For my PESS blog this month, I thought it was a timely idea to recount my experience of preparing for and doing Thesis in Three or the Elevator Pitch presentation. I was awarded first place for the Health Research Institutes’ Elevator Pitch competition back in 2019.
Doing the Thesis in Three can be an intimidating experience. I hope my tips can help break down this fear and help students prepare for the presentations so that they can enjoy speaking about their own work and their time on stage.
Here are my top tips for doing thesis in three, learning from my own experience.
Tips for Script & Slide Content
1. Do have a script! Thesis in 3 is not something to wing on the spot.
2. Less is more. For your script you need to have it timed to perfection. The average person can speak between 100 and 200 words per minute and that is the amount of time you have per slide. Don’t add more words than you can speak comfortably within the minute.
3. Keep your script simple. Sacrifice a point of information rather than risk sounding rushed or unclear. It is always better to say less with better delivery.
4. When writing your script remember that you may need to factor in time to introduce yourself and your study title.
5. Do add conversational pieces to emphasise your rationale/results etc. For example, ‘Research has found that 40% of Irish adolescents experience elevated feelings of depression’. Then follow with this rephrased to highlight the point to the audience. ‘This is 2 out of 5 teenagers, so you are almost guaranteed to know a teen affected by depression’.
6. Think about how you want to guide the audience through your presentation and use these ideas to structure your slides and script. It can add a level of interest beyond ‘background, methods, results and discussion’. For example, I posed questions to the audience, ‘What is the problem?’, ‘What did we do?’ and ‘What did we find?’.
7. For your slides try to make them as eye catching as possible with colour, images, and simple figures and graphs.
8. If you have something on your slide that you do not mention in your script, it can probably be removed.
9. If you are allowed, consider using small animations to highlight certain points. For example, have a timed animation appear to circle a point on a graph that you are referring to in your script. (Double check this with the organisers!)
10. If you are using graphs or figures, make sure to mention them in your script. Simply saying ‘As you can see from the graph’ will guide the audiences’ eyes to it while you explain the result.
11. The less words on the slides, the better. Keep the words for the main points.
12. Have a ‘take home message’ from your presentation and use this as your final sentence. This will allow the audience to remember your key point.
Tips for Presentation Delivery
13. I found the thesis in three was much more of a performance than an academic presentation. Put your personality into it! Content is definitely important, but your delivery of the content is what makes a top-class pitch.
14. When you are speaking, use a clear, conversational tone. You are pitching your work, not presenting it at a conference!
15. Use less jargon and more everyday language.
16. Use your voice (tone, speed) to emphasize certain words and points – even have these words in bold on your slide.
17. Factor in time to breathe. Seems like a simple point, but you have a lot to say in 3 minutes! A space to pause and to take a breath is important to sounding professional and polished.
18. Practice your stage presence! Stand with the slides behind you and be aware of fidgeting and pacing. Speak to the audience with confidence. Try not to glance back at the slides.
19. It is also a good idea to check out the room before you present. Consider if there will be a microphone or will you need to project your voice.
20. Try to learn the script off by heart and not rely on notes in hand on the day.
21. Once you begin, do not worry about the timings. If you slip up, just take a breath and resume from where you left off. Remember, no one knows your own work better than you!
22. Overall, my biggest tip is to practice, practice, practice! When I entered, I had help from people who had won in previous years. We practiced in a classroom so that we could use the projector and practice with the automatic timings until we had it perfect each time, without the notes. I also practiced in front of the mirror so that I became aware of my own stage presence.
23. Remember, its just 3 minutes! Have fun with it and relax when you’re on stage.
Best of luck to all those entering the Thesis in Three and Elevator Pitch competitions this semester! I hope these tips can help you with your preparation.
Chloe Forte is a 4th year PhD Student in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick.