You are going to breathe a sigh of relief when you hand in your written dissertation, but don’t breathe too hard because it’s still not over yet. You are going to have to do a dissertation defense talk.
Preparation: The worst thing you can do is turn up to your dissertation defense unprepared. You should spend weeks going over your notes and your slides to make sure that you are confident about what you are going to discuss. You should combine practicing in front of groups and practicing when you are alone. Technology is so advanced now that you can video yourself while you practice. The majority of people don’t like to see themselves on camera so don’t be too hard on yourself. What you need to pay attention to is that you are speaking clearly and concisely, what is your body language conveying to the audience, and whether or not you look confident in front of a group.
You are going to have a certain amount of time to speak during your dissertation defense so you are going to have to make sure that you don’t go over that time. The length of your talk will be determined by your department but they will let you know ahead of time so that you can prepare.
Listen to other dissertation defense talks: You can get these on DVD or you can go and see one live if there is an open event. This will prepare you mentally for your defense talk. When you watch the talk be critical not in a bad way but ask yourself what you liked and what you didn’t like. This way you can make sure that you don’t replicate the same mistakes. You should also pay attention to the audience’s reactions, their body language and facial expressions will let you know whether or not they are receptive to the speaker.
Get your friends to question you: At the end of your dissertation defense the audience is going to have an opportunity to ask you some dissertation defense questions. This is the only part of your talk that you can’t prepare for because you don’t know what they are going to ask you. In preparation for this you can get your friends to ask you random questions on your topic and this will prepare you to answer any questions that you might get on the day.
Avoid jargon: You don’t know who your audience will be on the day but you can guarantee that there will be some people who are totally ignorant of your subject. Therefore, you are going to have to speak to your audience in layman’s terms as opposed to using technical jargon that only you and your tutor understand.
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