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Honors Thesis/Project Student Presentation Guidelines

The Talk

The standard format is a 20-minute talk followed by 20-30 minutes of Q&A and discussion. Focus on the following:

  • Clarity/organization of content
  • Accuracy of content
  • Professionalism/general demeanor
  • Do you plan on giving your talk (with or without slides) before the Q&A period or will you take questions as you talk?
  • What kind of technology do you require if you are giving a short presentation
  • Will you have handouts to distribute?
  • Who will attend your presentation? How well do you know them?
  • Be ready to speak extemporaneously about your thesis/project. Your Mentor may ask you broad questions about the project and your process to get the discussion started. Be prepared to talk about your thesis/project “off the cuff.”

Reminders for Your Honors Thesis/Project Presentation

Standard Presentation Format

  • Academic Business Casual Required
  • 20-minute talk, followed by 20-40 minutes of Q&A
  • Honors Mentor, Committee Member(s), and a Representative from the Honors College must be in attendance
  • You may invite anyone that you would like to attend
  • Honors Thesis/Project Presentations are open to all members of the Honors College as E1 events

Alternative Presentation Formats

  • In-Class Presentations: If you are giving your Presentation in front of a class for your Honors Mentor your Committee Member(s) and a Representative from the Honors College must also be in attendance
  • Public Panels and Showcases: Students may give their presentation as part of a panel of fellow Honors Students. Each student has 20 minutes to present, followed by 10 minutes of immediate Q&A, with general Q&A held at the end. Mentor, Committee Member and a Representative from the Honors College must attend the panel
  • Pairs: Honors Projects involving teams of two reserve an hour and a half block for their presentation.
  • Capstone Groups: Typically Capstone Groups consisting of multiple Honors Students present as a panel with each member giving a 20-minute presentation of their Honors add-on component followed by Q&A at the end. Honors Mentor, Committee Member and a Representative from the Honors College must be present for the presentation
  • Performances and Film Screenings: To fulfill the Honors Presentation Requirement the performance/Screening must include a talkback and discussion. The Honors Mentor, Committee Member and a representative from the Honors College must attend the performance and presentation
  • Showcases: Honors students presenting work as part of a senior showcase must give a 20-minute presentation followed by Q&A before their Mentor, Committee Member and a Representative of the Honors College as part of the showcase.
  • Off-site Presentations: The Honors Mentor must be present at the off-site presentation for it to satisfy Honors Requirements. Ideally a representative from the Honors College is also in attendance.

Visual Aids and Slideshows

  • Is PowerPoint/Prezi required as part of your presentation?
  • What information must be included in your slideshow?
  • Do you need to design graphs or charts?
  • Are there any other visuals you need to include? Photographs, pictures?
  • How long does this slideshow have to be? (number of slides, time)
  • oave you had time to practice with your slideshow?
  • Do you have NOTES you can use to follow along with your slideshow? DO NOT READ DIRECTLY OFF OF YOUR SLIDES FOR YOUR WHOLE PRESENTATION
  • What is the best possible medium for your presentation? (Poster, handout, physical demonstration) A slideshow isn't always the answer!

The Q&A

Write down several lists:

  • What questions you expect members of your committee to ask
  • What you’re afraid they’re going to ask
  • Challenging/difficult questions they may ask
  • What information you want them to know you know
  • What is beyond the scope of your work

Ways to Prepare

  • Preparing to TALK: Watch someone else; Attend at least one defense in your discipline, if you’re able or have the time
  • Read over your thesis/project at least twice before your presentation. Do any minor corrections/edits in pencil.
  • Test Run with an Audience: Use a Test Audience or family, friends or partners to help with style and delivery. Try to talk out the main points of your thesis/project (15-20 minutes) with 2-3 different people and see if what you’re saying is clear to them, if you’re leaving anything out that is central to your thesis, if you come across as organized, intelligent, and informed about your topic.)
  • Check out the Space: Find the room where your presentation will be held. If you can, try practice speaking in that room. Visualize the presentation situation.
  • Consider anxious/nervous/panicked thoughts: Almost everyone experiences some level of nervousness or anxiety about Public Speaking. The worst thing you can do is pretending it doesn’t exist. Recognize and accept that you will be nervous on the day of your defense and plan ahead.
  • The day/night before: What are you wearing? Academic Business Casual. Whatever you’d feel most comfortable wearing as an instructor of a college course. Suits and dresses are not necessary. You are not attending a wedding.
  • Hydrate: Plan on bringing WATER to your defense. Have two bottles ready. You will be speaking a lot.
  • Relax/Focus: Employ some Relaxation/Meditation techniques. Do deep breathing, stretching (yoga, or stretches you would use as an athlete before a game/practice), and calming exercises to relax yourself and soothe any last-minute anxieties; Spend the evening doing something relaxing. Keep everything very familiar, comfortable, reliable, predictable. Stick with routines. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Drink plenty of water and get a lot of sleep.

Day of the Presentation

Things to Remember

  • YOU are the expert in the room on this subject. Now is your time to shine.
  • Consider this is an informed discussion with your colleagues.
  • Do not be arrogant, defensive, dismissive, submissive, or self-deprecating. Stay friendly, professional, appreciative, and confident.
  • Maintain good body language. Stay forward on your chair. Keep eye contact. Eyes can say a lot about one’s level of confidence.
  • Do not take critiques as judgments of you as a human being. Take them as helpful suggestions that will improve your work as a scholar.

The Q & A

  • Rely on the knowledge you have about your own topic to handle questions, but also think broad and actively.
  • Questions are often used as a jumping off point to get you talking. Don’t be afraid to elaborate on answers and demonstrate your knowledge of the subject. But be careful that you don’t ramble.
  • Remember: there are questions/points beyond the scope of your research, and you are allowed to acknowledge that. There are also things you aren’t necessarily qualified to answer. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Understand the question before you answer.
  • Multi-Part Questions: Answer them one part at a time.
  • Rephrase/repeat questions if necessary for clarification
  • Involve everyone. Answer the question acknowledging the entire committee.
  • If you don’t know, don’t pretend that you do. Know early on that you might not have all the answers to all the questions right now.
  • Take time to gather your thoughts. Don’t rush! Pausing is a sign that you are reflecting on questions.
  • Have fun! You are discussing a subject you’ve lived with for several months and now it’s your time to show off what you know. Enjoy chatting about your project with an interested audience.

After your Presentation

  • Thank your Committee. If applicable, write thank you notes and distribute them the day after your presentation. Avoid gifts unless it is customary.
  • Make plans to do something fun but relaxing with friends after your defense. You will want to celebrate your achievement, and at least unwind after the experience.
  • Assemble your completion paperwork and submit your archivable document to the Honors College