12 Brilliant Tips on How to Prepare for the Dissertation or Thesis Defense
You spent countless hours on it. Many weeks, months, and possibly even years. It's your grand project, which is supposed to convince everyone that you deserve your doctoral degree. You made it as perfect as possible.
Now, there's only one obstacle to surpass and you'll finally put that PhD title in front of your degree. It's the dissertation defense.
No university is going to grant you the degree just because you wrote a research project. You'll have to defend it in front of the committee members and a wider audience. That triggers your anxiety? Welcome to the world of every PhD candidate, ever.
It's only natural for you to be overwhelmed by the doctoral defense challenge. The question is: will you allow the fear to block your way to success? Of course not! You've come this far. You won't allow anything to stand on your way to success. You'll prepare well for the dissertation presentation and you'll step on that stage with huge self-confidence, ready to impress everyone.
Maybe you need some tips with that, huh? We'll give you important hints on how to prepare for dissertation defense.
But before we get there, let's clarify one thing: what is a dissertation defense, exactly? Each university has different policies for their PhD candidates, but the process of defending dissertation usually involves few aspects:
- Presenting in an open lecture that anyone can attend
- Discussion with the members of the PhD committee, who will question different aspects of your projects
- Meeting of the committee - that's when the members finally decide whether or not to grant you the degree.
Just because you took a chance for defending dissertation does not mean the committee will decide in your favor. There are three potential outcomes from the process:
As we said, your university will determine the procedure and you'll follow the guidelines. But in most cases, the standards are similar to what we generalized above.
Failures are rare. Do you know why? - Because most PhD candidates work incredibly hard on their dissertations and they manage to give outstanding presentations. You'll do that, too. Now, it's time for the tips!
12 Brilliant Tips on How to Prepare for the Dissertation or Thesis Defense
Attend Presentations by Other Candidates
Give Yourself Enough Time to Prepare the Slides
Structure the Slides
Practice Breathing Techniques
Make the Intro Very Special
Write Your Own List of Questions
Practice Your Speech and Body Language
Practice in Front of Friends And Let Them Ask Questions
Learn How to Handle Mistakes
Don't Rush through the Presentation
Get Plenty of Sleep and Relax!
Look through the schedule of open dissertation presentations at your university. Heck; you don't have to stop there. You can attend open presentations at other universities, too. All you need to do is find out about those events and show up in the audience.
When you see someone else defending a thesis, you'll realize that there's nothing scary about the process. Moreover, you'll understand why it's necessary. It's not just about the candidate, the university, and the committee. It's about the academic community and the contributions that this project makes for it.
Attending another candidate's thesis defense presentation will help you to mentally prepare for the process. You'll see the different stages in action. You can even take notes of the things you notice. You'll probably have few ideas on how to improve the talk, and you'll definitely get motivated by some details. Write what works and what doesn't work. Use those hints to develop your own approach to defend your dissertation.
When you turn in the final version of your dissertation or thesis to the PhD committee, you'll think the hard part is over. You might even relax a bit. You'll schedule the presentation and you might be overly confident at first. After all, you're the one who prepared this project and you know every single detail about it. All you need to do is prepare a thesis defense PowerPoint presentation, get out there and do your thing.
But that's harder than you think.
You have to give yourself enough time for the dissertation defense process. Start preparing the slides at least one month before the presentation date. You don't want to end up getting data in the slides the last minute. That would make you frantic.
You need to make the slides perfect, and you have to go through multiple practice talks if you want to prepare well. Of course you won't memorize every single word of the dissertation defense talk, but you should certainly have it well-polished.
One of the most important dissertation defense tips is to give yourself enough time. Don't underestimate it!
Great slides are the foundation of a great defense. When you attend another candidate's defense, you're practically seeing a sample dissertation defense PowerPoint presentation. Are their slides attractive enough? Look around; do they hold the attention of the audience?
Take notes! You'll need them when you start working on your own presentation.
The slides should be structured really well. Do not write too much content in them. Just write facts and numbers. Use charts and graphs, so you'll present the facts in a more comprehensive way. As for the design, don't go wild with it. You're not giving a presentation in front of kids. The design should be sleek and serious.
Are you ready for an experiment? It will be fun! Watch few TED talks today. You can choose some on the topics you like, but you can also go random.
You'll notice one interesting thing: the speakers are very fluent in their speech. You don't even notice them taking a breath. That's because they practiced. Every speaker knows they have to control their breath. Long, steady breaths are crucial not only for the flow, but for eliminating the anxiety as well.
When adrenaline kicks in, your breath becomes quick and shallow. This will happen before you step in front of the audience. That's when you need to inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Then, pay attention to your breathing and slow it down.
You need some practice prior to this moment. If there's a good yoga studio in your area, the classes can help a lot! Sure; yoga is mostly about movement when beginners look at it, but it's also about controlling the breath.
The audience will expect a lot from you. You're a PhD candidate defending thesis, and that says a lot about this event. They expect to be thrilled by your thesis and the way you expose it. The introduction will answer their most important question: “Is this worth my time?”
To get the attention of the audience and make a good first impression, many PhD candidates decide to open with an anecdote or an intriguing fact. Whatever you decide to do, remember that the first minute sets the tone for your entire presentation.
When you prepare the presentation, ask yourself: what questions can you derive from it? Try to approach it from a reader's point of view. Pretend like you don't know much about the topic. Then, brainstorm and write down some questions.
After that, you can pretend you know a lot about the particular issue. What would you ask in that case?
You'll be surprised to see the committee members asking some of those questions. The same ones! Of course they won't be identical, but you can assume what they will ask if you simply read through your dissertation. Attending other candidates' open discussions will also help you assume the dissertation defense questions. Pay attention to the approach of the committee members and you'll figure out how they usually treat their candidates.
The important thing to keep in mind is that they are not trying to confuse you. They are just trying to make you think more, so you can expand your point of view even further.
Practice, practice, practice! That is the key to defending your dissertation successfully.
You have your dissertation, right? Write the main points you'll cover in the presentation. Prepare the slides, and then start practicing. If you can do it in front of the mirror, it would be perfect. Don't worry; no one cares if you look silly. No one is there to look at you. Just relax and speak up. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to get into the flow.
Pay attention to your body language, too. Stand with your back straight, but the shoulders relaxed. That gives you the feel of self-confidence. Observe yourself in the mirror and pay attention to the movements you make. Your body language has to be conscious and deliberate. Try not to use your hands too much, but don't be stiff. Practice; you'll get better.
When you're sure you've practice enough, the time for an actual presentation will come. Prepare some snacks, and invite some of your friends over. It's important to have people who understand the topic to some level, so it's good to invite your labmates, too.
Give them the presentation. Then, invite them to ask questions and respond! This is the real kind of practice, which prepares you for the actual event.
When you give the presentation in front of your friends, you'll probably make few mistakes. It's okay. Everyone makes mistakes. It's important for you to carry on. Don't let the mistake throw you off track. Just take a deep breath and move on to the next point.
Don't worry too much about it. By the end of the presentation, the audience and the committee members will forget about this flaw. They expect minor flaws in the presentations, since they know how nervous the candidates are.
If you're nervous, you'll want this to end ASAP. Your instinct will tell you that if you go through the presentation faster, you'll be relieved from the stress sooner. That will trigger your anxiety, so you'll speak too fast and you'll even skip some parts of the presentation you planned.
Don't do that!
Remember: deep, long breaths!
Don't perceive this as a stressful situation. See it as an opportunity instead! You have a chance to tell everyone how cool your research was and how interesting your findings were. Take your time; everyone is eager to hear what you have.
There's a simple exercise that will make a massive impact on your self-confidence. All you need to do is visualize yourself giving a successful presentation each evening before going to sleep.
Just close your eyes. See yourself standing in front of the audience and going from one point to another. It takes a lot of commitment and persistence for you to do this every day. But the results are worth the effort!
Visualization makes you see yourself doing that scary thing. You'll even feel the anxiety the first few times. But with time and practice, you'll get comfortable with the idea of speaking in front of an audience. You need to achieve and preserve that mental image of being confident.
Out of all dissertation defense tips we listed, this is the most important one. It will be hard to relax and get your sleep the night before the big event. The expectation will make you anxious. But focus! You can do this! Go to bed early, with a clear intention to get the rest you deserve. You need to look fresh in the morning.
Good sleep and healthy food will keep you energized. Take care of yourself, so you'll boost your chances of staying focused during the presentation.
Are you ready for this?
Of course you're ready!
You've worked for the PhD degree too hard, so you definitely have what it takes to push yourself through this final step.
Read all news