researchers best able to mesmerise and inform audiences and judges with a dazzling three-minute presentation on their thesis topic.

There are categories for both Master’s and doctoral students, with the first heats due to start on the Manawatū campus next Tuesday, says Massey organiser and Research Development Coordinator, Ms Marise Murrie. The deadline to enter is tomorrow (July 13).

The ability to describe a research project in three minutes of compelling eloquence can enhance confidence, the participants’ CV and research networks, and they could win sizeable research funds, cash and international travel, says Associate Professor Tracy Riley, Dean of Research at Massey.

The aim of the competition is to communicate the key theme and significance of a thesis topic to a non-specialist audience, using accessible language. The competition format is a strict three-minute presentation with one slide, no props and with the aim of making audience want to know more, not to trivialise or generalise on the topic. Competitors must be enthusiastic and engaging.

First prize for the doctoral category is $5000 for research (travel, conferences, publication costs), with a $2000 research travel grant for the Runner Up; $1000 research travel grant for the People's Choice award and $1000 cash for the winning Master’s thesis. Winners from both categories get the chance to compete nationally and internationally. Judges include a mix of academic staff and external guests.

On August 15, Master’s and PhD finalists will participate in the Massey University 2017 3MT competition final, taking place at the Speirs Centre in Palmerston North, with well-known comedian and television presenter Te Radar as Master of Ceremonies.

This year the competition judges will be AVC Research, Academic and Enterprise Professor Giselle Byrnes; Palmerston North City Deputy Mayor Tangi Utikere; Ministry of Education appointed Massey University Councillor, Mr Ben Vanderkolk; and Professor Emeritus Graeme Fraser.

The Massey University PhD final winner will participate in the 2017 Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition taking place on September 29 in Brisbane, Australia. He or she will receive one-on-one training with Massey University's top public speaking experts. 

Veterinary researcher Mark Roberts beat 10 other New Zealand finalists to win the PhD finals of the 2016 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition with his research on dog protein requirements. 

He took home the $5000 first prize and travelled to Brisbane the following week for the 2016 Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition at the University of Queensland. In the New Zealand finals his presentation impressed the four judges who praised his passionate delivery and clear outline of his research topic on whether dogs, like humans and cats, are consuming too many carbohydrates and not enough energy-giving protein and fat, causing obesity.

Preparing for 3MT

Massey’s 3MT webpages provide background information and guidelines for preparation, with a section on: Developing your narrative for a short presentation. Top tips include:

  • Translate your complex ideas into something much simpler. This is not about dumbing down, but gradually developing complex ideas to take the audience on a journey through your topic. This is a difficult but invaluable skill to master. 
  • Ensure you have timed yourself: presentations are limited to three minutes MAXIMUM.
  • Tell the audience what your current research is about, how you are doing it, what you have discovered, why it is an important contribution to knowledge and why the audience should care.
  • Talk about the application of your research; it helps engage the audience.
  • Answer the question: what is the most interesting thing that you have discovered in your research?
  • Show enthusiasm and be passionate about what you do. You are the expert!
  • Present for an intelligent lay audience who are usually pretty smart, but might not know anything about your field. 
  • Avoid the use of technical terms, jargon and specialist knowledge.
  • Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself so you know what you look like when you are delivering your message.
  • Practice in front of people to get feedback and to find out if you speed up when you are nervous.
  • Remember, presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).

Timetable for heats:

Manawatū: July 20 and 21 (JLT 11.30 – 12.20 for Masters and JLT 12.30 – 1.30 for PhDs)

Auckland: July 26 and 27 (QB6 12.30 – 1.20 for Masters and QB6 1.30 – 2.30 for PhDs)

Wellington: July 28 (ESS 11.30 – 12.20 for Masters and ESS 12.30 – 1.30 for PhDs)

View YouTube video of Mark Robert’s 2016 3MT finals presentation here.

For information on registration, visit webpage here.

Register here, if you are interested in attending the 3MT Final on August 15. Come out and show your support. The event is open to the public and free of charge. unc.

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Dog food research triumphs at 3MT finals
Entering Three Minute Thesis is CV gold
Lifelong skills gained in Three Minute Thesis contest

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