Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the structure of the competition has changed drastically, and it continues to evolve as we learn better ways to highlight the amazing work of our graduate students and prepare them to communicate to a wide range of people. Below you will find information on the Grad Slam rules and guidelines that were in effect from 2013-2019. To view information on the all-virtual 2021 competition, scroll to the bottom of the 2021 Grad Slam page. (Note: the 2020 competition was cancelled.) The information on these pages is for reference only; for up-to-date guidelines, please navigate to the current year competition page from the Grad Slam home page.


2015 Grad Slam finalists Daniel Hieber and Selvi ErsoyABOUT THE ROUNDS

Venue: Grad Slam rounds will take place in many different venues across campus. Presenters will be notified of their presentation time and venue via email.

Equipment: All rooms will be equipped with a laptop, projector, speakers, slide advancer remote, and laser pointer.

Day-of: Presenters should arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes before their scheduled round to allow for check-in, running through slides, and other preparation. Presenters will have assigned seating at the venue.

Photography and Videography: By entering the competition, presenters agree to allow the UCSB Graduate Division to use the resulting photographs and/or video from the Grad Slam, which may include their image or presentation, 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.


Slides: Presenters must email their PowerPoint slides to Shawn Warner (shawnwarner@ucsb.edu) AT LEAST 1 WEEK PRIOR to their scheduled presentation date. This is to ensure that all slides adhere to the specified rules for slide design (see Rules and Judging below for more information) and so that slides can be compiled into one master slide deck for each round. Slides should be set to 16:9 aspect ratio in order to ensure proper display. Presentations will be pre-loaded onto a Graduate Division laptop for display during the presentation. If slides do not meet the required specifications for inclusion in the competition (e.g. more than 3 slides, inclusion of animation, incorrect aspect ratio), they will be returned to the presenter and it is the presenter's responsibility to resubmit corrected slides before their scheduled round. If presenters advance to subsequent rounds, they will have the opportunity to update their slides if they so desire.

Practice: The UCSB Library has a Presentation Practice Room available for reservation by UCSB students, faculty, and staff. Located on the 1st Floor Mountain Side (room 1506), the space allows you to practice, refine, and record oral and multimedia presentations for classes and seminars, conferences, teaching preparation, Grad Slam, Lunch & Learn, thesis defenses, and other events. Learn more here.





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 contribution to the project must be salient and clearly specified.

Visuals: PowerPoint slides are allowed but not required. No Prezi, PDF, or other presentation formats will be accepted. Slides should be set to 16:9 aspect ratio in order to ensure proper display. 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 should adhere to the following rules:

  • Presenters are allowed a maximum of 3 slides, exclusive of the title slide which will be generated by the Graduate Division (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)
  • Use of PowerPoint animation effects (i.e. any of the features on the PowerPoint animation tab) are 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
  • Props are allowed but need to be cleared ahead of time by the program coordinators, require minimal set-up, and not produce a mess; presenters should email Shawn Warner (shawnwarner@ucsb.edu) if they plan to use props

Timing: Presenters will be timed during their presentation and should aim to speak for no more than 3 minutes total. A Graduate Division staff person will display an easily visible iPad countdown timer during the presentation so that students can note how much time they have left. Timing will commence from the moment the student starts talking; points will be deducted from the final score as follows:

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

Speakers will be cut off at 3:30 (total 15 point deduction).


Judges: A panel of two faculty members and one staff member judges each preliminary and semifinal round. The final round will feature four prominent members from the campus community as judges. Judges are selected to ensure disciplinary diversity and every effort will be made to minimize conflicts of interest. If it is determined that a judge and a presenter in the same round have a research relationship (e.g. advisor, committee member, frequent collaborator), the organizers will make arrangements for the judge to recuse themselves and the scores of the other two judges will be averaged together to create a substitution score for the third judge.

People's Choice: During each of the preliminary rounds, attendees will have the chance to vote for their favorite presenter via anonymous ballots. Once the two Judges' Choice winners have been determined, the presenter with the most audience votes will be chosen as the People's Choice winner and will advance to the semifinal rounds along with the Judge's Choice winners. Note: Audience members must be present for all the talks in a given round in order to vote for People's Choice.

Winners: There will be 3 winners from each preliminary round (2 Judges' Choice and 1 People's Choice) that advance to the semifinal rounds. Each semifinal round will be composed of a mix of Judges' Choice winners and People's Choice winners. Three winners will then be chosen from each of the semifinal rounds to advance to the final, all of whom will be selected by that round's judging panel.

Scoring: Participants are judged using a standardized rubric that evaluates presentations in 7 different categories. To download a hard copy PDF of the scorecard that judges use, click here. All judges are required to view the judges' training video prior to their assigned round and to evaluate presenters using these guidelines.


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