I'll be giving a 30-min public talk as a part of my PhD defense next month. It would be attended by the examination committee (consisting of my advisor and two examiners). I reckon that some professors/lecturers from the university might also join it apart from my colleagues and friends.

What would be a suitable - neither too short or seemingly-snappy nor too long and boring - way to address the audience at the very beginning of my talk? For instance, starting with

Hello everyone

sounds a bit too informal to me. Personally, I am inclined to starting with

Respected members of the examination committee...

but I am not sure if that, because of the "Respected ", may be considered too traditional (unfortunately, I don't recall how my colleagues who graduated in the last years did it - you never focus on such aspects until it is your turn :-$).

Should I refer to the examination committee using names, as in:

Respected members of the examination committee, Prof. X, Prof. Y, and Prof. Z

or better not?

For peers and friends, addressing could simply continue as

... and dear colleagues and friends.

Should I also try to sandwich another category specifically for the other professors and lecturers? If so, what could be a suitable way to address them?

  • 40
    Most PhD talks around here start with something like "Good morning. My name is jayann, and I am today defending my dissertation on XYZ". No need to overthink this.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 10:37
  • 21
    It depends on your institution. In Holland, you actually have to say (in Dutch) something to the effect of "Very esteemed and highly learned Professor Doctor X, I would like to give you my most sincere thanks for the very insightful comments that blah blah blah" (seriously). I've been to defences in California where the candidate just went "hi". Short answer: ask you advisor, he/she knows what the norm of your institution is.
    – Koldito
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 10:53
  • 15
    In my graduate (US mathematics) department, the custom was for the thesis advisor to introduce the speaker as we usually do for invited speakers at seminars/colloquia (something like 'I am pleased/delighted to introduce Harry Potter who will be defending his thesis "Horcruxes and how to find them"'), following which the speaker usually thanks the advisor for the introduction, possibly thanks the audience for being there, and then gets on with it.
    – Aru Ray
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 15:26
  • 1
    I would go with "Hello, and welcome to the presentation of my Ph.D. thesis".
    – padawan
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 0:53
  • 2
    In the US to me, "Hello everyone" sounds formal and appropriate, whereas "Respected members of the examination committee" sounds downright ridiculous. Just wish everyone a "good morning", or a "hello", or a "let's get started", and then get on with your talk. Commented May 19, 2017 at 23:04

3 Answers 3


I would like to second both xLeitix and Koldito's comments and convert them into an answer:

  • In most cases, there is no requirement, and you can just say, "Good [morning/afternoon], my name is [name], and welcome to my thesis defense."

  • A very few institutions have a much more formal set of requirements. For example, when I was an examiner for a defense at TU Delft, I had to learn a few words of Dutch in order to ask my questions with the required formality. Also, I had to come a day early to get fitted for a special archaic form of suit. Don't worry about this, though: if this is the case for your institution, then somebody will make sure that you are instructed in what to do.

  • 3
    Indeed, these formalities are (nearly) the same at all Dutch universities and if you're a PhD student, the precise rules will most surely be pointed out to you well before the day of the defense. Still, when the time is there, candidates make mistakes, but nobody cares that much: it's mostly fun to spot them when you're in the audience ;-) Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 0:07

The answer lie in the comments to your question.

  1. Check your local customs. Have you not attended a single PhD talk during your time as a PhD student? What have students done so far? And ... talk to your advisor.

  2. Do not overdo it. If you try to work in lots of complex thanks and courteous comments, you are very likely to stumble and forget and the impression becomes unprofessional or insecure at best. Thanks area also easily managed by adding a slide with thanks to advisers, funding and whatever you feel is necessary. You can use that as the last slide of your presentation since the audience will then know the presentation is over.


Ideally, you would already have attended similar defenses of your advisor's earlier Ph.D. students before and picked up the prevailing social norms there - also concerning other "soft factors", like whether to feed everyone afterwards, with what etc.

I gather this didn't happen, so I'll second Koldito's comment-answer: just ask your advisor. And/or talk to other people in your institution, even if they work in other areas. Such things will likely be more specific to your regional culture than to your specific subfield.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .