Surviving the Defense

I often hear horror stories about dissertation defenses including the proposal. The nerves tend to take over and cause many people to slip up. To be honest before I walked in into the room even 5 minutes into my presentation I was an absolute mess. Sweating profusely, I couldn't sit down, at some moments hyperventilating, and the worst of all I was talking way too much. However in the midst of the nerves I was super excited.


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Now everyone who came to support me asked the same question over and over again. "What are you so worried about and why are you so nervous?" All I could think was do you people not understand how major this moment is. If I blow this presentation all of my hard work would be for nothing. I walked away from each them and went into a corner to pray, I needed Jesus to get me through this and keep my sanity.


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After I talked to the man upstairs I was ready to walk into the room. I went in did my introductions and about 5 minutes in my advisor literally kicked me yes you read that correctly kicked me hard and gave me that stare down like pull it together. It was in that moment that I remembered I made it this far and I wasn't going to fail. I took three seconds and ran through the list you are about to see below and I proceeded to rock that joint.


1. Remember that your committee wants you to succeed.

If you find yourself in a place feeling like your committee is not on your side, whatever you do don't go in that room. It will not work out well in your favor. Your committee should be your biggest supporters, they say good job you can go then you are almost guaranteed to come out a doctor.


2. Dress the part and be on time.


This is imperative! Always look like the job you want not the job you have. You are being judged/graded on your attire and timeliness. A suit is always a safe choice. See my outfit choice below.


3. Keep it simple and straight to the point.

Now this was the hardest part for me. I wanted to literally discuss all 131 pages of my document. I mean it was my baby and I spent a lot of time and effort into this. However I only had 15 minutes to explain the facts and just the FACTS! That 15 minutes was including my introduction/greeting to the room. I recorded myself until I got it right at 14 minutes and 35 seconds. I had to remind myself get straight to the point and tell them what they want to hear. The committee has already read the document and I should know the study well enough to explain to a layman in 15 minutes or less.


4. Know that you know what you know!

5. Prepare for questions and know that relevant literature.

6. Don't be afraid to say I don't know.

It is nothing worse than trying to answer a question when you know that you have no clue what the answer is. I promise the entire room will respect you more if you just say " At this moment I do not have an answer for the question, but if you give me some time to further research I can get back to you with an answer."


7. Know when to shut up!

One thing I have learned is that you can talk yourself into more questions by talking to much. Don't ramble or add in extra information especially that wasn't included in your document. The committee will definitely pick up on it and have a field day.


8.Be confident but not arrogant.

9. Get a good nights sleep and eat a light meal before.

10. Most importantly have FUN!


Stick to this list and you are guaranteed to hear Congratulations Doctor!






From one doctor to another, I'm praying this helps you survive the defense!




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