Defending with Confidence

12.11.2021 um 09:30 bis 15.11.2021 um 17:30

Online - Graduate Center and ZMB

Course language: English

Target group:

Doctoral candidates of the life sciences within the finalisation phase of their preparation for the defence.


Katharine Simmons


Friday, 12 November 2021, 09:30 - 17:30 Uhr

Monday, 15 November 2021, 09:30 - 17:30 Uhr


The workshop aims to prepare you to face the special (communication) challenges of defending your thesis.

It is not about learning basic presentation techniques: the workshop will focus on getting you ready for that unique presenting situation, your defence. The aim is to enable a strong performance and calm manner, even in the face of criticism and stress-related blackouts.

Getting started:

• Basic instructions regarding “How to present my defence/ my disputation”

• Scientific talk at a conference vs. disputation: what is my stake in the research I show, including citing others’ contributions

• Achieving best performance:

  • Voice and body language
  • How do I prepare myself optimally? How will I deal with the physical challenges of this situation? (adrenaline levels, speaking in an intimidating (even virtual) room, possibly rehearsing in front of a group)
  • Introducing myself: Match Pitch! Why do I do what I do?


Dealing with Questions:

• Dealing with critical or even provocative questions

• Dealing with knowledge gaps, short blackouts, the stress this causes: „Grace under Pressure“

• A-B-C-D Strategies with questions: A – Accept, B – Block, C – Clarify, D – Delay response:

  • Preparing short phrases, buying time with ready responses while collecting thoughts and finding your answer
  • Active listening: what is really being asked??


Test presentation (considerably shorter than the disputation talk) including feedback

Using a very short test presentation we will practise the following aspects:

• particular structure, highlighting for effect

• what is the through-line - editing to the essentials

• Giving and receiving feedback – feedback culture: improving own self-confidence thanks to constructive feedback in this workshop

Homework for second day: prepare a mini presentation – on second day work in pairs, then present short talk. Feedback from group.

Day 2: present, practise Q&A session – focus on all strategies, prepare language for all situations


Registrations are welcome until 31 October 2021 via our online portal. We will then determine whether the minimum number of 7 participants has been reached. Should the minimum number of participants not have been reached, the event will not take place due to financial reasons. Once the minimum number of participants has been reached, further registrations are possible until 8 days previous to the beginning of the event.

Please note:

There are 12 places on this course. The persons that can participate in the course will receive an e-mail from the Graduate Center. Without this confirmation mail you cannot participate in the course. Only participants that have registered for the course via the Graduate Center will receive a certificate of attendance.

All further registrations will be placed on a waiting list. As soon as there is a free place on the course you will receive a message from us. If you do not receive any message you cannot participate in this course.

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