The Ultimate Guide to Preparing Your PhD Dissertation Defense Presentation

January 12, 2023

3 min read

The Ultimate Guide for Preparing Your PhD Dissertation Defense Presentation

Chances are, you’ve been waiting years for this moment: preparing your PhD dissertation defense.

You’ve made it this far in your doctorate journey, so you’ll really want to nail the final thing standing between you and your PhD.

We’ll break down everything you need to know, from what the dissertation defense is to how to prepare and more importantly, succeed.

Here’s our ultimate guide for preparing for your PhD dissertation defense.

What Is a PhD Dissertation Defense Presentation?

A PhD dissertation defense is your chance to defend your work in front of the academics analyzing your research. You might also hear this called a “thesis defense.” 

Although the thought of having experts critique you in a cross-examination setting, a dissertation defense is just an opportunity for you to show off your best work.

What Is a PhD Dissertation Committee?

A PhD dissertation committee is a group you assemble to guide you through the dissertation process, from preparation to the revision of your dissertation. 

You choose the members of the committee after all the academic work is finalized. Usually, members will be trusted faculty — people you know well who you might consider a mentor. 

How to Prepare for Your PhD Dissertation Defense Presentation

Preparing for your PhD dissertation defense doesn’t have to be stressful. 

Try using Yoodli, an AI-powered speech coach that analyzes your speaking patterns and identifies areas in which you can improve. By practicing your dissertation defense presentation through Yoodli, you’ll be able to not only improve your speaking, but boost your confidence as well. 

For example, you can take an in-depth look at the filler words you use, including which ones come up the most often and precisely how often they come up.

The Ultimate Guide for Preparing Your PhD Dissertation Defense Presentation
Yoodli’s AI-powered tool analyzes speech and identifies key areas to improve, such as filler word use.

Here are three more tips for preparing your PhD dissertation defense.

1. Don’t wait around.

One of the best things you can do for yourself when preparing your PhD dissertation defense is to start the work early. You won’t regret starting “too early” like you would regret starting the preparation too late in the game. 

Designing your presentation slides will take time and isn’t something you can slap together in a pinch. Right after your thesis is finalized, start on the slides. Your aim is to impress the committee with a thought-out, clear presentation that presents your work in a good light.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

It doesn’t matter how confident or comfortable you are with regard to your work and the actual PhD dissertation defense — you need to practice like your life depends on it. 

Be sure to practice not only the presentation, but also your body language, like hand gestures. You don’t want to seem too stiff or anxious during your dissertation defense, and practicing all these elements at once gives you an idea of what you need to work on. 

You’ll also want to work on your tone, to make sure you don’t come off as sounding monotonic. You want the committee members to feel interested and engaged. 

Taking one of Yoodli’s free public speaking courses — such as the fundamentals of public speaking — can also build on your confidence and make you feel more comfortable during the dissertation defense. 

Check out Yoodli’s 10-minute course here:

Yoodli co-founder Varun Puri breaks down how to improve your public speaking in 10 minutes.

3. Check out other candidates’ presentations.

Sometimes, universities will offer open PhD dissertation defense presentations. If your university is one of them, it’s a great idea to attend a few. If your university doesn’t offer open dissertation presentations, check out other local universities that might offer these.

Watching other candidates’ presentations can help you not only get a firsthand look at how a presentation should (or shouldn’t!) go, but also to affirm that dissertation defense presentations aren’t as awful and scary as you might think they are. You might even get some insight or a few ideas for your own presentation while you’re at it.

The Bottom Line

Preparing for your PhD dissertation defense presentation doesn’t have to be overwhelming. After all, it’s all part of your doctorate journey. With preparation and practice, you can use this opportunity to shine and show off your best work.