The viva is not a mysterious unknown cobbled together from the worst-case scenarios that keep you awake at night about your research. There are regulations and best practices, a structure that rests on and comes from your own work. It’s not thrown together in the moment or something that jumps out of left field. Yours will be unique, but based on a common structure with others, and if you ask the right people the right questions then you can prepare for it.
Vivas don’t just happen. You can learn about them and prepare for them.
Effective preparation is based on a continuation of the types of work you must have done throughout your PhD. The kinds of work that create good research are the kinds of work that will serve you well on the run up to the viva. Asking questions and making summaries, finding opportunities to discuss your work and answer questions, making space for deep thinking – all will be valuable, you just apply them a little differently.
You know all the stuff that you did to do your research? Keep doing it.
A PhD thesis can vary in size wildly between disciplines, and academic language in your field may allow for or necessitate a grandiose usage of words, sentences and other meaning-bearing symbols. But you don’t need to focus on every single word in order to feel fully prepared for your viva voce: what if you took some parts of your work and actively crossed things out, leaving only the most important and needed ideas? Do you need everything, or would it be good to strikethrough and make it simpler? Would that be an effective tool for you in order to help figure out what matters most? There could be a great freedom in doing it – although perhaps you might want to use a separate copy of a chapter to help, rather than obliterate parts of your thesis!
Strikethrough to simple: cross things out and leave the most important material. But maybe use a spare printout!