3MT 2024 Reflections by Kent Winner Becky McNeill

Hi! My name is Becky and I am a second-year PhD student studying Forensic Psychology at Kent. My research focuses on exploring a new theory of paedophilia which suggests that this sexual interest falls into two pathways: one that is more biologically created, and another that is more environmentally created. I am using a combination of questionnaires, scales, and interviews to gain an idea of how a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children develops, and how it is perceived by those who have it.

I entered the 3MT competition after seeing it advertised and being encouraged by my supervisor to take part. Since I haven’t had the chance to attend many conferences so far in my PhD, I haven’t really been able to showcase my research or practise my presentation skills, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do so. Even if you are lucky enough to attend plenty of conferences during your studies, the 3MT competition is a great chance to demonstrate an ability to present your research in a clear, succinct manner to an audience who may not be experts in your field, or may not even be that familiar with it at all. Once I started practising my talk, I realised just how short a time 3 minutes is to try and get across something that I’d been working on for nearly 2 years!


Some advice I would give to those considering taking part:

  • One way I found helpful was to imagine that I was at a social event meeting strangers, and they had asked me what my PhD topic focuses on. That way, I could figure out how I could explain it in a simple manner, while getting across the important information.
  • Draft a speech to start with – even if it is in bullet points, this will form the basis of the speech and make sure you are hitting the key points that are outlined in the guidance for 3MT. Only focus on the really key parts – it might be tempting to go into detail, particularly with complex research, but that’s part of the challenge: how well can you present your PhD to someone who doesn’t study your subject, in a very short period of time?
  • Read it aloud while timing yourself – it’s best to not look at the timer while doing this as it can be quite off-putting! This will give you a good idea of whether you are way over or under in terms of time, and you can tweak your speech accordingly
  • Even if you don’t have solid findings yet, or feel as though your research isn’t quite developed enough, that’s fine! I didn’t have any findings at the time I applied for 3MT, and I presented what I expected to find
  • If you have the opposite problem, and you have too many things to talk about in your speech, that’s fine too! I only spoke about one part of my research as I wouldn’t have had time to talk about the other part – the judges don’t need to know every aspect of your PhD, just a bit of it is enough, and they are focusing on your ability to present your research clearly, enthusiastically, and professionally
  • Try to think about the really key parts of your research when creating your slide. I found the slide one of the hardest parts, and in the end I went for a very simple, fairly vague message, which I explained in my speech. There are various approaches you can take to creating your slide, which are in the guidance resources for 3MT, so I definitely recommend taking a look at them. The main thing is to make sure you don’t overcrowd your slide or make it look dull; the judges won’t want to read a lot of text alongside you talking, and things like images are more eye-catching than a graph or table!
  • It doesn’t have to take ages, for those who might be worried about balancing 3MT alongside their studies – I would honestly say it took me longer trying to perfect my powerpoint slide than creating and recording my speech!

The 3MT competition is a great chance to demonstrate an ability to present your research in a clear, succinct manner to an audience who may not be experts in your field, or may not even be that familiar with it at all.

I was thrilled to hear I had won the Kent competition, and after doing so, I was very pleased to receive the prize (£200!), and my entry has been submitted to the UK semi-finals for the national 3MT competition. While I don’t know yet the outcome of the semi-finals, it is fantastic to have got this far, and I will at least be able to say that I was a contender in the UK semi-finals for the 3MT competition. Taking part in something like this will look great on a CV in terms of showcasing presentation skills – not only to a room full of experts in the field at a conference, but to a lay audience with a very strict time constraint.

I would thoroughly recommend taking part – you never know, you could be the next UK 3MT winner!