The last time I was terrified was watching Get Out. I’m not going to spoil it, and if you intend to see the movie I suggest you stay spoiler-free.

I saw it at a lunchtime screening. Afterwards I walked out of the cinema with my heart pounding. I spent the rest of the day on a big adrenaline high. I’m really serious: it took about ten hours for the terror to go away. It’s a great, scary movie with a compelling story that leaves you with a lot to think about.

Nathan, this blog is about the viva and viva prep, where are you going with this?

I ask in workshops how candidates feel about their viva. Worried. Nervous. Unsure. Excited.

Sometimes they tell me they’re terrified. When they do I can tell they mean it, it’s not an exaggeration. They are beyond scared. The thought of the viva makes them terribly afraid.

I don’t have an easy answer to this problem. If scary movies make you terrified, you can avoid them. If the viva makes you terrified, you still have to have one. I’m a huge fan of Seth Godin and this post from March is really helpful if you’re facing viva fear. The level of fear or terror we get in the modern world is disproportionate; we’re not being hunted by large predator animals, but we can still have strong fear responses. But as Seth says in the post: “As soon as we give it a name, though, as soon as we call it out, we can begin to move forward.”

That’s the not-easy answer: if you have viva-fear, figure out what it is that makes you afraid, and then you can start to change.

Scared of what the examiners think and how you’ll respond? Get feedback from others so you have practice.

Worried that you’ll forget everything? Read your thesis carefully and make some summaries for yourself.

Terrified that you’ll freeze when asked a question? Have a mock viva or get friends to ask questions.

Once you name your fear you can do something about it.