Win cash prizes and state-wide recognition while you take your professional development to the next level!

Calling all graduate students, from all disciplines! Are you working on original research? Have you ever wanted to give a TED talk? Do you wish to make your amazing work accessible to a broader audience? Can you present your research clearly and concisely in three minutes? Want the opportunity to develop your presentation skills and receive feedback and coaching? Enter the 2020 Grad Slam competition, and you could win cash prizes and state-wide recognition while simultaneously enhancing your communication skills.

Not sure where to start?

GradPro will offer a “Grad Slam Step by Step” workshop series, starting the week of January 20, 2020. This series is open to all grad students wishing to hone their research communication skills, and will also prepare you to enter Grad Slam, if you choose. Workshops will include viewing past Grad Slam talks in your field, building public speaking and storytelling skills, and learning techniques for presenting with confidence. There will also be opportunities for coaching and feedback.

Grad Slam is for everyone – whether you’re already a practiced public speaker, or not. As Joe Charbonnet, the 2018 UC Berkeley champion who also took home first place at the UC systemwide competition, put it: “A lot of people have the impression that public speaking is an innate skill that you have or you don’t, but it’s a psychomotor skill just like playing piano or hitting a baseball: your brain tells your muscles what to do. How do you get good at any psychomotor skill? You practice and reinforce those neural pathways.”

Want to Enter? Submit Your Video by February 17!

Once your presentation is ready to go, enter the competition by submitting a three-minute video, using the Grad Slam guidelines, by 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Monday, February 17, 2020. Record the video yourself, or just show up to a fun and free recording session the week of February 10, hosted by GradPro. All you need to bring is your three-minute talk – staff will take care of all the technical aspects of filming. Contact GradPro for more information.

Up to ten semi-finalists will be selected from the video submissions in early March to participate in a live campus competition in Sibley Auditorium on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, 3-5:30 p.m.. The three finalists will receive cash prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $700, respectively. All semi-finalists will receive at least $250. 

The winner of the campus competition will represent Berkeley at the UC systemwide competition on Friday, May 8, 2020. Held at LinkedIn’s downtown San Francisco center, this ten-campus competition will showcase the research of one graduate student from each campus. Each student will give a three-minute presentation pitched to a general audience and will have a chance to win an even bigger cash prize.

Public Speaking: A Lifelong Skill

Aside from the prizes and glory, there’s another reason to take advantage of this opportunity: learning to make research accessible and engage the public is a critical skill for all scholars. Berkeley’s 2018 campuswide runner-up, Daniel Drew, said of the competition: “I learned that every sentence — word! — counts when you need to communicate motivation, inspiration, progress, and the grand vision, all in three minutes. This is a very valuable skill for the academic job hunt (and life afterwards).”

To learn more about how events like Grad Slam can help you hone communication skills that are valued in a variety of careers, see the Graduate Student Professional Development Guide.

For detailed information, please visit the Grad Slam website.


Ashvini Malshe is a graduate student in Journalism at UC Berkeley, and a Professional Development Liaison (PDL) with the Graduate Division.


Categories: December 2019, Professional Development