New pitching battle builds on former FameLab

By organizing Talking Science, the new science communication pitching event to be held during Research Day on June 8, TU/e is building on the well-known FameLab competition. Eleven PhD candidates and EngD trainees will get three minutes to pitch their research to a large audience. A jury will select the winner, who will be awarded 750 euros, but the audience also gets to choose their favorite.

photo iStock / PCH-Vector

The new event is the successor to the successful international communication competition FameLab, which was financed by the British Council. TU/e has participated several times in the past and hosted the national preliminary rounds. At the end of the competition, the young researchers from dozens of countries who participated would gather in England for the grand finale.

When the British Council ceased its funding in 2021, FameLab was discontinued as well, and the future of the pitching competition was uncertain. “We already had plans to organize a pitching event very soon after that, but we were waiting for the right opportunity,” says Barry Fitzgerald, TU/e science communicator and moderator of the event. “And that opportunity presented itself this year.” TU/e will continue the tradition with the Talking Science competition during the Research Day on June 8.


The concept remains essentially the same. PhD candidates and EngD trainees could sign up for the battle by submitting a one-minute video about their research. Based on those submissions, eleven participants were selected. They will compete against each other and tell the audience about their own research in an accessible and appealing way for a maximum of three minutes, without the use of slides. They are, however, allowed to bring a prop, as long as it is something they can carry onto the stage themselves.

The four-member jury, which includes TU/e professor of science communication Margriet van der Heijden and BNR Nieuwsradio science journalist Karlijn Meinders, will select the winner, who will be awarded the prize of 750 euros. The runner-up will take home 500 euros, as will the winner of the audience prize. The winner of the jury prize will be announced that same day and will get another chance to present their winning pitch during the Research Day ceremony later that day.

“Take your time”

Fitzgerald has given the participants some training beforehand on how to give a good pitch. He laughs: “So if they’re not good, it’s my fault.” A few days before the competition, they got a chance to present their pitches to him so he can give them feedback before they compete for real. “Many of them aren’t used to presenting in front of a large audience,” he says. “In fact, when I asked during the training session who of them had ever given a presentation to a room full of people, only half of them raised their hand. The pandemic hasn’t exactly helped to improve people’s ability to present to a live audience.”

His main advice? “People often start talking very quickly when they’re nervous because they want to get it over with as quickly as possible, but it’s actually very important to take your time. Otherwise, the audience won’t understand what you’re talking about.” He says it helps if you imagine that you’re telling the story to an empty room or just a handful of people.

Diverse mix

It is also important that the pitches can be easily understood by everyone, including laypeople or people from other fields. “You have only three minutes to talk about a research topic you’re deeply invested in, so that can be quite a challenge,” says Fitzgerald. “The participants are a diverse mix of different departments and research areas. So, you have to keep in mind that your audience will also be mixed,” he continues. “It doesn’t really matter who they are. Whatever you’re going to talk about in those three minutes, you have to make sure that no one in the audience will be left thinking: what is that, what is this about?”

The jury doesn’t just look at the quality of the content, but also at how clear and convincing the participants’ use of language is and - last but not least - their charisma and energy on stage and to what extent they manage to make a connection with the audience. Fitzgerald: “Sometimes it’s very difficult to balance all those things.” After the opening of Talking Science, he wants to give them one last piece of advice: “Get on stage and enjoy the moment. That’s the most important thing.”

Talking Science will take place on Thursday, June 8, from 10:00 to 12:00 in the Auditorium, in lecture hall 07. Admission is free and no registration is required.

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