viva

What does a great workshop need?

There are five things that great workshops need…

…and I hope my upcoming Viva Survivor workshop will meet all of these. After six years of running effective viva preparation workshops in universities around the UK, I took the plunge in June and ran an independent version. PhD candidates from around the UK – and beyond, someone flew in the night before! – came to the session to learn about how to prepare for the final hurdle of their PhD.

After the dust settled and I had time to think, I decided that I would run it again, with a couple of small tweaks, and so my next independent workshop will be 14th September 2016 at Ziferblat in Manchester. Like I said, I think all great workshops have five things that they need in order to be great – and I hope this workshop will have all five qualities.FYVwordle1

Workshop Goodybag

My independent Viva Survivor workshop is on June 29th, and I’m really excited to share with you what participants will be getting on the day. I’ve been delivering this workshop for six years. There are a couple of handouts that I’ve used in the past, and on occasion universities have paid to provide ebooks for participants.

I know that the information and insight I deliver in the workshop is valuable for PGRs, but for my independent Viva Survivor I wanted to add to that by providing a really valuable participant pack. I did some brainstorming for this with my wife, and we’ve built a really great goodybag for each person that comes. Want to see some of the things that we’ve put together?

Viva Survivor: In the beginning…

A common question!

A common question about the viva

In July 2010, quite out of the blue, I was asked if I could deliver a workshop on preparing for the viva at the University of Manchester. My viva was still quite fresh in my mind. At the time, I was trying to find my style as a facilitator. I’ll bet if I could look back at a video from the workshop I would cringe horribly! At that first workshop, I got people thinking about their research journey and thesis, the people around them who might be able to help and the kinds of things they could do to prepare.

Books and the Workshop

My independent Viva Survivor workshop has helped me a lot and it’s not even run yet. It’s got me making very quick progress with some ideas I’ve been considering. With workshops run through universities there is a limit to what can be provided to participants in three hours or via handouts. I knew that I wanted to give participants at the independent workshop my ebooks to supplement their learning, but I’m also a print enthusiast despite my Kindle addiction.

A print copy of Fail Your Viva, my first book, seemed like it would be a valuable resource as part of the participant pack. I’ve been thinking for a couple of months that I would like to expand into print with my books, and I’ve had some experience through other new ventures of producing print runs. Deciding to do the independent workshop pushed me to get it done, and push past any barriers, real or imagined.

And I thought, “If you’re going to print thirty for a workshop, you may as well do a modest little print run to go along with it…”

PrintRun1

The print run!

Finding Ziferblat

My independent Viva Survivor workshop is taking place on June 29th at Ziferblat in Manchester. I’ve felt stuck about doing an independent workshop for a long time, partly because I couldn’t find a great venue. Fortunately, I went to Ziferblat in April, and Ziferblat is a really great venue:

  • It has good transport links, halfway between the two major train stations in Manchester, and there’s a good car park nearby too;
  • The staff there are really great and friendly;
  • There’s a wonderful range of refreshments;
  • It’s a beautiful space, and the private space that we’ll be using for the workshop is lovely.

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Ziferblat does things a little differently from other venues; there’s a great cafe/public meeting space, and several fab private rooms. We’ll be in the Classroom, which is made out to look like an idyllic primary classroom of yesteryear – it feels right that a workshop about the pinnacle of formal education should go back to basics!

The atmosphere is wonderful at Ziferblat – as are the refreshments provided. No lukewarm tea urns or coffee jugs, no two-packs of biscuits. Proper coffee, proper tea, fruit juice, cake, biscuits and a heck of a lot more. And if you arrive early to take advantage of these or want to hang around afterwards you’ll be more than welcome.

This is where we’ll have our workshop. Viva Survivor can help ease viva anxieties, make sure you know what to do to prepare and answer all of your questions about the process. But if can only do that if you come along to Ziferblat. Are you coming? Check out the booking page soon, as there are only limited places available. Can you help me spread the word about the workshop by telling others who might be interested?

Thanks for reading – check back on Thursday for details of books that will be included in the participant packs for this workshop!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Why am I doing an independent workshop?

I announced a few days ago that I’m delivering an independent viva preparation workshop in Manchester on June 29th. You can find full details and how to book at this page; I said that I’d be regularly blogging between now and the workshop about the process of preparing for it, and some of the cool things that I want to do and share at the event.

But first I think it’s right to say a little bit about why I’m doing this. Quite simply, I want to help PGRs prepare for the viva. I am fortunate to have directly helped around 2000 PhD candidates over the last six years through workshops that I have developed. I’m the fortunate one, because it’s helped me to find a passion and – I think – a talent, an area that I can do good in. It’s great to have something like that in my professional life, and part of my success has been down to helping people in this area. I’ve written two books on the topic, and run a podcast that I’m told really helps people, which is, again, a great feeling.

Still, there are a lot more PGRs that I could help, and I currently deliver workshops at less than 10% of the universities in the UK. An independent workshop is a way to connect with all of the PhD candidates who want some support in preparing for the viva but don’t know quite what to do or where to turn.

I also want to see if it can be done: is it possible for a small freelancer like me to deliver a workshop directly to PGRs? There are many freelancers like me who work with universities and PGRs, and I’m not the only one who wonders if it’s possible to do something like this. I’d love to show that it can be done. Delivering an independent workshop is an experiment and a challenge – and most importantly a chance for me to grow. Already I’m being stretched in how I manage the logistics of this, I’m developing original materials to support the workshop that I would never have thought to do in a university setting (but which now seem like such a good idea that I will probably start using them in my university workshops too!).

I like to scheme and dream, and I did that a lot during my PhD. It’s only since then that I’ve found I can actually put my schemes and dreams into reality. If you’re interested in learning how to prepare for the viva effectively then please check out my workshop; or if you know someone who has their viva coming up, then please share my workshop with them! And if you want to know more, then please get in touch, I’d be happy to chat about it with you.

Thanks for reading! More posts about the development of this exciting new project next week.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)
PS – here’s a not so subtle hint of one of those resources that participants will receive at the workshop! Hopefully more details next week.

On YouTube: Preparing for the PhD Viva

In the last post I talked about going down to London for the day in order to meet Emma Cole and film a video for her vlog. We chatted for the best part of an hour, and now Emma has edited it down to the best bits. You can follow this link to watch it on YouTube, or click below the more tag to see where I’ve embedded it.

It was lots of fun to make this, and I know that in the few days that it’s been up so far a lot of people have already seen it, which is great. If you watch it and you have some questions or comments then get in touch – and be sure to drop Emma a comment or thumbs up on her channel!

The Viva: Who? What? How? is out!

"The Viva: Who? What? How?"

The Viva: Who? What? How? is out now!

What is this?

An ebook. Twenty-seven chapters, nearly 20,000 words, and answers to the most frequently asked questions about the PhD viva in the UK. I deliver viva preparation workshops, and over the last five years I’ve got a great understanding about the questions that distract PhD candidates. This book helps eliminate those distractions.

There are more details below, but if all you want are the purchase links, here they are!

  • In the UK, The Viva: Who? What? How? is in the Kindle Store here.
  • In the UK and around the world, The Viva: Who? What? How? is available from Payhip here.

Viva Research 2015

Last year I asked seven questions about the viva, got 302 responses to them, and used the results to start to get an idea of what the viva in the UK is like. I did this because I’m passionate about helping PhD candidates prepare for the viva, and I thought that I could:

  • find out more information to help them have reasonable expectations;
  • see if there were negative aspects in the experiences, then find ways to overcome them for future candidates;
  • see what positives were emphasised, and share these to help people prepare better.

As my previous series of posts showed, I think that there are some interesting results in the data, and I know that in my work personally – both on the Viva Survivors Podcast and on the viva preparation courses that I run – this has had a huge impact in terms of helping people. At the same time, I view last year’s survey as a starting point. This is the beginning, and not the conclusion of my research into the viva experience.

Common Qs About The Viva: How Can I Avoid Nerves?

It would be very easy for me to say that PhD candidates shouldn’t worry about being nervous. After all, I’ve finished my PhD, and any negative things I remember about the experience are in the past. I’ve also got several years of experience of talking to candidates and graduates: I can’t say “don’t worry” except in a reassuring I-know-you-won’t-believe-me way. If you are prone to nerves, there is very little I can do in a piece of writing to help you avoid nerves entirely.

But perhaps I can share some things with you that could minimise their impact. I’ll do my best.