The art of persuasion in 180 seconds

The 9th edition of the "Ma thèse en 180 secondes" competition was held on March 17 in Nîmes. Doctoral students from universities and establishments in the Occitanie-Est region benefited from personalized support from scientific mediation and theater professionals to help them make their thesis topics more accessible and attract the interest of the general public.

"I decided to take part in this competition to overcome my fear of public speaking. It's a real challenge for me, both personally and professionally. I believe that popularizing science is crucial for the future of future doctors ", explains Bianca, the candidate in the regional final.

40 hours of customized training

"During our first session, we had to put ourselves in the audience's shoes. We quickly realized that what we took for granted was not necessarily obvious to others. So we started to think differently, using simple words, synonyms and clear formulations to help the audience understand what we were saying and avoid confusion," explains Thomas, a young doctoral student at the University of Montpellier.

The team of experts is made up of three members: Pascaline Girot, a rhetoric and argumentation coach who works on the structure and logic of speeches; Marc Dumas, a coach specializing in public speaking, self-confidence, enthusiasm and staging the text; and Patrick Sandrat, a trainer in the popularization of science, responsible for ensuring consistency between the presentation and the selected slide. " We aim to develop a good competitive spirit among the candidates, to give them greater self-confidence in promoting their research work through the competition, whether at national or international level. Especially as we have a level of excellence for research in Occitanie!" explains Patrick Sandrat.

In order to prepare the 20 candidates in the running for the regional final in the best possible way, both in terms of content and form, small-group training sessions are held over a period from February to March. " In addition to the training sessions, we also benefit from regular follow-up from the coaches between sessions, in order to readjust our text and our slide. We have thus been able to improve our presentations thanks to exchanges by e-mail and telephone, and receive constructive feedback from the group when we return to the training sessions", explains Bianca.

Make it accessible and pass it on

"This competition is an opportunity to practice popularizing your thesis topic, and for me, it represents an opportunity to showcase my research to a wide audience at the various events organized by the Laboratory. It's important to tell as many people as possible about it," explains Julie, who came 3rd in the competition. 

As well as being a competition, this event gives young researchers the opportunity to acquire skills in scientific communication and popularization, so that they can share their passion for research with the general public. "For us, it's a question of taking candidates out of the usual academic framework. We help them take a step back to determine what they want to present and why it's important. We encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and leave behind scientific concepts that are too advanced to be able to present their research to the general public," explains Patrick Sandrat.

Coaching sessions enable PhD students to develop transferable skills in areas such as teaching, project presentation, negotiation and job interview preparation. Working as a team enables everyone to pool their skills and ideas. Each candidate contributes and learns from the other members of the group. "With only a few days to go before the competition, I'm ready to take up the challenge, even if the stress is starting to show. We're particularly looking forward to seeing the other group members' presentations at the regional final," concludes the young researcher.

The winners of the 2023 competition

1st prize: Flo Sordes, Université de Nîmes
2nd prize: Julie Bas, Université de Montpellier
3rd prize: Julie Cailler, Université de Montpellier
Audience award: Pauline Bron, Université de Montpellier

Flo Sordes and Pauline Bron will take part in the national semi-finals to be held in Paris from March 29 to 31.