3MT: My experience participating in the Three Minute Thesis competition

Last week I posted about how I deconstructed Three Minute Thesis pitches to help craft my own 3MT presentation.  Well, I thought I would share the results with you…

Firstly, here is the slide that I used to support my topic – which explores how technology influences how we all construct the boundary between work and life…

I tried to make it as simple as possible (and not too busy).  I didn’t waste my audience’s attention with my name, my supervisors names, or the title of my thesis.  All I was trying to do was convey exactly what my topic was all about.  Even without me talking about the subject most of the audience would have understood what my topic was about.  The feedback from the judging panel suggests that I hit the nail on the head re: the slide.

When it came to the content and the delivery, again very good feedback, and breaking down the structure of the 3MT presentation into what I discovered when I reviewed winning entries certainly contributed to that.  Starting with a story that everyone could relate to certainly got the attention of the 20 strong audience on the day – lots of eye contact, lots of smiles, lots of nods – was great to see!

But…The dream is over!  Well.  I can’t really complain, I managed to snag a second place (out of seven) in a photo finish during the QUT Business School heat for the 2014 3MT Three Minute Thesis competition.  To be honest the winner was very good and deserved to go through – and her thesis really pulled at the heartstrings!  The feedback from the judges which set my presentation and the winner’s apart came down to one simple thing – she articulated her research question a bit better than I did.

As Maxwell Smart would say… “Missed it, by that much…”

Podcast: My Top 10 non-Excel Microsoft Office tips for Managers

I had the pleasure this week of being a guest on one of the most popular Microsoft Office podcasts in the world – Chandoo.org’s Excel PodCast. (click here to go to episode 17 where I am featured)

Chandoo and I crossed paths online a few weeks ago and as it turns out I have basically found my clone from both a professional, and personal point of view. We spent about 90 minutes on the phone – first discussing how our paths crossed, and then I shared my top 10 no-Excel MS Office tips for Managers and Analysts.

The first 22 minutes is all about:

Then for the last hour we get into the meat of the podcast for – my list of the Top 10 non-Excel MS Office tips for managers or analysts

I would love to hear your feedback (in the comments below) – this is the first time I have appeared as a guest on a podcast (and… um… I like… um realise that I aaagh and um a lot!). If you like Chandoo’s style – make sure you subscribe to his podcast and check out some of his earlier episodes.


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3MT: Deconstructing winning Three Minute Thesis entries

 

Next week I am entering the QUT Business School heats of the Three Minute Thesis competition. To help prepare my presentation, I thought I would look at a number of winning entries from within QUT, across Australia, and internationally to see if there were any patterns of success. Thanks to universities around the world publishing the work of their students on YouTube, there are a vast array of speakers from different subject areas to base my analysis on.

As it turns out, after watching 15 or so winning entries, there are four things that appear consistently across almost all high achieving 3MT presentations.

The Opening

Setting the scene is really important. Instead of diving straight into the student’s thesis and all the gory detail, most presenters started with a general problem that everyone in the audience could relate to in some way. Not only did they state the problem, but most very succinctly then demonstrated the consequences of that problem – this paints a very vivid picture to:

  1. Provides a clear “signpost” as to what the research is all about;
  2. Ensures everyone in the audience understands the importance of the research
  3. Now that they know it is a problem, keeps the audience intrigued as to how you solved it/answered the question

Sharon Savage from the University of New South Wales does this within just 10 seconds of starting her 3MT presentation. Clear, concise, to the point… and made the research relevant to EVERYONE in the room!

 

The Details

Very few students used technical research language to describe their study. For example, no one talked about “sampling strategy”. Instead the speakers used simple language to describe at a high level what they did. For example Matthew Thompson from the University of Queensland (Winner 2011) talked about “working with fingerprint examiners in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne.. etc” something that we can all understand.

(Matthew Thompson – University of Queensland on stage at the Australasian finals of the 2011 Three Minute Thesis Competition presenting “Suspects, Science and CSI” – my favourite 3MT presentation from my quick and dirty analysis)

Beyond using simple language, the speakers didn’t share their data – they shared the story of their data. The took complex results and boiled them down to simple statements which were consumable by the audience. Matthew Thompson summarised most of his PhD results in just one of sentence – “Generally fingerprint examiners were very accurate, however there were a few mistakes”. It laid the perfect signpost to segue to…

The Significance

Almost all speakers did a great job of tightly articulating why their research was of real practical significance. Not just “adding to the body of knowledge” – but passionately sharing the specific impact the research is already having, or will have in the world we live. The best students took this one step further, and ensured that the significance of the research was relevant to the audience. For example, Emily Milne from the University of Waterloo took her specific topic and then articulated how it was a social challenge that all Canadians need to care about.

(Emily Milne – University of Waterloo (2013) makes it crystal clear at the end of her 3MT as to the impact of her study on one of the most critical social challenges for Canadians)

 

The delivery

Ultimately everyone delivered very engaging presentations which took their audience on a journey. Passion, emphasis where it was required, subtle but effective hand movement, and confident delivery ensured that the audience understood the key points the speakers were making. The best example of this I found was Megan Pozzi from QUT discussing her research on teenage girls and social media identity. It is also very clear that all top speakers were well rehearsed – all had memorised their presentations – all didn’t need to refer to their slide for guidance – they knew their stuff!

(Megan Pozzi – the Three Minute Thesis 2013 winner from QUT – the most dynamic speaker from the bunch)

 

Now I know that watching 15 YouTube videos, with no theoretical framework to guide my analysis isn’t overly scientific – but hopefully my observations and tips will help you when preparing your Three Minute Thesis presentation. Good luck!

Tracking sleep with my FitBit: the awakening

I have almost religiously worn my FitBit Flex for the past 11 months or so. At first it was all about the steps. How many steps could I do each day. How often could I get that 10k steps badge? How many days in a row could I get the 10k steps badge? What is the highest steps badge I could get? As soon as I managed to get 30,000 steps in one very long day – the drive to get the little black band to do it’s light and vibration dance slowly wore off. Instead my focus switched to another interesting part of the device. The sleep tracker.

One of the other drivers for me to start looking even closer at the sleep tracker was that people in the office almost consistently every morning when I get to work say “hey looks like you had a rough night”, “looks like you need to go back to bed”, “man you look tired”. I know what you are thinking – surely that alone should drive you to sleep more – but with a young family, and lots of work and study commitments… sometimes you need more convincing J

That being said… you know what I realised pretty quickly once I started looking more closely at the sleep tracker? I am not sleeping anywhere near as much as all the doctors/magazines/blog articles suggest (and everyone in the office is right!). Let’s take a look at the last 7 days on the FitBit dashboard…

  • Last night:     5hrs 55mins
  • Thursday    7hrs 19mins
  • Wednesday    6hrs 34mins
  • Tuesday    6hrs 56mins
  • Monday    6hrs 07mins
  • Sunday        6hrs 17mins
  • Saturday    6hrs 47mins

Not only do almost all of those sleep durations start with a 6… the average for the week was just 6hrs 34mins of sleep each night! Well below the 7 or 8 hours recommended. (by the way, if you ever want to calculate your average sleep duration across a week, month or year – check out this article which describes how to average time in Excel).

So – we have a heap of data here from multiple sources (primary data from the FitBit which shows I not only have short sleep durations, but also inconsistent bed and awakening times – and the observations of my colleagues) suggesting I have a problem. What can we do about it?

Stop going to bed at 12:30pm?

I am a bit of a night owl and some of my best thinking happens late at night – I would hate to lose that

Start sleeping in after 7am?

Difficult with a young family to sleep through the noise (and then the associated guilt) of the breakfast/get out the door to kindy routine

Nap?

Again difficult, although I could go for a rest in the car at work during my lunch break

Eat a spoon full of cement and harden up?

Hmm have been doing that for the past few years and I think it may be impacting on my health and well-being just a little bit

I think out of all of the above options the easiest to implement will be to shift my usual’ish bedtime from 12pm (+/- 30 mins) to 11pm (+/-30 minutes). I wonder what impact one extra hour per night will have over time – first things first – let’s see what impact it will have over the next week. I will report in with my findings in 7 days J