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Teleconferencing for Thesis Defense

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I am finishing my Master of Education thesis and I am lucky enough to defend this month. I just found out that one of my committee members will be joining via teleconference. I have never taken part in any kind of teleconference, let alone one for such an important presentation. I know I have to keep my PowerPoint simple (no animations that require a second click) and I need to tell my committee member when I change slides so that they can follow along from their office. But does anyone have any advice for presenting via teleconference and/or defense advice in general?

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For such an important presentation, can you find out if you can use more sophisticated teleconference technology? Many schools have special conference rooms for this, where there can be both video and audio transmission so that your remote committee member can just watch you and your slides on their screen (in their own school's teleconference room). This is the type of technology that schools generally use for important teleconferences or online classes. I remember there was one class I took where one student was a few hundred km away at another campus in their school's teleconference room and they were able to see the prof, the whiteboard, hear all of us talk/ask questions and we can hear them if they needed to ask a question too.


Otherwise, for the case where the remote member will just be on the phone and viewing the presentation on their own screen, I would suggest:


1. They can't see you point, so highlight important information by drawing arrows or circles that appear when you tell them to go to the next slide. For example, if I wanted to draw attention to two different area of a graph, I might make the first slide be just the whole graph and I would talk about what is being displayed. Then, I would ask to move to the next slide, where arrows or circles will highlight one area and discuss that. Then move on until all the areas that you would normally highlight and point out with a laser or a stick is covered. So this means more slides than normal, probably.


2. Since you won't have animations anyways, I strongly encourage you to convert all your powerpoint slides to PDF and embed all fonts. Different versions of Powerpoint will display slides differently and your remote committee member might not be able to see what you intended to show. If you use any fonts that might not be installed on the other person's computer, they will not display correctly even on the PDF unless you embed the fonts upon PDF creation. Get used to presenting with PDFs instead of powerpoint slides--it's not really that different--just find the command that makes the PDF full screen (I think it's like CTRL+L with Adobe on a Windows machine)


3. If you are worried about audio quality making it difficult to hear you, you might want to add more text on your slides, although my main mode of presentation is to have minimal text. Maybe you can make a different file to send to the remote committee member that has more text.


4. Most defenses do not allow committee members to interrupt you and ask questions, but if this is allowed, be sure to give a bit of extra time for the remote committee member to ask questions. Maybe pause a bit longer between slides (or do this anyways even if they don't ask questions so that they can catch up). 


5. Maybe number your slides so that if they get lost, the remote committee member can ask you what slide number they should be on!


That's all I can think of now. Also, I think most people would realise that a presentation via teleconference is difficult so they would probably be more understanding/forgiving of any strange technical issues. Other than doing a few obvious things (like what you already suggested), I would not worry too much more and focus on delivering a strong presentation for the committee members that are there in person.

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Thank you, Takeruk.


I was thinking of similar ideas, especially the page numbers on the slide. I have yet to investigate the room (I just found out where it will be), but from my understanding this is phone communication only. I need to submit my slides early so that they can be sent to my committee member who will then follow along. I imagine if any video was involved, then I would not need to provide the slides as they would be part of the presentation. Luckily questions are asked in rounds after my initial presentation, so I don't have to worry about being interrupted - although that is great advice for the questioning rounds.


Thanks again!

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Is it possible for the committee member to Skype in? At my university, this is preferable so that everyone can see their face when they have something to ask and that sort of thing. Otherwise, TakeruK's points are the ones I've generally heard. It's really common in my experience to have someone that has to call/Skype in to the defense. Remember to take your time and enunciate clearly. Also, get there a few minutes earlier than you might otherwise to check the audio, make sure you can connect with the committee member, and that they have the slides up and are ready to go.

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