Grad Slam 2023 button

We are proud to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Grad Slam Showcase! This page contains important information about changes to the event and exciting ways that the UCSB campus can get involved.

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Professional Development & Community Building
Competition Timeline & Prizes
Rules, Judging, & Scoring
Resources for Presenters

Professional Development & Community Building

All are invited to join us for our workshops in Fall and Winter quarters that focus on developing a wide range of public speaking skills. We welcome those who plan on participating in Grad Slam as well as those who simply want to improve particular skills.

Past Events:

Grad Slam 101 - Vimeo thumbnail
Grad Slam 101 slides thumbnail
SHEF Session - Shoreline Image
Crafting Your Elevator Pitch (STEM) - Shoreline image (1)

Upcoming Events:

Crafting Your Elevator Pitch

Crafting Your Elevator Pitch

Friday, January 13, 9:30-11:30am
SRB Multipurpose Room

This interactive workshop, led by Bri McWhorter from Activate to Captivate, will show you how to craft an engaging pitch about yourself and your work. Bri will provide techniques to help you organize and distill your ideas and then you'll practice the tips in pairs throughout the workshop. This session is perfect for those participating in Grad Slam Showcase and is also useful during interviews and networking. It is open to graduate students and postdocs from any discipline.

Register here

What’s In It for Them? An Audience-Oriented Approach to Winning Research Presentations

What’s In It for Them?
An Audience-Oriented Approach to Winning Research Presentations

Wednesday, January 18, 4:30-6:00pm
Social Science & Media Studies Building, Room 1301-2

This interactive workshop will guide presenters in crafting their Grad Slam talks from concept through first draft, focusing on purpose, audience, and organization. The workshop will be held in a computer lab where participants will create, receive feedback, and revise in real-time, ultimately producing a tangible product ready for polishing. This workshop complements those given by Dr. Madeleine Sorapure on slide design and Bri McWhorter on delivery.

Register here

Design Awesome Slides

Design Awesome Slides

Wednesday, January 25, 4:30-6:00pm
Social Science & Media Studies Building, Room 1301-2

This interactive workshop presents key principles for effectively designing and presenting slides along with resources for color, font, images, templates, and other elements of slide design. Attendees will be able to begin designing and receiving feedback on their slides for Grad Slam.

Register here

Grad Slam Practice Sessions

Grad Slam Practice Sessions

January 27 - February 1
SRB Multipurpose Room

Practice your talk and get feedback from Graduate Division staff, Grad Slam alum, and fellow participants. When you register you'll sign up for one of the following session options:

January 27, 9:30am-11:00am
January 30, 2:00-3:30pm
February 1, 10:30am-12:00pm

Register here


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2023 Grad Slam Prelim Schedule

Preliminary Round Prizes

$1,000 preliminary round winner who also advances to the Final Round (1 per round, total of 10)
$500 preliminary round runner up (1 per round, total of 10)
$25 gift cards raffled off for all other participants (5 per round, total of 50)
Grad Slam mug and tote bag for all participants 

Final Round Showcase

Friday, April 7, 4:30-6pm
UCSB Campbell Hall and live-streamed on YouTube

Preliminary round champions will record their talks in March to be judged asynchronously before the Final Round. At the Final Round, each of our 10 champions will give a live version of their talk and the judges' winners will be announced. The event will also feature a Q&A with the presenters and the audience will vote for their People's Choice.

Final Round Prizes

1 - $2,000 grand prize winner who represents UCSB at the system-wide competition
2 - $1,000 runners up
1 - $500 People's Choice winner


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Rules, Judging, & Scoring


No more slide restrictions (mostly)
More diverse judging panels
Revised scoring rubric

See below for more information

Lauren Menzer, 2018 Grad Slam Runner UpPRESENTERS

Eligibility: 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.


By entering the competition, presenters agree to allow the UCSB Graduate Division to use their photos and videos 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.


There are no longer any restrictions on the number and content of slides that presenters may use. However, we request that all presenters use Google Slides if they are creating visuals to accompany their talk.

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. We hope that these changes will allow participants to think critically and creatively about what types of visuals (if any) will best support the content of their talk. Please note that 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.

When creating slides, please use the Google Slides template below. If slides are created using a different platform, the organizers cannot guarantee that they will be displayed correctly in the master slide deck.

Grad Slam Google Slides Template Thumbnail

IMPORTANT NOTE: At the UC-wide competition, there will be different rules for the use of visuals. Presenters are allowed only one slide but they are allowed to use animation. The judging rubric section on visuals will be eliminated. The Graduate Division will work to support UCSB's campus champion in adapting their visuals, if any, to meet these standards.


Veronica Laos, 2018 Grad Slam finalist (1) Presentations should be no more than 3 minutes total in length. The talk timer begins when the student starts talking. If the presentation 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.


2023 Grad Slam scorecard sampleJudging for the Divisional Competitions will take place live and in person. Judging for the Final Round Showcase will take place asynchronously ahead of time based on recorded versions of talks, and the winners will be announced live at the Final Round.

In order to reflect a diversity of audiences, all judging panels will be comprised of a mix of faculty, staff, students (grad and undergrad), and community members. Judges are selected to ensure disciplinary and professional diversity, and every effort will be made to minimize conflicts of interest.

All presentations will be judged according to our new scoring rubric. The four categories that presentations will be evaluated on are:

  1. Accessibility: The presenter translated their research and its disciplinary significance into language that all of us can understand
  2. Organization: The presenter delivered a talk that followed a clear and logical sequence
  3. Delivery: The presenter delivered the talk with an effective performance style in terms of body language, eye contact, expression, volume, and pace
  4. Engagement: The presenter conveyed enthusiasm for their research and captured and maintained the audience’s attention

Note that presenters will no longer be judged on their visuals and the former criteria have been streamlined into these new categories in order to evaluate the types of skills we hope to train students on.


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Below are a list of tools to consider as you begin thinking about how you communicate your research to various audiences.


When you’re working on your research, every last detail seems important and worth sharing with others—whether they are familiar with your field or not. That’s why it’s important to practice how you talk about your research and to think about ways to get people interested and excited in what you do.


If your presentation includes visuals, make sure to select them carefully. You’ll want to find images or tables that are visually appealing and that emphasize key aspects of your work. Most importantly: strive for simplicity! Cluttering your slides with images and text can overwhelm your audience.


Giving a speech can be a nerve-racking experience, but it is important to practice this skill in order to become more confident and comfortable in front of others.


There are a number of discipline-specific resources that may help you as you prepare to communicate both inside and outside of your discipline.


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Questions? Contact Shawn Warner, Director of Professional Development