Student challenge: Make people love your research…in 3 minutes

The Four Presentation Finalists: l-r, Mark Pitts James Evans, Jennifer Lees, Helen MilesThe Four Presentation Finalists: l-r, Mark Pitts James Evans, Jennifer Lees, Helen MilesMake people love your research…in 3 minutes - That’s exactly what a group of PhD students from across Wales did at an awards event at Bangor University recently. The event was held to recognise the impact and enterprise skills being developed by the collaborative, doctoral research being undertaken in partnership with businesses across Wales as part of the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) programme.

Representatives from Bangor, Swansea, Cardiff and Swansea Metropolitan Universities, as well as some of the businesses involved in the research, attended the event. As well as offering a chance for research and businesses from across disciplines and sectors to network, there was a keynote speech from Paul Sandham, Managing Director of GeoSho Limited on the theme of University collaboration and a celebration of the students who completed their research degrees under the KESS programme in 2011. At the heart of the event was a pan-Wales competition which challenged the students to present their research in an engaging way whilst under extreme pressure.

 Awards Event – Powis Hall, Bangor University Awards Event – Powis Hall, Bangor UniversityBased on the Pecha Kucha principle of quick fire, automated, timed presentations, the competition asked the students on the KESS programme to go one step further; to effectively communicate their PhD research in 6 slides with 30 seconds per slide. That’s 3 minutes to influence an audience of academics, businesses and students from a variety of disciplines. The four finalists who presented on the night all stepped up to the mark and produced very impressive presentations and received plaudits from the audience for their assured performances.

The eventual winner, with a presentation giving reference to both the rock group The Killers as well as his nan was James Evans, a second year PhD student from Cardiff whose dedicated his 3 mins to exploring the idea of “Are we Human or are we bacteria?” James wins a workshop on ‘writing for business’, design consultancy time to help him and his company partner hone the presentation of the research project, in addition to a team building day for his project partners.

Bryn Jones, Project Manager for KESS commented, “This is probably the hardest presentation that these finalist will ever be asked to do and they have all excelled in achieving this tonight. No presentation will seem as stressful after this.”

He went on to highlight the serious objective of the competition, saying,

“We are very aware that in a commercial environment it is not always the best idea that is taken forward but the best presented and communicated idea. Through the KESS programme we want to equip our students with excellent research skills but also with the ability to ensure that they can communicate effectively and persuasively to a variety of audiences and under a range of pressures.”

Feedback from the students who took part, as well as those who attended, was excellent and there are now plans to build a bigger event along similar lines next year with all nine universities involved in the KESS programme participating. The impact on the attitude and ability of the students is clear with the winner, James Evans commenting that,

“I think that the KESS networking event showcases the wealth and breadth of research across Wales and encourages cross institutional collaboration. The event also highlighted the importance of Universities and SMEs working together and showed that a wide range of projects can be undertaken. I would encourage KESS students, supervisors and company partners to attend next year as you will definitely get something out of it, I know I did.”

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

For more information on KESS: www.higherskillswales.co.uk/kess

Publication date: 15 July 2011