October 20, 2017, by Lisa Chin

My 3MT Experience: What is the worst that could happen?

This post is written by Olaoluwa Duro-Bello, UNMC 2017 3MT® Winner.

I reckon I was the last contestant to register for the 3MT competition this year. Every time I received an email from the Graduate School reminding students about registering for the competition, I would simply mark the email as read and procrastinate registering. But on Friday 25 August, the Graduate School announced that registration would close at 4pm that day, I thought to myself ‘why not? After all what is the worst that could happen?’. And the worst didn’t happen, on the contrary, the best actually did; I won, but equally important, I enjoyed every bit of the 3 weeks of preparation we had before the actual competition. Contestants practiced, panicked, laughed and selflessly helped each other out with our presentations; such that many times it seemed like we were not even competing against each other. These are memories I will continue to cherish and I enjoin every PhD student who has not participated in the 3MT to give it a shot. I gained confidence not only in myself but about my research and I also learnt about the fascinating things other PhD students are doing.

Ola (third from right) receiving the award plaque from Professor Graham Kendall (fourth from right), Provost and CEO of The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, who was also the Head Judge of the competition. The rest of the judging panel was also present on stage to witness the prize-giving ceremony.

Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I would like to leave future participants with 3R’s to serve as tips on your 3MT journey.

Rehearse. The Graduate School provides several sessions for participants to work on their PowerPoint presentation and also rehearse their lines. Honestly, I would not have made it past one paragraph of my speech if I didn’t attend these sessions. I rehearsed in front of my wife and my 2 year old son. She listened attentively while he on the other hand kept on making me laugh. All the same they are the kind of non-specialist audience you can recite your speech to once it is ready. Finally, I did a mock presentation to my supervisor, Dr Derek Irwin. His comments and feedback went a long way towards shaping my speech for the competition.

Rest. My feet were sore on Monday 11 September which was the penultimate day to the competition. They were obviously sore because I had been pacing around trying to memorise my lines. I kept on thinking: “If I don’t practice I would forget my lines on stage the next day”. So when we were told to leave the Great Hall, go home and rest ahead of the big day, I did so very reluctantly. In hindsight, I realised that this was the best decision. I slept very early that night, woke up feeling refreshed the next day and this contributed to my overall feeling throughout the event.

Relax. This is probably the most difficult thing to do on 3MT day because there are a million and one things to panic about: “What if the audience doesn’t get it? What if I go over time? What if I am too loud or too soft?” and the most worrisome (at least for me) “What if I forget my lines?”. Well let me let you all in on a little secret; apparently none of the aforementioned things has ever happened to any participant in UNMC so don’t worry you are not going to be the first. I already felt like a winner once I stepped on stage because I know all I had gone through to get there, so you too should feel so about yourself and your research.

Good luck!

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