Part 2: Dealing with Technical Requirements
Welcome to part two of a four-part power series on successfully preparing for your dissertation (or thesis) defense. Each part in this power series helps you adequately prepare for each stage in the dissertation defense process. This way, by the time you read and implement the strategies of all four parts, you should walk into your dissertation defense and let all hell break loose! In a ‘successful’ hell kind of way of course. The four-part series includes the following:
Part One – Preparing the PowerPoint
Part Two – Dealing with Technical Requirements
Part Three – Shifting into the Right Mind Set
Part Four – Conducting the Actual Presentation
By taking the strategies and suggestions of all four articles in this power series seriously, not only will you help yourself reach the dissertation promised land, but you will also be able to do it easily and effortlessly!
In part one, we talked about how to help you prepare a PowerPoint presentation that you will use during your defense. Now that you have created your PowerPoint and sent it to your advisor for review, it is time to take care of the technical requirements of your defense. This is the subject of this particular article and we discuss what things you should prepare for on a technical level (computer, room, documents, etc.).
Dealing With The Technical Requirements
In general, there are three levels of technical requirements that you must take care of before the day of your presentation. These include:
- The actual room
- The technology & equipment
- Documents & paperwork.
Preparing the Room
First of all, when the date and time have been set for your defense, do not wait one single moment to find out in which room you will be presenting in. Also, as soon as possible, visit the room (when it’s empty and not in use of course). If you are presenting virtually, be sure to choose a room in your home or office that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Make sure that the room is appropriate for your presentation by considering factors such as size, seating, appropriate number of power outlets, environmental control, cleanliness, and lighting. You want to make sure that your audience and committee members are sitting on comfortable chairs, that there is proper lighting, and that the tables & power outlets are set up appropriately for your presentation equipment (the testing of your equipment will be discussed below). If you are at home make sure that your background is neat- otherwise choose a professional virtual background to use in Zoom. If you feel there are any issues with the room in any way, either resolve them or request another room as soon as possible. In under no circumstances should you wait until the last minute to resolve any issues with your room or, even worse, to request a different room.
Preparing & Testing the Technology
Since you will be presenting using PowerPoint, you will need a computer (preferably a laptop) and some kind of projector. You will also need your actual PowerPoint presentation file to use while conducting your equipment test. Also, you can secure any piece of recording equipment (optional) if you choose to record your presentation. This can be any type of voice recorder, tape recorder, or simply your smart phone. If you are presenting virtually, use zoom and record the session.
If you are having any trouble securing any of these, talk to your advisor or email them as soon as possible while cc’ing any relevant authority to communicate the urgency of this matter and to have it resolved as soon as possible. Securing the equipment of your defense is no light matter, so make sure you never ever treat it as such.
Testing your Equipment
Next, after securing the appropriate equipment, and after ensuring your laptop or computer has Microsoft Office PowerPoint installed, make sure you test all your equipment. To conduct this test, make sure you ask for the projector that you will be using on the presentation day. If it is not available at the time you ask for it, ask when it’ll be available for you to run a test, and then conduct a test on that particular day.
In addition, do not consider conducting your test in any random place. Make sure you test all your equipment in the same room that you will be conducting your actual presentation in. If you do not do this, even if you have fully-functioning equipment, you may still face technical issues or delays on the day of your defense such as not having power cables long enough to reach certain outlets, or having the room structured in a way where you won’t be able to display the screen output on the appropriate wall. Therefore, do not underestimate the importance of conducting an equipment test in the same room that you’ll be conducting your presentation in.
When you conduct the test, you should do so by actually simulating a small part of your PowerPoint presentation as close to the same conditions as will be on the day of your defense. There is no need to simulate the entire presentation since the goal here is to simply test that your equipment, hardware and software, is working properly.
In particular, you will want to set up the equipment in the same manner it would be set up during the real presentation. Therefore, set up everything as you would during the real thing and, when you display your actual PowerPoint presentation on the projector, make sure you flip through some of your slides to ensure that your file has no issues on this particular computer/laptop especially if it is different than the computer/laptop you used to create your PowerPoint. Finally, record and resolve any issues as soon as possible.
Preparing the Paperwork
There are several things you will need for your presentation besides the technology. These include the following:
- PPT Handouts – If you are presenting in person, prepare PowerPoint handouts for each member of your committee. Try to make sure that there are no more than 2-3 slides per handout page. This is to make sure that the members of the committee could actually read the content within each slide on the page. Furthermore, prepare your own personal PowerPoint handouts (aim for 1-2 slides per page) containing notes at the bottom of each slide (which will not be viewable on the screen display to your audience).
- Copies of Your Dissertation – This fully depends on university guidelines as some universities require that you give a copy of the entire dissertation to each committee member during your defense. Other universities require copies of the full dissertation to be handed out long before the defense and on the day of the defense. Regardless, your university will certainly have guidelines about how to disperse hard copies of your dissertation.
- Copies of References used in your PowerPoint – Committee members will be extremely thankful if you provide them with a copy of all complete references for citations that you used in your PowerPoint presentation. This way, each committee member will have the option to check the full reference of anything cited in your presentation. Remember, impressing the committee will have them overlook inadequacies in other parts of your presentation and giving them a copy of full references for anything cited in your PowerPoint will do exactly that.
- Prepare any Official Paperwork to be Signed – Your university may require that you prepare certain papers and documents to be signed on the day of your defense. Make sure you have all these official documents and also make extra copies and have them on hand just in case.
Have a Backup Plan
When you secure all the equipment you need for your presentation, make sure you TRIPLE CHECK EVERYTHING. Testing was mentioned above but its importance cannot be overemphasized. Conduct a test of all your equipment and do so in the same room in which you will be conducting your presentation. In particular, make sure that:
- All equipment is available
- All equipment is fully-functional
- You can manage all equipment easily
However, no matter how much time you spend preparing, and how many times you test something beforehand, you may still experience surprise emergency setbacks during your presentations. Therefore, it is imperative that you have backup plans in place which should at least include:
- Preparation of PPT transparencies
- A flash drive that has your presentation
- Preparation of the actual PPT slides (PPT handouts) which will allow you to continue your presentation without the use of any technology whatsoever.
Stage two of the dissertation defense process consists of taking care of all the technical issues of your upcoming defense. These include securing the particular room that you will be presenting in and making sure this room is fully appropriate to conduct your presentation in.
Next, you should secure all the required equipment and make sure they will be available on the day of the presentation. You should also conduct thorough testing of your equipment which includes both hardware and software testing.
Finally, you should prepare all necessary paperwork & documents and also have on hand a backup plan in case things go wrong during your presentation.
Taking care of the technical issues of your presentation will go a long way in giving you peace of mind in the certain technical areas of your presentation. It will also go a long way in maximizing the effectiveness of your presentation and in making sure everything runs smoothly on the big day.
But, it is also imperative that you gain peace of mind in the physical and mental aspects when preparing for your defense, and this is exactly what the next part of the ‘Dissertation Defense Prep’ POWER Series talks about: “Dissertation Defense Prep” POWER Series Part Three: Shifting into the Right Mindset