How to Defend (Present) a Project
On the last year of every academic tenure, each graduating student is expected to defend a project because it is a prerequisite for the award of whatever degree is being pursued. While this may be necessary, it is no news that 50% of students always wish that they could skip this part. Just thinking about it sends chills down spines.
What if I told you it doesn’t have to be that way?
Do you know a project defense is supposed to be a regular oral test where students are supposed to have fun interacting with their lecturers and project supervisors while making a lot of sense? It might sound like wishful thinking, but it is how it should be. Your project defense should not be filled with dread and trepidation; rather it should be a period of creating ideas you can be proud of ten years down the line.
Okay, welcome back to the real world.
Project defense is a highly personalized exercise. You should know your stuff and be ready to defend what you have written as a student/researcher. This means that students cannot simply copy and paste data what they have received from the library, the internet, or project samples and present as their project. You must actively participate in the study method to protect the validity and originality of your project.
You should note that external examiners and a lecturer at your department will make up the defense panel. At this level, external examiners want to test the depth of your project work and may ask questions about apparent weaknesses in the research work. This is apparently to test the knowledge of the student on the subject of research.
To successfully defend your project, here are a few tips that would prove extremely useful to you:
Be conversant and passionate about your project work
The role that passion plays in any endeavor cannot be overemphasized. So many prospective defense students make the mistake of writing on a topic that they have no particular interest in. It is either a case of being pushed by supervisors or colleagues to research and write about a vague or incomprehensible project topic, or they create their topics from pre-written topics they have seen on the internet. No matter where the project topic is obtained from, a total comprehension of the topic is essential. This would require a lot of reading and research, yes. But the benefit would be that you would have nothing to fear during the defense.
Rehearse likely questions that you may be asked on defense day
Since you do not expect lecturers to follow a pattern during questioning, it is essential to rehearse possible questions that could come up during your defense. Prepare your answers and get acquainted with them. Try not to cram your answers. Just understand them and ensure that no matter the combination of words you use at any point in time, the answer will be comprehended. It will be great disaster if a question is asked, and you are unable to give concise answers.
Have a mock project defense
A great defense strategy is often adopted during long hours of mock defense or in some cases, mock trials. Ask any lawyer you know who understands the art of defense. Many students make the wrong decision and end up leaving the bulk of their preparation until the 11th hour. With great haste and with half-baked preparations, they venture into project defense, only to be floored by their supervisors and lecturers. Practice is good but practice and extra practice will increase your confidence, enabling you to make the best impression.
Be time conscious
During practice, keep your alarm clock or a stopwatch handy so that you keep an eye on the actual time you spend on each point or section. This will enable you to tackle the most significant aspects in time and also ensure you cover enough ground before you get cut off. However, it is of the utmost significance when you prepare your project defense that you function with time so that you do not get too tiresome and make the examiners uninterested in what you have to say.
Prepare your slides
A lot of project defenses would require every participant to prepare a slide with the significant points of his/her presentation displayed in lists. A lot of students are usually tempted by the idea of brevity and end up crowding the slides with a lot of points. It doesn’t work that way. The number one rule when preparing a slide is to pick the key points and put them on different slides. Also, you could add diagrams where needed. Present numerical facts using tables or charts; use bold and clear fonts during your slide preparation.
Ensure that you get your facts right
One thing you wouldn’t find funny on defense day is having to explain facts you are not sure of. Most defense panels are comprised of people who would go to great lengths to ensure that whatever data you present is correct. If you are not sure about an idea, fact, or figure, desist from using it because it could embarrass you.
Body language and confidence
With confidence, you can sell any idea. However, confidence comes from preparation. One important way to display confidence is your body language. Body language involves making eye contact, watching the way you gesticulate, and controlling your facial expressions too. Here are some tips to help your body language when presenting your project defense.
Make brief eye contact with one or more members of the audience/panel members.
If you feel fidgety, lightly grip the pulpit stand; that is if there is any available. If there is none, grip your handkerchief. It will reduce the tendency of shaking while you speak.
If you enjoy gesticulating when you talk, do not overdo it because it can be distracting. A lot of students may be tempted to pace the floor when they speak. That might not be such a great idea, because it can distract your audience and panel members. The right thing to do will be to stand on either side of the stage or projector, switch positions once in a while then stand and deliver your project.
Be careful when answering questions
If you are asked a question you do not have an instant answer to, repeat or rephrase the question before responding. This will give you enough time to think of the right answer. Whenever possible, avoid an argument with an external examiner, but wherever you have solid ideas that you can support, express them. Make sure your answers help the earlier points you made from the onset of your defense. If you are asked a question that sounds opinionated or aggressive, try to rephrase the question before answering it. You can rephrase the question with a phrase like “If I comprehend your query…” You can also suggest an alternative question with phrases such as: “I believe the question should be…”, ‘If I get you correctly…,’ “In my opinion, a suitable solution which would be appropriate is…” etc.
Score high points with your dressing
The first impression you would make once you walk into the room is with your dressing. As a lady, your hair should be neat, makeup mild, outfit color conservative, and decent. Go for shoes that would enable you to walk confidently and smartly, avoid heels at all cost, except if they are the low comfy ones. Also, desist from using colorful hair extensions; black or brown should do. Overall, your appearance should be formal. As a gentleman, your hair cut should be neat and low, beards trimmed or shaved entirely. Ensure that whatever shirt or suit you choose to wear will be snugly fit and well ironed. Invest in wearing matching accessories, and combine your colors well (ask any female friend if you need to).
Project defense will be a real walkover for you if you carry out all these tips. Enjoy your project defense.