The worst of 498 is over.
After sacrificing a dozen Scantron Bs to the IRB gods for approval and passing COMPS, you turned in your thesis. Bravo. Now the only thing standing in your way of your Communication B.A. is the senior colloquium (and your other classes, but that’s beside the point).
I’m not writing this to tell you to not be nervous. That’s inevitable. As a colloquium survivor, I’m going to give you a few tips to help you master your presentation and discussion like the communication scholar I know you to be.
Future 498 students, pay attention. If you caught my blog post last week, the thesis requirement isn’t going anywhere. This is still relevant to you.
- Know your audience
Realize that the majority of the people watching your presentation aren’t your professors or fellow classmates. They’re family and friends who did not endure the undergraduate curriculum like you have and who may not have a communication background as you, your peers and professors do.
Therefore, keep your presentation simple and straight to the point. Essentially, by the time you finish speaking, you should have answered these four questions:
- What is the purpose of my research?
- What did I do?
- What did I find?
- What do my results mean / Why should my audience care?
- Make sure your audience knows the point
Capitalize, bold and center your research question. Dedicate an entire slide to it. You need to make clear the purpose of your thesis i.e. what you were trying to find out. If that is unclear to the audience, then you’ve lost their attention before you’ve even started.
- Ditch the literature review
I’m sorry. I know you worked hard on those 12+ pages of previous research. It’s just that… nobody cares. This is not urgent information for your audience. Do not spend 2-3 minutes rambling about what Stark and Banner (2012) found in their experiment. The literature review is integral to the thesis itself, not the presentation.
If you do need to define terms of your RQ for the audience, then go for it. Otherwise, don’t waste time discussing what your sources found. Reveal your RQ, announce and briefly define your theory and move on to the methodology.
- Spend most of your presentation on the meaning of your results
The aforementioned elements should be accounted for in the first five minutes of your presentation. After that, explain in depth your results and the interpretations of your results.
Talk about your discussion. What conclusions did you draw? Do you have a call-to-action? What do you think is important about what you found? Justify why you dedicated your thesis to your RQ. Then, wrap it up with your limitations and conclude with a strong point.
- Remain polite to the respondent
The respondent is going to grill you. You knew that already, though. Please don’t be the person who gets testy with the professor asking you questions. It’s all part of the process. To be fair, it’s a rite of passage.
This is why it’s important for you to have a scientific explanation for everything that you do in your thesis. If the respondent asks you why you didn’t choose this theory or this method, then explain why the theory and method you did choose was best for your study.
Also, don’t say that you didn’t have time to do this or that. Lack of time is not a limitation. It’s an excuse.
- Remember who you are *Mufasa voice*
You are an expert on your topic. In fact, you will be the only person in the room who is an expert on your topic. Yes, someone in the audience may know a little about what you studied, but you are the only person who conducted months of research and experimentation on your topic.
This doesn’t mean that you are above criticism. However, you know your topic better than anyone. Be firm with what you did and how you did it while remaining respectful, of course, and you’ll walk out of your session feeling like a champion.
Okay, so what have we learned?
The goal of your colloquium presentation is to make your audience understand the purpose of your research, what you found out about your topic and what your conclusions mean.
Everything you’ve worked for this semester, as well as everything you’ve endured since becoming a Comm Lion, all comes down to this. That small, yellow pin you’ll receive at the pinning ceremony has a special meaning. Make your family members, peers and faculty members proud.