Project proposals: 28 May 2010


This was the first time we had 3 PhD proposals at the same time.  Three (3) seems to play an important part in the “research” history in the making of the School of ICT; this year 3 PhD students graduated…

So what are my personal perspective on these proposal, specifically as it relates to the presentations… Another 3 things 🙂

What gives a PhD proposal credibility? A PhD student should be able to speak about his/her topic.  Credibility to some extent is gained from the supporting material (see my previous post Content is king, but watch the queen), but most credibility is gained from your passion for the subject and your general behavior before, during and after the presentation.  Credibility is also gained from being able to answer questions, specifically general question about your topic.  If you cannot argue around the topic, why choose the topic? Of course nobody expects you to be perfect, or know everything, but too little is bad for the credibility.  For more on the topic of credibility in presentations read the excellent six minutes blog post entitled What is ethos and why is it critical for speakers? and its follow up: 15 tactics to establish ethos: examples for persuasive speaking.

Connect emotionally with the audience. This is easier said than done, but was very well done in this session by involving the audience with tickers… who would have thought that in a proposal session the academics have to answer questions for the audience.  It certainly was interesting and pointed to the short coming in current assessment methods for Enterprise Architecture certification programs effectively.  Before you run off and ask questions in the next presentation do take note of one important fact: the questions served a purpose and the result were fairly predictable.  Wonder what would have happened if we all got it wrong for both questions… kind-of dangerous, but here it paid off. Wondering how to get it done in other ways? Again I can recommend two blog posts from Six minutes: What is Pathos? and 18 Paths to Pathos.

Spend some time prepariung your slides. I know I’ve been saying: reduce words on slides and use diagrams to explain work.  Overall the three did a reasonable job, worthy of mentioning here (of course if it were at the other end of the scale, I probably would have mentioned it as well).  Perfect? No, BUT it was evident that the presentation was not just a cut and paste from the project proposal documents.  Maybe this also adds to credibility – at least it shows that the candidates took the session seriously, giving some special thoughts to the needs of the audience. And that is certainly appreciated.

To all three the candidates: keep up the good work, there is a long, difficult, but exciting road ahead.

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