The defense can be a bit intimidating, but don’t forget, while the panel is there to push you and to make you think about the material in new ways, they are NOT there to trip you up or to make you fail. At this point if you fail then it makes (me and another person) look like fools for letting you get this far unprepared. Just remember the first question I got when I defended my Master’s thesis: “Upon reading your thesis Mr. Morose, the question that comes to mind is, ‘So what?’!” EEP!!!!! Dr. X asked me that and he wasn’t trying to fail me, he was trying to make me think more about my weakest area---explaining the significance of the events I described beyond “Isn’t this interesting!?” I won’t ask you “so what” but we will be trying to make you think more about the work you’ve done, to make you push the envelope of your thinking a bit.
To prepare, do a few dry runs with friends. Have them drill you. A few jabs from grinning friends trying to trip you will make the professors’ questions seem reasonable.
Get a good night’s sleep beforehand and have friends, significant other, etc, waiting to high five you when it’s done.
My student was all dressed up (something I rarely see on campus) and, although clearly nervous, remained poised and answered the questions put to her with intelligent, thoughtful comments. She passed with some changes (which, to be honest, I should have suggested to her beforehand) but the committee complimented her work with well-deserved praise.
It’s time like this, watching a student blossom, that I remember why I love being a teacher. Hopefully the feeling will last through my next class….