How to Prepare a Presentation for Your Viva


6th February 2024

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The viva is a pivotal moment in your academic journey. It’s your opportunity to showcase your PhD research, defend your findings, and demonstrate your expertise to an academic audience. While the prospect of presenting in front of examiners may seem daunting, thorough preparation and strategic planning can help you navigate the process with confidence and success. In this guide, we’ll show you how to prepare a presentation for your viva, making it compelling and effective.

Understand the Purpose of Your Viva Presentation

Before diving into the preparation process, it’s crucial to understand the purpose of your viva presentation. Your presentation serves as a platform to:

  • Summarise your research objectives, methodology, and key findings.
  • Provide context for your research within the broader academic field.
  • Engage in scholarly discourse and defend your research decisions.
  • Demonstrate your critical thinking skills and ability to articulate complex ideas.

Start Early and Establish a Timeline

Begin your preparation well in advance of your viva date to allow ample time for research, drafting, and rehearsal. Establish a realistic timeline that includes milestones for outlining your presentation, gathering feedback, and refining your delivery. Breaking down the preparation process into manageable tasks will help you stay organised and focused as your viva date approaches.

Know Your Audience and Guidelines

Familiarise yourself with the expectations and guidelines provided by your academic institution or department regarding viva presentations. Understand the format, duration, and specific requirements for your presentation, including any additional materials or visual aids allowed. Tailor your presentation to your audience, which typically includes examiners, faculty members, and peers, by ensuring clarity and relevance in your content.

Structure Your Presentation Effectively

A well-structured presentation is essential for conveying your research findings coherently and engaging your audience. Consider the following structure:

  • Introduction: Provide an overview of your research topic, objectives, and methodology. Capture your audience’s attention and establish the context for your study.
  • Literature Review: Discuss relevant literature and theoretical frameworks that inform your research. Highlight key debates, gaps in the literature, and your research contributions.
  • Methodology: Describe your research design, data collection methods, and analytical techniques. Justify your methodological choices and address any limitations or challenges encountered.
  • Findings and Analysis: Present your research findings and data analysis, illustrating key patterns, trends, and insights. Interpret your findings within the context of your research question and theoretical framework.
  • Discussion: Engage in critical reflection on your findings, considering their implications, significance, and potential avenues for future research. Address any counterarguments or alternative interpretations.
  • Conclusion: Summarise the main points of your presentation, reiterate your research contributions, and conclude with a compelling closing statement.

Create Visual Aids and Supporting Materials

Visual aids such as slides, charts, and graphs can enhance the clarity and impact of your presentation. Use tools like Canva or Prezi to make your presentation more compelling. Keep your slides concise and visually appealing, using clear headings, bullet points, and relevant imagery. Practise effective use of visual aids to supplement your verbal explanations and reinforce key points. Additionally, prepare supporting materials such as handouts or supplementary documents to provide examiners with additional context and reference materials.

Rehearse Your Presentation and Seek Feedback

Rehearsal is key to delivering a confident and polished viva presentation. Practise your presentation multiple times, focusing on pacing, articulation, and body language. Time your presentation to ensure that you stay within the allocated timeframe and allow for questions and discussion. Consider recording yourself or presenting to a trusted colleague or mentor to receive constructive feedback on your delivery and content. A mock viva session with an expert academic could also be helpful to address incosistencies in your presentation. Incorporate feedback to refine your presentation and address any areas for improvement.

Prepare for Questions and Discussion

Anticipate potential questions and areas of inquiry that examiners may raise during the Q&A session following your presentation. Reflect on your research methodology, findings, and theoretical framework, preparing concise and well-reasoned responses to address queries effectively. Be open to constructive criticism and engage in scholarly discourse with examiners, demonstrating your depth of knowledge and ability to engage critically with your research.

Stay Calm and Confident on the Day

On the day of your viva presentation, remain calm, composed, and confident in your preparation and abilities. Arrive early to familiarise yourself with the presentation venue and technical setup. Remember that your viva presentation is an opportunity to showcase your expertise and passion for your research. Approach the experience with enthusiasm and a positive mindset, embracing the opportunity to engage in academic dialogue and contribute to your field of study.

Embrace Your Viva Presentation With Confidence

Preparing a viva presentation requires thorough planning, meticulous attention to detail, and effective communication skills. By following these essential steps and guidelines, you can prepare a compelling and articulate presentation that demonstrates your research prowess and academic achievements. Approach your viva presentation with confidence, enthusiasm, and a commitment to scholarly excellence, knowing that you have diligently prepared to showcase your research to the academic community.

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