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Conquering the Oral Defense

Wise OwlHow do I prepare for my oral defense?

The oral defense is what makes or breaks you. If you are positive and in charge, you are more likely to enroll your committee. If you are polished and powerful, you will gain the respect of your committee, and they will be more likely to support you. If you have good presentation skills, your audience is much more likely to take you seriously. So if you are afraid of public speaking, practice with a good coach to prepare for a positive experience.

The golden rule for success at your orals is to practice and polish your presentation and have good visual aids. Take every opportunity you can find to speak about your project in front of a group. This kind of practice will quickly improve your presentation skills.

Three Strategies for Preparing for Your Oral Defense:

  1. Know your audience.Try to talk to each of your committee members before the meeting so you know what their concerns are AHEAD OF TIME. It is much easier to prepare your response ahead of time rather than respond in the moment. Find out from other students about the kinds of concerns each of your committee members might ask about.

  2. Prepare a script for your presentation. Time yourself so that you will stay to the time you are allowed. Prepare points to raise during the discussion. Prepare answers for the questions you expect to get as well as those that you are most afraid of getting. Prepare and use visual aids. Practice. Practice. Practice.

  3. Meet with you chair prior to the orals to review what you should expect and follow the advice that he or she gives you!
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