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The global COVID 19 pandemic has altered and affected nearly all aspects of our lives. It has catalyzed our ways of working by forcing us to adopt social distancing and Work From Home (WFH). Be it the academic or business world, functioning and communicating from one’s remote place has become the new norm. Earlier, PhD scholars presented their doctoral dissertations in person by interacting face-to-face with the audience and committee. But, owing to social distancing, research scholars are increasingly defending their thesis from their homes.

Defending a dissertation is often challenging. The nervousness, the anxiety and apprehensions regarding its success always takes a toll on research scholars. On top of everything else, they’re now bound in their homes amidst a pandemic! But, students have adopted technological tools like online meeting platforms such as Zoom and craft striking PowerPoint presentations to do remote defenses. Presentations with their visual appeal and befitting PowerPoint templates are perfect for scholars to defend their thesis complying with social distancing.

Here are some tips and tricks for PhD scholars to hold a successful virtual dissertation defense:

Set Up The Hosting Platform

Before setting up the digital meeting, choosing a good conference platform is a requisite. A multitude of software is available online these days to conduct meetings like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex etc. The standard version of these tools allows its free users time-restricted meetings so ensure to get their paid version if your dissertation defense is lengthy. Ensure high audio-video quality as your speech and body language should resonate with the committee. Being the host, mute and un-mute the members as desired.

Check Your Internet Connectivity

The next step after choosing the communication mode is checking your internet connectivity. Request your audience to hop onto the call 10 minutes prior so that you can check the internet speed. Eliminate extra devices connected to your WiFi or wired internet as they reduce their bandwidth. Gear up with an ethernet cable, an extra laptop screen, external webcam and microphone for seamless communication. In case of buffering or a lag in speed, ask some time from the committee to fix the connection.

Professionalism Is The Key

The defense is the last step to your hard-worked dissertation. No one on the committee is as well versed in your thesis topic as you. Exude confidence in your speech by keeping it formal and professional. Use terminologies relevant to your field. Your body language should emanate conviction. Even if you’re just on the screen, make sure you’re not slouching, folding your arms or swaying in your chair. Dress formally, keep your background clean, leverage good lighting and reduce all external noise factors.

Engaging Presentation

In an online dissertation defense, the task of gripping the attention of your audience falls on your PowerPoint presentation. All the dissertation writing tips suggest that your thesis as well its presentation deck should be top-notch for its success. Use professionally designed templates with powerful backgrounds and an apt color contrast scheme. Utilize functional fonts with readable size to maintain a typographical mastery. Incorporate an impressive opening with a landing slide. Keep animations to the minimum and test run it twice before presenting.

Be Flexible With The Meeting Committee

Remember that this experience of dissertation defense from home is new for all, even the members of your judgment committee. So, convey the meeting time schedules and send the dissertation agenda a week before them. Two screens are recommended for a smooth sharing of the slide deck on one and speaking on the other to avoid any obscurity of content on the screen. Set some ground rules with the committee about asking questions from you and sharing their points to avoid overlap of voices on the call.

Integrate Slides With Graphics

All text with no pictures will make your presentation monotonous and uninteresting. To captivate your committee and the audience, imbibe your slides with superior graphics and images. Infuse charts, diagrams, timelines and shapes to complement your text in slides to reinforce your topic with vitality. Images assist in easy comprehension of ideas and make your presentation more lively.

Assign Verbal Cues

Defending a dissertation online can be distracting as you have to operate your devices, switch between windows, run your presentation and speak as well. Keeping a set of verbal cues with you might come in handy to divulge the important points. A critical tip to remember here is to keep a note of your audiences’ facial expressions. If they impart an expression of confusion, repeat that point with different words.

Practice Makes You Perfect

Once you’ve formed your thesis and prepared its defense, practice it with your peers online as much you can. Collect constructive feedback and make necessary adjustments in your talking points. Incorporate appropriate pauses in between speaking instead of asserting all the information at once. Rehearse your full defense by scheduling a meeting with your guide to check all the pivotal points.

Q&A With The Committee

After your defense, the meeting committee is sure to ask questions about your dissertation from you. Convey it to your audience to ask questions from you by either raising their hands or writing their question in the chatbox. This way you can un-mute the required participants and communicate with them. You are the architect of your thesis. Hence, answer all the questions assuredly and convincingly.

You did it! Rock your PhD and celebrate the success of your dissertation defense by presenting it skillfully. The pandemic might have put you in isolation and changed the ways of presentations. But, by adopting these tips you can victoriously expand on your thesis topic right from your home. Be proud of this enormous accomplishment. Weave academic feathers to your cap and gain laurels by impressing your meeting committee online with your dissertation defense.


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