180 seconds to explain your thesis work?

We have all heard of the 30 seconds elevator pitch. In  fact, if you search for those terms in Google, you will get over a hundred thousand hits. It seems that this has even been push to an art or even “engineered” systems.


Why am I talking about this? I recently discovered your thesis in 180 seconds competition in our University Sciences and Engineering Faculty. In fact it was all over the campus (for the 2nd year in a row). As a French speaking University, this is promoted by ACFAS, and the best presentations will get their ticket for the international (french speaking) competition (held in Montreal this year).

So, you have 180 seconds, 3 minutes, to explain your project to a non-expert audience with a single slide, no animation allowed. This concept started in 2008 at Queensland University in Australia and have gained quite a lot of traction in English speaking countries.

A few years back, I started to have my students performed what I call “speed dating presentations” of 5 minutes / 5 slides to visiting scientists in our lab but also to our collaborators from times to times. In this way, our visitor could get a full picture of all of our projects about 90-120 minutes, including the follow-up questions and discussions.

The 180 seconds limit is clearly something else, especially when you build-in the adaptation to a general public. I actually liked it quite a lot. Of course, you do not extract deep scientific values out of it but it is a good show. The topics are presented at a much higher level, quite superficial. However, you get to see truly gifted speakers and introductions to many subjects.

This is a very interesting and worthwhile exercise and I intend to promote it to my students. It might also be a very interesting forum to connect what is being done in our universities, hospitals and research centers with the public. That might be the biggest reward for science in the end!

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