Don’t back up your defense presentation or thesis text

Seriously, isn’t one copy enough? Digital minimalism is trending – and you are definitely smart enough not to forget your USB drive on the big day. 

  • It’s actually good to prepare for the worst-case scenario (but without panic). If you are asked to send in your presentation in advance, it’s still nice to have a backup: put it on a USB drive and ask your friend/groupmate to keep a copy, too (you can be each other’s backup buddies); you can also upload it to the cloud, so it’s always easily downloadable if something goes wrong. 

Wear your new suit and those new shoes you haven’t broken into yet – best foot forward!

New thesis defense – new me, isn’t that how the saying goes? Who needs your trusted business casual outfits on the day of your defense? Go and buy something new for the occasion. It’s your one special day!

  • While it is indeed your special day, wearing shoes or clothes you haven’t worn before can make you uncomfortable and self-conscious. If you do believe you would look your best in a new fit, just make sure that you feel your best in it, too – days before your defense.

“For my Bachelor’s thesis defense, I went out and bought new nude heels, because I wanted to feel really special. I forgot, however, that I don’t really wear heels in everyday life – this added to my anxiety when I stepped up to the lectern in front of the committee. Once I got into the groove of the presentation, it went fine, but I promised myself to always “rehearse” my outfits before official events like this in the future,” shares Catherine Zavodova, a translator and writer on the ITMO.NEWS international editorial team.

Alex Strelchunas, Polina Popova. / ITMO's Mediaportal

Alex Strelchunas, Polina Popova. / ITMO's Mediaportal

Learn your presentation by heart – so nothing can knock you off-topic!

Just imagine: you get up in front of the committee and start reciting your presentation by heart. Everyone is immediately impressed: here’s a true scholar, so confident and straightforward, you can truly see they know their work backwards and forwards.

  • It’s always good to practice your delivery and write down some key points or eloquent phrases you come up with in the process (for instance, elegant transitions from one slide to the next). But learning your speech by heart can be treacherous: there might be interruptions that catch you off guard or you can make yourself nervous if you forget a sentence in the middle. Understanding your work is more important – then, you will always know what to say.

Don’t warn anyone about the date and time of your defense

Whether your defense happens to be online or on campus, is it really such a big deal that you should tell your family about it in advance? Wouldn’t it be great to just call everyone afterward to tell them you nailed it?

  • Even if your defense is offline, informing your friends and family about it can be good: there’s nothing like a phone call from your mom in the middle of your presentation.

“I graduated with a Master’s from ITMO in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic. Most of my studies took place online, as did my defense. The latter didn’t go super smoothly for me. I was at home and in the middle of my speech when I heard a knock on my door. I had to excuse myself, turn off my camera, and run real quick to open it. Thankfully, it was my family members who came over, so the pause didn’t last long – I just let them in and hurried back to Zoom. This kinda awkward moment wasn’t a big deal after all (I got an A), but my bad advice is – don’t warn your close ones about the day and time of your defense,” shares Kseniia Miroshkina, a writer on the ITMO.NEWS international editorial team.

Alex Strelchunas, Polina Popova. / ITMO's Mediaportal

Alex Strelchunas, Polina Popova. / ITMO's Mediaportal

Take a sedative (in any form) to calm your nerves – especially if you haven’t taken one before

Chamomile or mint tea, lavender or valerian root – anything goes for your battle against anxiety! Don’t let it beat you to the punch or let your nerves get the best of you.

  • If you do indeed tend to experience anxiety before important events, try looking into some breathing techniques or even meditation. These can help you get calmer in the moment. You can also reach out to ITMO’s psychologists or ask your soft skills lecturer for the best ways to manage your nerves before defense.

“A friend of mine, anxious about an upcoming exam, went with the tried-and-true Russian classic – a bit of valerian root to calm the nerves. But, it seems, she went overboard with the dosage: even though it’s apparently very hard to “overdose” on the herbal remedy (the worst you’ll get is a tummy ache and some nausea), it definitely did its job in the calming department. Sitting down in front of the examiner, she found herself fully at ease – too much so. The problem now wasn’t to remember the answers, but to stay focused enough to deliver them. She did pass in the end, I believe – but swore off medicine-based solutions for exam anxiety forever,” shares Vadim Galimov, a translator and writer on the ITMO.NEWS international editorial team. 

Alex Strelchunas, Polina Popova. / ITMO's Mediaportal

Alex Strelchunas, Polina Popova. / ITMO's Mediaportal

Don’t expect any questions from the committee

Who gets questions? Those who didn’t deliver their presentations well enough! You won’t be one of them, so just say what you have to say and expect them to be amazed. 

  • Actually, questions are a normal and expected part of any defense. In fact, it would be bad if you didn’t get any: after all, they’re actually opportunities to clarify some points or mention things you didn’t get to cover in your presentation. It can be good to think about the things you can be asked in advance or even ask your friends to listen to your presentation and bombard you with questions afterwards. With this “shock treatment,” you may well find questions at your defense a quite pleasant affair.

Visit this page for some good advice about your thesis as shared by our students.