Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The finals are coming! (Tseen Khoo)

Researchers at La Trobe's Judith Lumley Centre (Franklin Streeet) 
watching their colleague Catina Adams' presentation (at Bundoora)
Photo courtesy of Lisa Amir
Yeah, nah, I'm not talking about the footy grand finals! It's much more important than that.

The finals I'm talking about involve much shorter performances, fewer meat pies, and appropriate hand gestures.

Yes, it's that time of year again: La Trobe's 3MT grand finals!

As with last year, the university finals will take place within Research Week and it's always a great event. Not only do you get to see our fabulous emerging researchers take to the stage with their powerful, finely honed talks, you also have a chance to vote in the People's Choice Award (which is always a highlight for me - gotta love having a say, right?).

The university 3MT finals have it all: good company, intellectual stimulation, and collegial competition! Make sure you register to attend for 30 August!

I've just attended both the ASSC and SHE College finals in the last fortnight, and livetweeted my way through the presentations and awards. If you have a look over the #LTU3MT hashtag on Twitter, you'll see some of the action that took place.

For the spectators of the 3MT events, it's a fast and furious feast of the stunning and important work that's taking place here at our own institution by our emerging scholars. We get to see what the next generation of researchers are working on, and the aims they want to achieve. It is truly inspiring and makes you want to clap and whistle, and that's a response from a cynical someone like me. You could do worse than have your faith in our future restored in an afternoon with your colleagues!

What you may not see as a spectator is the prep that goes on before the speakers even show up at the John Scott Meeting House Chamber for their turns on the stage!

There's a long trail of activity before the finals sessions that I got to watch recently. Schools and departments have heats and their own series of finals. There's heaps of presentation skill sessions and specific 3MT training opportunities provided by the RED team, with Dan Bendrups at the helm this year. And that doesn't even include all the hours that an individual has spent practicing their talk in front of friends, family, and mirrors!

So, you don't just put your hand up and end up getting anxious about everything on your own - you can get anxious with other people! Seriously, though, working through your presentation and what your slide will be, mapping out your gestures and where your voice needs to be pitched - all these elements are part of pulling together a brilliant research narrative that will stand you in good stead far beyond the 3MT. Public speaking is one of the phobias that persist for many professionals - academic or not - and finding ways to manage that fear is one of the keys to future research success. If you can effectively communicate your intellectual passions and project outcomes, you'll be ahead of the pack. I manage my fear of public speaking by thinking of the audience. Learning while you participate in 3MT equips you with strong presentation strategies that you can try out to see which works best for your personality and style.

In addition, there is direct scholarly value in doing the 3MT. History PhD researcher Anthony Condon participated in the 2016 3MT and wrote last year about what he got out of doing it. Anthony, who was only in his first year of his PhD when he stepped up, encouraged his peers to get in early with doing the 3MT:
Through the process of writing my first presentation for the school level 3MT heats, I got an idea of what was at the crux of my thesis. I started to understand what it was I was trying to say. It also made me look at my methodology, something I hadn’t really paid much attention to so far, and it was through this that the central idea of my thesis revealed itself to me. (RED Alert post - Anthony Condon)
So, for spectators and presenters alike, the 3MT competition is a constructive, unifying event that is good for reminding us why we are here at the university - to make a difference in this world and the communities we engage with through research. It's also about getting together and celebrating the new scholars in our midst.

I'll be there for the La Trobe 3MT grand final - are you coming along, too?

ASSC College finalists: (L to R) Anne Brouwer, Fatima Kanji, Perla Guarneros Sanchez, Hadeel Abdelhameed, Sidrah McCarthy, and Chi Kwan Ng.

SHE College finalists: (back row, L to R) Natasha Brockwell, Ebony Monson, Philip Shambrook (partly obscured!), Vaheesan Rajabal, Courtney Lai, Brian Devitt, Wendi Kruger, Pauline Ezer, and Rebecca Christoff.
(front row, L to R) Basant Ebaid, Mariah Alloro, Catina Adams, Min Wang, and Jana Batovska.

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