The 2021 Grad Slam competition is going virtual!

This year, Grad Slam talks will be pre-recorded and judged asynchronously in two different rounds: a Qualifying Round and a Final Round.

Here's what you need to know about the competition timeline:

Tuesday, January 5
Competition opens

Tuesday, February 2
Deadline for Qualifying Round video submissions

Friday, February 12
Participants are notified whether they have advanced to the Final Round

Monday, February 22
Finalists submit updated video recordings for judging

Monday, March 8
Livestream event showcasing finalist videos, live Q&A with finalists, and final results announced

We know that this will be a Grad Slam like no other, and we are here to support you every step of the way!

  • We will be offering training workshops in January to help you craft the content of your talk and plan out the technical aspects of your video submission (see below for more information)
  • All students who submit a video in the Qualifying Round are eligible to receive up to $75 in reimbursements for equipment costs such as for a microphone, tripod, or ring light (note: all receipts must show a purchase date of December 8, 2020, or later)
  • For finalists, editing support will be provided for their final video submissions
  • Detailed tip sheets and guidelines are available for all participants (note that all Qualifying Round participants must read through and follow these guidelines)

Check back at the beginning of Winter Quarter for more details and information on how to participate in this year’s competition. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to Shawn Warner, Director of Professional Development for the Graduate Division. 

See below for more information on:

prizes-and-sponsors  training-guidelines  rules-judging  info for presenters

*Please note that the information contained on this page supersedes any other communications about Grad Slam guidelines in previous years, and is only applicable to the 2021 competition.


We're giving away even more money in this year's competition, with the addition of a People's Choice Award for our final round, SONOS speakers for all of our finalists, and equipment support for all qualifying round participants.

Grand Prize (1 prize total)

Final Round Runners Up (2 prizes total)

Final Round People's Choice Award (1 prize total)

All Other Final Round Presenters (6 prizes total)

SONOS Speakers
All Final Round Participants (10 speakers total)

Up to $75 in equipment cost reimbursements for all qualifying round video submissions


Bri McWhorter.. (1)Bri McWhorter, founder of the communications consulting company Activate to Captivate, is back again this year to help you craft your Grad Slam talk! Join us for one or both of her workshops in January to learn more about organizing your ideas, projecting confidence in your presentation, and practicing your pitch with your peers.

Crafting Your Grad Slam Pitch (two workshop options)

Tuesday, January 19, 2:00-3:30pm
Hosted on Zoom, RSVP here to receive link and password

Monday, January 25, 12:00-1:30pm
Hosted on Zoom, RSVP here to receive link and password

Submission Guidelines & Tip Sheets

2021GradSlam-SubmissionGuidelines Qualifying Round Participant Submission Guidelines

ALL Qualifying Round participants must read and follow the Submission Guidelines in order to be eligible for participation in the competition

Tips and Tricks for Creating a High-Quality Grad Slam Recording (revised January 19)


The Tips & Tricks guide contains helpful but optional suggestions – ultimately, we encourage you to create a video that you are comfortable with and proud of

Grad Slam submit button



2018 Grad Slam finalsEligibility: All graduate students currently enrolled in UCSB Master’s or doctoral graduate programs are eligible to compete.

Collaboration: In cases of collaborative research, the presenter’s individual contribution to the project must be salient and clearly specified.


Presentation slides are allowed but not required. Presenters are encouraged to remember that Grad Slam is a public speaking competition, not a slideshow competition, so the focus should remain on the content of their talk rather than on their slides. If presenters choose to prepare slides, they must adhere to the following rules:

  • Presenters are allowed a maximum of 3 slides (note that each "click," such as to make an element appear on screen or to make a video/audio clip to be played, counts as a slide)
  • Presenters are encouraged not to include a title slide as part of their 3 total slides, since the Graduate Division will use the information provided on the submission form to inform judges about each presenter's name, department, and talk title
  • Use of animation and transition effects (e.g. any of the features on the PowerPoint Animation or Transition tabs) is not allowed
  • All slides must be original to the student and cannot be generated by a professional; inclusion of photos, visuals, charts, and graphics created by others is allowed but must be properly cited or attributed
  • Embedding of audio and/or video clips is allowed, but no other animations or transitions; the content of the audio or video clip must be deemed indispensable to the communication of the research topic

If the presentation visuals do not adhere to these standards, presenters will have points deducted from their final score as follows (not to exceed a total of 15 points deducted for all slide penalties):

Number of Slides

  • 4 total slides/clicks - 3 points deducted
  • 5 total slides/clicks - 6 points deducted
  • 6+ total slides/clicks - 9 points deducted

Use of Disallowed Animations/Transitions

  • 1 instance - 1 point deducted
  • 2 instances - 2 points deducted
  • 3 instances - 3 points deducted
  • 4 instances - 4 points deducted
  • 5 instances - 5 points deducted
  • 6+ instances - 6 points deducted


Videos should be no more than 3 minutes total in length. If the video is longer than 3 minutes, points will be deducted from the final score as follows (not to exceed a total of 15 points deducted for timing penalties):

  • 3:03-3:04 - 1 point deducted
  • 3:05-3:06 - 2 points deducted
  • 3:07-3:08 - 3 points deducted
  • 3:09-3:10 - 4 points deducted
  • 3:11-3:12 - 5 points deducted
  • etc.


Judges: All judging will occur asynchronously during the 2021 competition. For the qualifying round, judging panels of two faculty members and one staff member will judge each video submission according to the UCSB Grad Slam Scorecard. The final round will be judged by four prominent members from the campus community. Judges are selected to ensure disciplinary diversity and every effort will be made to minimize conflicts of interest.

People's Choice: During the livestreamed final round, audience members will get the chance to participate in a real-time People's Choice award vote. Once all presentations have been premiered, viewers will be able to access an on-screen link to a poll where they can cast their vote. The winner of the People's Choice Award will be announced at the end of the final round, along with all of the judges' selections.


2015 Grad Slam finalists Daniel Hieber and Selvi ErsoyPUBLICITY PERMISSIONS

By entering the competition, presenters agree to allow the UCSB Graduate Division to use their video submissions for publicity surrounding the contest and/or in other contexts, such as promotional materials, website, etc. If you have questions or concerns about making your presentation publicly available, please contact Shawn Warner.



Grad Slam submit button


Contact Shawn Warner, Director of Graduate Student Professional Development at UCSB.