The idea for the 3MT® competition came about at a time when the state of Queensland was suffering severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, and many people had a three minute egg timer fixed to the wall in their bathroom. The then Dean of the University of Qeensland Graduate School, Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, put two and two together and the idea for the 3MT competition was born: to challenge grad students to describe their research in under three minutes to a general audience.

The first 3MT® competition was held at UQ in 2008 with 160 students competing. In 2009 and 2010 the 3MT® competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew. Due to its adoption in numerous universities, a multi-national event was developed, and the Inaugural Trans-Tasman 3MT® competition was held at UQ in 2010. Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased and 3MT® competitions are now held in over 600 universities and institutions across 59 countries worldwide.

CU Boulder's 3MT schedule is as follows: 

  • Phase 1: 3MT® Applicants will participate in a variety of workshops and interactive sessions throughout the fall semester to hone their three minute research pitch. These workshops include topics such as:
    • Communicating your research in three minutes
    • The art of storytelling
    • Communicating complex topics: avoiding jargon; ABT framework
    • Finding your presentation voice
    • Improv comedy techniques
  • Phase 2: All 3MT® Applicants will be scheduled to present their 3MT® presentation to a Campus Selection Committee December.  The Committee will select 10 students to advance to Phase 3.
  • Phase 3: The top 10 finalists will present their three-minute oral presentation in February. A committee of judges from the university and the community will select one first-place winner and one runner-up, and the audience will vote for the people's choice winner. The first-place winner will advance to Phase 4.
  • Phase 4: The first-place winner of the CU Boulder competition will represent the university at the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) competition in March. 

The 3MT® competition was first developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, and they have prepared a comprehensive set of rules and judging criteria. The competition will employ these same guidelines. Please view the complete rules and judging criteria online


  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations. or movement of any description; the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum, and competitors exceeding three minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, raps, or songs).
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts his/her presentation through movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria

Presentations will be judged based on the following: 

Engagement & Communication 

  • Was the oration delivered clearly?
  • Was the language used appropriate for a non-specialist audience?
  • Was the PowerPoint slide well-defined? Did it enhance the presentation?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience's attention?

Comprehension & Content

  • Did the presentation provide clear background and significance to the research question?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the research strategy/design and the results/findings of the research?
  • Did the presentation cleary describe the conclusions, outcomes and impact of the reserach?