Virtual dissertation defense recommendations

We strongly recommend using the following Zoom meeting settings and in-meeting management strategies to ensure you have a secure and productive Dissertation Defense meeting, while also allowing for participation and input, as appropriate, from meeting attendees.

  • The thesis/dissertation advisor should create separate Zoom meetings for the public and private components of the defense, particularly if the public defense includes individuals other than the student and the committee. The Zoom meeting access details for the private component of the defense should only be communicated to the student and the committee and not shared with others.
  • Students are encouraged to hold one or more practice defenses with a select group of friends, fellow students, or other close colleagues to rehearse the components of delivering a defense using Zoom.  
  • Be prepared for a possible system crash during the Zoom meeting and don’t panic if it happens - you should be able rejoin the meeting after a system reboot. Have contact information (voice, text, email) on hand for any co-hosts in case you need to inform them of the crash so that the co-host can notify other participants.

In your general Zoom settings, you should set the following meeting options:

These settings will affect all of your Zoom meetings, so you may need to adjust some back depending on your needs for other meetings. You will need to adjust these from the main UNR Zoom web page:

  • Make sure private chat is disabled. Leave the normal chat function enabled and restrict it once in the meeting so the Host/Co-Host can send messages to the group, but no one else can send chat messages.
  • Under Screen sharing, make sure sharing is disabled for participants.
  • Disable Annotation. This will turn off participants ability to annotate on a shared screen during a meeting.
  • Disable Whiteboard. This will turn off the whiteboard function for participants.
  • Make sure Nonverbal feedback is enabled. The Nonverbal feedback setting is located just a little below the Sharing settings, make sure this is enabled so participants can raise their hands and engage in other nonverbal communication.

When you create/schedule your Dissertation Defense meeting, use the following settings:

These options are set when you schedule your meeting. They will help to ensure that you meeting is attended only by those participants who you intend to invite.

  • Generate Meeting ID Automatically – This will also help to ensure the security of your meeting as the meeting ID will be new and randomized for each new meeting you create.
  • Require Meeting Password – This setting should be checked by default, but it is a good practice to keep the password enabled. This will also help ensure the security of your meeting.
  • Set Participant Video to off – This will turn off participant video by default.
  • Enable join before host – This will place any meeting participants in waiting room if they join the Zoom meeting before the meeting Host.
  • Mute Participants upon entry – This will mute all participants when they enter the meeting. A Host or Co-Host will need to unmute users before they can speak.
  • Enable waiting room – This feature places all participants in a waiting room until allowed into the room by the meeting Host/Co-Host. (This feature is now be locked “On” for security purposes.)

Once in the meeting, disable participant chat:

The first thing you should do immediately after you start the meeting as the host is to restrict the Chat function. This will restrict the chat function so only Hosts and Co-Hosts have the ability to send chats. All participants can see the chats that get sent.

To restrict the chat function:

  1. From the Zoom meeting window, click on the Chat button on the lower toolbar to bring up the chat panel.
  2. In the chat panel, click on the button and select “ Participants Can Chat With: No One” from the drop-down options.

Meeting Management

Ideally you should have at least one Co-Host to help manage participants. Most of this will take place using the manage Participants panel. Make sure you have this toggled on, by clicking Manage Participants in the bottom toolbar.

  • All participants should be muted on entry, but if they are not you can use the Mute All button to mute and select the option in the dialog box that opens that prevents participants from unmuting themselves.
  • During the meeting the Host and Co-Hosts can control participant video as needed by using the Stop Video It will stop the participant's video stream, so they are unable to start their video. If the participant if off by default, you will see the Ask to Start Video option.
  • The PhD student and any panelists should be elevated to Co-Hosts, this will allow them to control their own webcams and mics as well as allowing them to use the chat function as needed. They will also have the ability to share their screen/present. The meeting Host can elevate any participant to Co-Host. (There is no limit to the number of Co-Hosts you can have.)
  • Depending on if you are using chat at all or not, use either chat or a verbal announcement in the meeting to direct participants to use the Raise Hand function in the Participant panel to be recognized and unmuted, so they can speak to the group. Ideally this could be moderated by a Co-Host.
  • In the event that a disruptive participant gets into your meeting, use the Remove function on the Participant panel to remove them from the meeting immediately.

If you have questions or concerns about your dissertation defense meeting setup – or would like to discuss your meeting or setting more specifically, please email