Gone in 180 seconds

Three minute thesis competitions are all the rage at the moment at academic conferences. Developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, they go completely against what feels natural for academics, you have to summarise a lot of information in a really short amount of time in a simple way.

I took part in one such competition at the 2013 East Midlands Universities Postgraduate Researchers Conference in September. I had done a poster submission at a conference before but never presented so I thought it would be a good challenge.

Initially I thought I would find it quite easy to condense my pilot study about student expectation and experience in higher education. I’m a professional communicator and regularly preach to colleagues about being concise with little regard for how attached they might be to their subject matter. I now realise it’s not quite as easy when it’s your own work.

All in all I spent about 26 hours to produce and practice my 3 minute presentation! The brief was you had to get across your aims, objectives, methodology, findings and significance and in no more than two static slides. As I am interested in design I wanted to produce something that was quite visually appealing so I did spend rather a long time trying to work out how to condense my two year pilot study into three minutes and make it look good. Getting my script down to 5 minutes was easy enough. Getting it down to 3 minutes was a nightmare!

So, was it worth all that time and effort? Yes and no. It’s great to have something that I can share with people to give them a flavour of what I’m researching but I probably did spend a bit too long on it. It was enjoyable producing the slides and the script but presenting at the conference itself to about two hundred people was very nerve wracking. I didn’t place in the top three (there were ten of us altogether) but I did get some nice feedback from other delegates.

If you have three minutes to spare and you want to hear my presentation over the slides you can view it here: https://vimeo.com/75720996

The two slides are below. For more information on three minute thesis competitions check out the #3MT hash tag on Twitter, or search on YouTube. You can also have a look at the #TweetmyThesis hashtag and give it a go.

Whether you are an academic or a marketer, being able to condense research or your campaign into one tweet and a three minute clip is definitely worth giving a go.

EMU presentation slide 1a

EMU presentation slide 2

Create free customised word clouds

Word clouds have been popular for a while now and are great for summing up consultations or customer feedback. Two of my favourite free and easy cloud generators are Tagul and Wordle. Tagul now allows you to generate clouds as shapes, either using their range of pre-sets or import your own image. Recently for a work project I wanted to provide a visualisation of what language is used to describe clients with dementia in relation to our training so I put a shape in of an older man, plugged in the identified words and this was the result.

Word cloud man