Empower Your Pitch

In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, “Empower Your Pitch” is an invigorating redesign of the 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) format. It’s an engaging and dynamic competition and skill-development series designed to equip participants with the strategies needed to effectively communicate complex ideas in just three minutes.

This campus-wide research communication competition is sponsored by The Graduate School, the Graduate Coordinators Network, and Texas Career Engagement.

Cash prizes will be awarded to four competition winners.

  • Overall Excellence in Research Communication – $1000
  • Outstanding Public Engagement  – $1000
  • Outstanding Creativity – $1000
  • Community Choice Award for Excellence – $500

Winners will also receive a funded trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate and perform, and compete with winners from Johns Hopkins University!

Registration to compete is closed for 2024.

Want to see the exciting culmination, featuring our 12 finalists?

Come to Flawn Academic Center on Thursday, April 11, 5:30-8:00pm!

Register to attend the finale.


Competition Guidelines

You’re invited to add a creative flair to your pitch using presentation aids, including audio/visual media, equipment, and props, in line with safety protocols.

Feel free to utilize diverse strategies in your communication—spoken word, poetry, music, rap—the stage is yours!

Remember, timing is key! Your pitch must not exceed three minutes. The clock starts ticking once you begin speaking, interacting with your props/equipment, or using any form of expression to convey your message.

And finally, please note that the judge panel’s decisions in rounds 2 and 3 are final and binding.

Frequently Asked Questions:  

Slides: There is no limit on the number of slides that can be used. Other visual aids such as props or posters are also welcome.  

Delivery method: This format encourages creativity, so forms of expression other than oration are allowed (e.g. singing, poetry, dance) 

Audience: Assume a reasonably well-informed and educated audience, but non-specialists. Most judges will be current faculty and staff.  

Participation for applied or creative fields: All current graduate students are welcomed and encouraged, regardless of discipline. 


Presentations will be scored across three areas, with a total of 9 points possible in each area.  

Speech content: The speech should be persuasive, concise, and free of jargon. 

Presentation structure: The speech should be well organized and logical, relevant to an audience of reasonably informed non-specialists, and well balanced in its presentation of evidence and persuasion. 

Value and clarity: The speech should convey the value or the impact of the overall project, give a clear sense of the core essence of the project, and effectively describe examples.  

The final score will combine each of the three areas and will be a sum total out of 27 possible points. 

For detailed descriptions of competition scoring, please see the Empower Your Pitch scoring rubric.

Training Opportunities and Timeline

Training Opportunities

Empower Your Pitch Info Session: Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Wednesday, February 14, 2:00 p.m.
Virtual Event

Empower Your Pitch Info Session: STEM
Tuesday, February 20, 3:00 p.m.
Virtual Event

Empower Your Pitch Workshop – Writing your Pitch with the University Writing Center
Thursday, Feb 22, 2 p.m.
UT Learning Commons at Perry-Castañeda Library, PCL 2.350

Professional Storytelling – Hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning
Monday, March 4, Noon
UT Learning Commons at Perry-Castañeda Library, PCL 2.358

Public Speaking Center Appointments with the Sanger Learning Center
Practice your Empower Your Pitch presentation with trained public speaking consultants.


Registration to compete is now closed for 2024.

Round 1 of the competition begins on March 25, and the grand finale will be held on April 11.

Competition Awards

Immerse yourself in a world where communication meets innovation, and stand a chance to win prestigious awards:

  • The ‘Overall Excellence in Research Communication’ Award: Masterfully articulate your research and secure a $1000 prize!
  • The ‘Outstanding Public Engagement through Research Communication’ Award: Engage the public through your narrative and win $1000!
  • The ‘Outstanding Creativity in Research Communication’ Award: Let your creativity shine and earn $1000!
  • The ‘Community Choice Award for Excellence in Research Communication’: Win the hearts of the grand finale audience and take home $500!

Week of March 25 – Empower Your Pitch Competition Round 1
In the first stage of our competition, a dedicated panel of coaches will provide feedback to all contestants, helping you fine-tune your pitch for subsequent rounds. Fear not, there’s no elimination in round one! Round 1 will include the option to participate virtually, inviting participation from groups from the global Longhorn community.

We have reserved the following times for round 1. Subject to change according to competition needs:

  • [IN-PERSON] Monday, March 25, 11am-12pm
  • [VIRTUAL] Tuesday, March 26, 10-11am
  • [VIRTUAL] Tuesday, March 26, 11am-12pm
  • [IN-PERSON] Tuesday, March 26, 3-4pm
  • [IN-PERSON] Thursday, March 28, 3-4pm

Week of April 1 – Empower Your Pitch Competition Round 2
After receiving and incorporating feedback, participants will present to Empower Your Pitch judges for a second time in the elimination round. Twelve standout participants will be chosen in the second round as our competition finalists, advancing to a thrilling final round. Round 2 will also be available virtually, inviting talents from every corner of the globe. 12 finalists will be selected to present at the in-person, campus-wide finale!

We have reserved the following times for round 2. Subject to change according to competition needs:

  • [VIRTUAL] Monday, April 1, 11am-12pm
  • [IN-PERSON] Monday, April 1, 3-4pm
  • [IN-PERSON] Tuesday, April 2, 11am-12pm
  • [IN-PERSON] Thursday, April 4, 3-4pm
  • [VIRTUAL] Thursday, April 4, 4-5pm

Competition Finale and Celebration
Thursday, April 11, 6-8 p.m.
Flawn Academic Center, FAC 2.234
Competition finale. In the exhilarating third and final round, a panel of judges, experts in research communication, will select three winners, while the audience chooses an additional winner.

Finale Judges

Omar Abdullah, PhD

President at AchieveNEXT

Omar Abdullah, Ph.D, focuses on delivering keynote talks and specialized sales

and leadership training to ensure success for enterprises and individuals. He is an executive,

interdisciplinary scholar, and former comedian (key word being former). He has trained various Fortune 500 companies, taught courses at the University of California, Davis, and Texas A&M University, spoken at conferences, and facilitated workshops at Trinity University, Georgetown University, and SXSW.

Conor Cunningham, M.S.

Austin Engineering Site Leader, Microsoft

Conor Cunningham (UT BS CS, 1996) is a Partner Architect and Engineering Manager at Microsoft who has spent his career building the database engine that goes into Microsoft SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, and Synapse/Fabric Data Warehouse.  He also has a MS CS, University of Washington.  Conor has authored dozens of patents for Microsoft, a book chapter, and numerous academic papers on database design.  He is currently working on future database architectures on advanced hardware designs.  Additionally, Conor serves as the Engineering Site Leader for the Microsoft Austin office.

Edward Latson

CEO of Opportunity Austin

Ed Latson is the CEO & President of Opportunity Austin, the economic development initiative aimed at fostering job-creating investment in the five-county Central Texas region.

In his prior role, ed was the founder and Executive Director for ARMA—the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association, a business group focused on strengthening the advanced manufacturing community through advocacy, workforce development, and networking. Members include some of the largest employers in the area like Samsung Semiconductor, NXP, Infineon, Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, Tesla, and National Instruments, but also small and medium size companies from diverse sectors, like food & beverage, bio/pharma, automotive, printing, and metal fabrication. His work includes supplier development, workforce pipelines, and public affairs for member companies.

Latson is a member of Governor Abbott’s Semiconductor Taskforce. He is also active in the community serving on boards or advisory groups for the United Way, Junior Achievement, the Capital Area Economic Development District, Austin Community College, Texas State Technical College, Austin ISD, and Pflugerville ISD. He is a native Austinite and a graduate of the University of Texas.

Art Markman, PhD

Vice Provost, Academic Affairs at UT Austin

Art Markman is the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology, Human Dimensions of Organizations, and Marketing and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written over 150 research papers on topics including reasoning, decision making, and motivation. Art brings insights from cognitive science to a broader audience through his blogs at Psychology Today and Fast Company as well as his radio show/podcast Two Guys on Your Head. He is the author of several books including Smart Thinking, Smart Change, Brain Briefs, and Bring Your Brain to Work.

Kelsey Spies Evans

Executive Director of Corporate Relations University Development The University of Texas at Austin

Kelsey Evans has been a team member in the Texas Development community since September 2001.  She joined the University Development Office in Winter 2017 and serves as Executive Director of Corporate Relations. In this role, she and her team are responsible for helping connect the campus’s greatest assets (people and research) with the University’s top corporate partners to foster mutually beneficial collaborations and philanthropic investments.  With an eye towards always developing trust and to helping companies formulate a targeted strategy for engagement with UT, Kelsey brings a breadth of the University’s technical and programmatic expertise to every conversation.
Kelsey received her BA from the University of Arizona and lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, Scott, and their two children; son August (20 and an Aggie Engineer!) and daughter Avery (19 and a Texas State Bobcat!).   She is an active member of the University-Industry Partnership network (UIDP), National Association of Corporate Relations Officers (NACRO), and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

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