Q&A with Jeffrey Bottse: a Successful Thesis Writing Workshop

Jeffrey before his presentation

Presenting your final work for professors, family and friends. For some (technical) students this may seem a last hurdle in the graduation project, presenting lots of difficult data in complex tables and graphs. However, this presentation is one of the best opportunities you can get in your student career to convey YOUR message! Jeffrey (24) has learned in the ‘Presenting and Defending’ Workshop that the presentation should not focus on the data and technical or financial results of your graduation project, but on the societal meaning and impact of the outcomes. This blog tells the story of Jeffrey, presenting his thesis for over 40 attendees the day after the workshop.

How did you prepare the presentation on your own?
The first step in giving a presentation is to have more knowledge than your audience. As you have been working on a specific subject for many months, it is likely that you have the most specific knowledge on the topic, even more than your professors. Structure and fluency of the speech, however, can make or break the presentation. Therefore, several weeks before the presentation I started transferring the abstract of my thesis to a presentation outline, deciding on what to tell the audience and prioritizing parts by relevance. From this outline I made a presentation, practiced, timed the subparts and processed feedback several times until a well-structured, timed presentation on the project could be presented fluently.

Why were you triggered to participate in the ‘Presenting and Defending’-workshop?
Like many others, I see the final presentation of the graduation project as the final presentation of the masters and the defense as the last oral exam. I invited many family members, friends and colleagues from my graduation internship and wanted them all to understand what I had investigated during the project and more important, what the results were and how these results fit in our society. I have looked at the SkillsLab website half-way through my graduation project and found out that the ‘Presenting and Defending’ workshop was held the day before my own presentation. As by then I should be fully prepared, I signed up for the course to find out if I could get some last-minute tips and maybe even some feedback on my prepared presentation. And fortunately, this happened!

How did you experience the workshop in general?
I really enjoyed the workshop on ‘Presenting and Defending’. The workshop was well-structured, while kept informal. The trainer brought along a very warm, pleasant environment and the informal setting made sure all questions were answered.

Which aspects of our workshops did you find interesting?
Despite having a sufficient preparation, the workshop interested me, as new insights rose on the structure of your presentation and the importance of the societal impact. Furthermore, the trainer gave great advice on how to handle questions from the audience and how to answer questions in the defense. Via the internet, several documents on preparing the defense can be found, but having a trainer together with a group of experienced students resulted in a great overview of possible lines of questioning from professors and how to respond to those.

What aspects of our workshops contributed to achieving your result?
Due to having a lot of knowledge about your graduation project and enthusiastically wanting to explain all the work you have done a common pitfall is to tell too much and too much details. However, the societal impact is way more important! The trainer taught me that of course you need to discuss the methods and results, but this needs to be “sandwiched” between the broader context introduction at the beginning and the societal implications of the study at the end. I altered my presentation slightly, emphasizing the broader context more, which I think, improved the presentation and gave the audience a better understanding of the project.

What did you experience during your presentation and defense that might be for other students very important to consider as well?
I think you should not see the final presentation of your graduation project as a must, as a hurdle that needs to be taken, but as an opportunity to have all eyes on you, to enthusiastically explain what you have done in such a large project and convey the message you want to tell your family and friends. Keeping that mindset, a smile should automatically spread over your face while talking about a topic no-one knows more about than you…

The audience during the presentationThe Audience during the presentation