The dissertation defense is the cause of much stress for many graduate students. There are a number of techniques that have been effective in minimizing the amount of stress one feels during this period. This guide shows you how to deal with stress so that you can successfully deliver your defense and earn the recognition and credit you deserve:
Don’t wait until the last minute to begin your preparations. You are usually given a choice of dates to present your defense. Choose a date at least two weeks away and immediately develop a plan for printing material, preparing any slides, writing a script, and memorizing content. If you break up your workload into several smaller parts, the project will be much more manageable and you will experience less stress.
Memorization is key to presenting a great defense, but before you memorize content you should write out a script to rehearse each day. Presentations of any type are significantly easier to deliver when you’ve already practiced performing your lines in front of a mirror or a friend. You don’t have to memorize your lines verbatim, but you should feel comfortable recalling familiar information.
You already know at least one member of the review committee: your graduate dissertation advisor. You should get to know every other member in order to prepare discussing their particular areas of interest in relation to your research work. If it’s possible try to introduce yourself weeks before and ask for some advice. You’d be surprised at how willing and helpful they can be to help you prepare ahead of time.
As soon as you feel confident that you’ve learned what you can about the committee members, you can start to develop a few questions you are likely to receive. Remember that you are only presenting an overview of your work, but on any key feature you might receive a question to delve into a little more deeply. So, be sure to be adequately prepared for the unexpected.
Finally, work on developing a good sleeping schedule and dietary habit in the weeks leading up to your defense. As you probably already know in your experience as a graduate student, both of these can come off the rails pretty quickly. And it’s often hard to get a good night’s sleep or to healthy on demand, so put in the effort to make these improvements in advance.