Virtual Competition Rules

  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes, and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation. 
  • Virtual presentations must meet the following criteria:
    • Presented on the horizontal, against a plain background
    • Presented from a static position
    • Presented from one camera angle
    • Contain a 3MT title slide
    • Contain a 3MT research slide
  • A single, static slide is permitted in the presentation (no slide transitions, animations or "movement" of any description). 
  • The 3 minute audio must be continuous—no sound edits or breaks.
  • No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment, or animated backgrounds) are permitted.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, raps, or songs).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound or video files) are permitted.

3MT Tips

Write for your audience

  • Avoid jargon and academic language.
  • Explain concepts and people important to your research. (You may know all about Professor Smith’s theories, but your audience may not.)
  • Highlight the outcomes of your research and the desired outcome.
  • Imagine that you are explaining your research to a close friend or fellow student from another field.
  • Convey your excitement and enthusiasm for your subject.

Tell a story

  • You may like to present your 3MT as a narrative, with a beginning, middle and end.
  • It’s not easy to condense your research into three minutes, so you may find it easier to break your presentation into smaller sections.
  • Try writing an opener to catch the attention of the audience, then highlight your different points, and finally have a summary to restate the importance of your work.

Have a clear outcome in mind

  • Know what you want your audience to take away from your presentation.
  • Try to leave the audience with an understanding of what you’re doing, why it is important, and what you hope to achieve.

What not to do

  • Do not write your presentation like an academic paper.
  • Try to use shorter words, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs.
  • You can use humor; however, be careful not to devalue your presentation.


  • Proof your 3MT presentation by reading it aloud, to yourself and to an audience of friends and family.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Ask your audience if your presentation clearly highlights what your research is about and why it is important.

Preparing Your 3MT Slide

Rules for your slide

  • One single, static PowerPoint slide is permitted.
  • No slide transitions, animations, or "movement" of any kind are permitted (besides the transition from the title slide to your presentation slide).
  • Your slide is to be presented from the beginning of your oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound or video files) are permitted.

Citations and references

If you need to include a citation for an image or any kind of content in your slide, you can do it on the title page or at the bottom of the slide in a small box.

Title slide

The title slide should include:

  • Your full presentation title
  • Your first and last name
  • Your department/discipline (optional)
  • Citations (optional)

Note: You will begin with your title slide, but your three-minute presentation will officially begin once you start your oration on your research slide.

Research slide suggestions

You may like to consider some of the following suggestions.

  • Less is more: text and complicated graphics can distract your audience—you don’t want them to read your slide instead of listening to your 3MT. 
  • Personal touches: personal touches can allow your audience to understand the impact of your research.
  • Creativity drives interest: do not rely on your slide to convey your message—it should simply complement your oration.
  • Work your message: think about how your slide might be able to assist with the format and delivery of your presentation—is there a metaphor that helps explain your research?
  • An engaging visual presentation can make or break any oration, so make sure your slide is legible, clear and concise.

3MT Presentation

Practice, practice, practice

  • Feeling nervous before you present is natural, and a little nervousness can even be beneficial to your overall speech. Nonetheless, it is important to practice so you can present with confidence and clarity. Practicing will also help you gauge the timing of your 3MT so that you keep within the time limit.

Vocal range

  • Speak clearly and use variety in your voice (fast/slow, loud/ soft).
  • Do not rush; find your rhythm.
  • Remember to pause at key points, as this gives the audience time to think about what you are saying.

Body language

  • Stand or sit straight and confidently.
  • Hold your head up and look at the camera while you are presenting.
  • Never turn your back to the audience.

Record yourself

  • Record and listen to your presentation to hear where you pause, speak too quickly, or get it just right.
  • Then work on your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.


  • There is no dress code. If you are unsure of how to dress, you may wish to dress for a job interview or an important meeting. It is important that you feel comfortable so you can focus on your presentation.
  • Do not wear a costume of any kind, as this is against the rules (as is the use of props).


Judging Criteria

Winners will be determined by a panel of judges using the official 3MT competition rubrics to judge the presentations. Judges will be invited from the University of Iowa faculty and staff, previous 3MT winners, and the local community.

Comprehension & Content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background to the research question being addressed and its significance?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the key results of the research including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Was the thesis topic, key results and research significance and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation, or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect, or was the presentation rushed?

Engagement & Communication 

  • Did the oration make the viewers want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialize or generalize their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience's attention?
  • Did the speaker have sufficient presence, vocal range, maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?
  • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation? Was it clear, legible, and concise?

3MT Workshops

To prepare for the 3MT, we recommend attending workshops hosted by Graduate College on September 16, 23, and 30 (2022) and watching videos of 3MT Workshops hosted by the Graduate Success Center.