Doctoral School

Preparing your 3MT presentation


NOTE: Please familiarise yourself with the 3MT rules and judging criteria before starting your preparation


Preparing your 3MT presentation

Even the world’s best public speakers prepare before important presentations. To assist you with your preparations, please find a few suggestions below that will help you in writing your presentation, creating your slide and while practising your verbal presentation.

Writing your 3MT

1. Write for your audience

One of the judging criteria looks for evidence that you can explain your research to a non-specialist audience. To do this you may like to:

  • avoid jargon and academic language;
  • explain concepts and people important to your research - you may know all about Professor Smith’s theories but your audience may not;
  • imagine that you are explaining your research to a close friend or fellow student from another field; and
  • do not dumb down or devalue your research, what you are doing is exciting and you should convey enthusiasm for your subject.

2. Have a clear outcome in mind

Know what you want your audience to take away from your presentation. Ideally, you would like the audience to leave with an understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

3. Tell a story

You may like to present your 3MT like a story, with a beginning, middle and an end. It’s not easy to condense your research into three minutes, so you may find it easier to break your presentation down into smaller sections. Try writing an opener to catch their attention, then highlight your different points, and finally have a summary to restate the importance of your work.

4. What not to do

  • Do not write your presentation like an academic paper. Try to use shorter words, shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.
  • You can use humour, however be careful not to dumb down your presentation.

5. Revise

You may like to proof your 3MT presentation by reading it aloud, firstly to yourself and then to an audience of friends and family. This allows you to not only check your grammar and writing style, but it will allow you to receive critical feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience if your presentation clearly highlights what your research is and why it is important.

Creating your 3MT slide

Before you start work on your slide, you should take the following rules into account:

  • a single static PowerPoint slide is permitted;
  • no slide transitions, animations or 'movement' of any description are permitted;
  • your slide is to be presented from the beginning of your oration; and
  • no additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.

Practising your 3MT presentation

1. Practice, practice, practice

Feeling nervous before you present is natural, and sometimes a little nervousness can even be beneficial to your overall speech. Nonetheless, it is important to practice so you can present with confidence and clarity.

2. Vocal range

  • Speak clearly and use variety in your voice (fast/slow, loud/soft).
  • Do not rush - find your rhythm.
  • Remember to pause at key points as it gives the audience time to think about what you are saying.

3. Body language

  • Stand straight and confidently.
  • Hold your head up and make eye contact.
  • Never turn your back to the audience.
  • Practise how you will use your hands and move around the stage. It is okay to move around energetically if that is your personality, however it is also appropriate for a presentation to be delivered from a single spot on stage.
  • Do not make the common mistakes of rolling back and forth on your heels, pacing for no reason or playing with your hair as these habits are distracting for the audience.

4. Record yourself

Record and listen to your presentation to hear where you pause, speak too quickly or get it just right. Then work on your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.

5. Look to the stars!

Watch your role models such as academics, politicians and journalists, and break down their strengths and weaknesses. Analyse how they engage with their audience.

Visit the 3MT website or search YouTube to view presentations by previous 3MT finalists.

6. Dress

  • While there is no dress code, if you are unsure of how to dress you may like to dress for a job interview or an important meeting.
  • Do not wear a costume of any kind as this is against the rules (as are any props).

Further resources

There are many resources available online for further help. Useful ones might include:

Is it worth doing the three minute thesis? - By Mary Woessner, Victoria University

How to win the 3 minute thesis - By Dr Inger Mewburn (aka @thesiswhisperer)

Making the most of your 3 minutes - Simon Clews, University of Melbourne

Talk nerdy to me - Melissa Marshall's TED talk


These guidance pages are part of the University of Queensland's official 3MT competitor resources

Doctoral School