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I’ve been working with PHD students at Charles Darwin University this week, training them on how to make short films for the annual Visualise Your Thesis competition.

Visualise Your Thesis is a national competition that challenges graduate researchers to present their research in a 60 second, eye-catching digital display. 

In the skills workshops I’ve been running we’ve looked at what make good digital content, what apps and resources are around to develop videos, how to get your message across in short time frames and how to explain complicated concepts in video formats.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the PHD students produce!

For those of you looking to make video content for projects and want some tips here’s 5 take home messages from the workshop series.

  1. EMOTION: if you have 60 seconds to get a message across find the appropriate emotion to attach to the film and leverage it to communicate the message to the core of the humans watching
  2. HOOK: you need to capture the viewers attention within 7 seconds… yep it’s tricky. The best thing to do is find a relatable hook or way to make your audience empathise with your message and research – remember viewers want to know why it matters to them: so spell it out.
  3. SIMPLE BUT NOT STUPID: There’s a fine line between communicating a complicated subject matter effectively and seemingly patronising audiences with ‘dumb down’ versions of your research. I recommend turning your content into a conversation and practising that conversation with various people to see if they follow what you’re saying. Reduce confusion by removing acronyms or words with a million syllables.
  4. CLEAN: It’s tempting to put A LOT of information and graphics and colours and sounds into a 60 second video… there’s a lot to say and not much time. But you’re better off keeping it clean and simple and having space in there for people to understand the core message. Focus on 3 main colours. Keep the graphics consistent and make sure you have clear space in your shots.
  5. PRACTISE WITH SOMETHING FUN: If it’s the first time you’re making a short video or media content I recommend practising with the apps and technology on a fun project before jumping into your work. If you can have fun using an app or a new piece of tech the first time you use it then you’re more likely to approach the work challenge with enthusiasm.

Good luck to all the PHD students I’ve worked with! For more information on the competition head to: www.research.unimelb.edu.au/visualiseyourthesis


Amy Hetherington

Amy has a jack-of-all-trades tool kit of communications skills and heaps of energy. She offers services including content creation, videography, photography, publicity, community engagement, social media and MCing and comedy to help Northern Territory people connect with events, organisations, causes and celebrations. Amy is passionate about creating content and sharing stories in a fun, enjoyable and amiable style. She’s heavily involved in the NT community and would love to add some fun and engagement to your next project.