One of the presentation techniques I totally and vehemently oppose is the “Thank You” and “Questions?” ending slides. They are a hugely wasted opportunity and in this post, I’m going to show you a better way to end your presentation.

Black text on a white background. Text says, "Thank You. Any Questions?"

Let’s take a simple example and say you’re the author of this Brookings Institution report about how educating girls in developing countries is a great investment for families, communities, and countries. You go through your argument, presenting the data, facts, and statistics to drive home your message and call to action. You get to the end of your presentation with ample time for questions and answers when you show the slide above and say, “Thank you so much for having me. Are there any questions?”

At this point, let’s say you get some questions and there is some interesting discussion. All that time, the audience is left looking at this “Thank You. Any Questions?” slide. You’ve already said what’s on the slide—we don’t (well, shouldn’t) put everything we say on all of our slides anyways—so how does this slide help your audience? How does it reinforce your message and help them know what to do next?

Instead, what if you showed this slide and said, “Thank you so much for having me. What questions do you have?”

White text on a black background. Text says, "Educating a girl is one of the best investments a country can make."

This is your takeaway message. This is the thing your audience has to stare at for those 10 or so minutes while you answer questions and engage in discussion. You can add your social media handle, email address, or even a QR code to the slide, but this last slide delivers content and reinforces the entire point of your presentation.

Also notice the difference between “Are there any questions?” and “What questions do you have?” I can’t remember who I learned this technique from—maybe Garr Reynolds?—but it’s a great, subtle point about leading questions. The answer to the first question is “yes” or “no”; the answer to the second is an actual question. In this way, you actually lead your audience to ask questions and engage with you.

I’ve always wanted to do a little study at one of the economics or public policy conferences I attend. In one session, I want the speakers to use the default “Thank You” slide and in another, I want the speakers to use this more active slide. Then, as attendees leave their sessions, I’d ask them a simple question: “What’s the main thing you took away from that session?” My guess is that the primary takeaway message will appear in more responses in the second session than the first.

The important point here is that your last slide (well, nearly all slides, really) should deliver contentIt should help you deliver your core message, not some basic platitude that you can simply say. If I was to give presenters just one, simple, actionable thing they could do to improve their presentations, this would be it.

No more “Thank You” slides—exclamation point or not.

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