Solve The Right Problem

Early last year, I was sharing my Viva Survivor session to a dozen people in large room. It was a cold day outside but a warm room thanks to the heating. The session got off to a good start after introductions and sharing the outline, and I was moving on to the first topic.

I’d not been talking for long, when a tremendous noise started up from the windows at the far side of the room. Really loud, regular banging, like construction workers fixing scaffolding. After a minute we all realised it couldn’t be that, it was going on for too long. So we looked around outside for the cause of this terrible banging but couldn’t see anything. With nothing in sight and nothing to do we just tried to ignore it.

I presented for another hour before our break. The noise was still going. My voice was hoarse and all our ears were aching.

So I went to check and couldn’t see anything again. And it was only then that I realised that the noise sounded like it was coming from outside…

…but was actually coming from near the windows. From the radiator. A regular banging noise was vibrating outwards from the radiator, shaking the metal window frames.

And was silenced by turning a valve on the base of the radiator’s pipework. The room laughed and cheered! Then we all groaned as we saw how simple the solution had been; we could only have resolved it when we knew the real problem.

Keep this in mind for your viva: if your examiners have a criticism, or think there is a problem, make sure you know what it is before you start to respond. Ask questions to get more information or to find out their reasons. Sometimes you might know what to do. But other times you might need a little more to then simply turn the valve off at the base of their concerns.

The viva isn’t a one-way Q&A. Engage with your examiners to respond to all of their questions as well as you can.