Running a hybrid PhD defense

Hybrid events are more challenging to run than all in-person or all virtual.

Image credit: David Miller

Because I did a joint PhD between the University of Copenhagen and the University of Adelaide, it was crucial to make my in-person PhD defense available for my committee members and colleagues to join from around the world. It wasn’t just a matter of streaming the event for passive viewers; I needed my virtual audience to be able to ask questions so that everyone in the room in-person could hear. To pull it off, I used the following equipment:

  • An omnidirectional microphone (to pick up my voice and questions from people in-person)
  • A focused camera on a tripod (to broadcast my image to the Zoom call)
  • A wide-angle camera on a tripod (to broadcast the audience’s image to the Zoom call)
  • A speaker (to broadcast questions from Zoom to the in-person audience)
  • A projector (to project the slides for the in-person audience)
  • Two laptops (one to manage the projector, mic, focused camera, and speaker, one to manage the wide-angle camera)

I came to the venue multiple times before the defense to scope out the room and figure out the best locations for the laptops, cameras, and microphone. I tested the whole setup beforehand on a Zoom call to make sure everything worked in concert. I came to the defense an hour early to set everything up, and needed every minute of that hour.

In the end, everything worked really smoothly. When I was done giving my presentation, I could project the Zoom call for the whole room on the overhead projector, which combined with the speaker gave a wonderful feeling of all the Zoom audience being in the room with us.

Dr. July Pilowsky
Dr. July Pilowsky
he / they / she

Computational ecologist using models to understand the natural world.