Grad Slam competition asks students to show their TED style

After years of learning the specialized language of their academic fields, many Ph.D. candidates find they can fluently discuss their dissertations with peers, but have trouble breaking it down into a pitch that anyone can understand and be interested in.

That’s why UCLA’s Graduate Division and Graduate Student Association are teaming up to create UCLA’s first Grad Slam, a combination training ground and competition. Graduate students can sign up for public-speaking workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions to prepare for the competition, which offers a $3,000 fellowship for the best three-minute research presentation.

The preliminary rounds begin April 6, followed by semifinals the week of April 13 and the final competition on April 16. In addition to the fellowship, the winner will also get a paid trip to represent UCLA at the UC-wide Grad Slam in Oakland on May 4. Fellowships will also be awarded to the second- and third-place speakers in the UCLA competition. All phases of the competition will be open to the public. The final face-off will be webcasted live as well.

UCLA’s Grad Slam is inspired by similar competitions at UC San Diego, Santa Barbara, Riverside and San Francisco, as well as by the TED Talks themselves. Grad Slam and existing programs like the UCLA Dissertation Launchpad help grad students develop marketable communication skills. The programs are aimed especially at the many Ph.D.s who go on to non-academic jobs, where they will need to speak about their research in an accessible, jargon-free manner.

UCLA graduate students must register online by March 8 and can visit the Grad Slam page for ideas on how to prepare and examples of successful presentations.