Your thesis defense is definitely the main event of your studies. It is the moment that every graduate student anticipates, and you have to get it right. Here is some essential advice:
Know your Paper
If you finished working on your paper a couple of months prior, you might have forgotten some details. Keep going through it regularly so that you can answer every question without having to look it up. For instance, you may be asked why you did something, and you will not be able to answer if you have forgotten or are out of touch with the substance and the process of your research. You may want to schedule your defense as soon as possible for this reason.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
If you have friends or family who is academicians, you can make mock presentations to them and get them to ask you all the questions they think you might be asked. Make sure that they give you their honest opinions. If an answer is not good enough, it is better to hear it from a friend early than to hear it from the panel.
Alternatively, you can even hire a consultant to go through your thesis and tell you which will be the most difficult questions and how to answer them. Consultants can also point out any problem areas with the dissertation.
If the presentation is only 15 minutes, you want to be sure you can present all the substantive information about your dissertation within that time. Panels are usually not happy with students who take more time than they are allocated. The panel may even ask you to go back and defend again later!
PowerPoint slides are a very useful tool in making presentations. Use as few slides as possible and use them only to illustrate the most important elements of your paper. IF there is too much information on a slide, it becomes distracting.
Attend other theses defenses
It is amazing what you can learn from watching other students defend their theses. Usually, the panel will focus on the usual culprits – the same problem areas that occur from one thesis to another. By watching other students defend their theses, you can learn from their mistakes instead of making your own.
As with everything else in academia, preparation and diligence are the key to success with defending your dissertation.