How to end a presentation: your final impression should be as good as your first

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If you have been following my last posts, you know that for the last weeks I’ve been writing about the best ways to start a presentation. I’ve provided you with valuable tips and information to create your first and second slide. This time I want to go to the other end of your presentation to deal with something as scary as the beginning of a presentation: the last slide of your deck.

Sometimes you wish every slide would be the last

As an audience member I’ve sat through many presentations where I wished that every slide would be the last. If you’re using Presentation Hero you know how to avoid this by having a very solid structure, that flows gracefully from beginning to end. But how do you end?

Different endings

If you’re delivering a sales pitch, ideally you don’t want to reach the end of your deck. You should be hoping that your prospect engages in a conversation with you way before you reach the last slide of your presentation. This means that you provided enough information to peak their interest and you will give them a much better experience by having a simple conversation and using a slide here and there to support your words, but only where necessary.

When you’re giving a talk in a big auditorium you can have two endings. The first ending is right before the Q&A session. The second ending happens at the tail end of the Q&A. In my opinion in the first case the best slide to end is a “summary” slide, in the latter case you can have a more traditional closing slide. What do I mean by that?

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the last slide. Let’s have a look at common stuff you may want to have on your last slide.

Your name & email contact

Repetition helps the memory. And your name is an important piece of information at the end of your talk. Maybe your audience wants to know more about you, find your contacts or even get in touch.

Your twitter handle

Conference-goers are heavy twitter users. Having your twitter handle on the last slide can immediately increase your following. But if you’re presenting to a small group or selling a product you can also dispense of your own twitter and feature a company account instead.

Your company name or logo

This is a great moment to display a company logo. People may want to better understand where your knowledge, information and insight comes from, where they are shaped and live. When you’re talking you become an ambassador for your company.

A product shot

If during your presentation you’ve talked about your book or any other kind of product of yours, the last slide gives you the opportunity to feature a “pack shot.” If your deck was “content, content, content”, you’re allowed a small space to pitch.

A URL to download your slides

I like to include this in most of all my presentations. What you can do is upload your deck to your favorite slide hosting site and include a short, personalized URL. I usually have my presentation hosted on Slideshare and then I create a short url with the name of the conference in it. http://fbbr.co/pcamp for instance pulls up my latest presentation at the Product Camp in Berlin.

A call to action

People tend to do what they are told to do. It’s not that everyone does, but in general – as a species – we like to trust. If you want your audience to perform a “next action” like sending you an email or sharing your slides, have this invitation on the last slide.

A word of wisdom

Sometimes you want your audience to remember something very specific out of your presentation. Maybe it’s a quote dear to your heart, maybe it’s a piece of advice you wished you’d heard growing up. It may well belong in the last slide.

Something funny

If your presentation is ending, your audience will use this time to create what will become the lasting memory of your talk (or lack thereof). Ending on a high note, making people laugh, leaving them while on a high level of energy and arousal helps them create a more positive and lasting memory. Having something funny or simply empathetic on your last slide can help this process.

Now let’s go to the stuff you may have on your last slide but serves no purpose. This is just clutter on your last slide.

Thanks

If you don’t thank your audience you are indeed rude. But nobody says you should do it in writing. If you feel the need for a thank you slide make it your second to last.

Credits

In the age of creative commons it’s really important to properly credit the authors of the work you included in your presentation. It’s becoming increasingly popular to credit each work directly on the slide where it’s displayed and that is a good solution to avoiding an overcrowded last slide full of credits.

Pic’n’mix

My suggestion is to pick and mix the elements that you need in your last slide. When I give a talk in public I always have a small line with my twitter and a URL on all sides, so I usually focus the last slide on my call to action. In my case usually that translates into a URL to download the presentation and the invitation to share.

Sometimes presentations can have a more directly measurable call to action like subscribing to a mailing list like this one. This kind of call to action, when it comes at the end of trustworthy content, can be very effective.

Focus

Don’t overcrowd your last slide. Make sure to focus the attention of your audience on one single action. Should they follow you on twitter? Email you their opinions? Start a new behavior? Remember a quote? Send their resume to your company? Be clear and focus on one single, major objective.

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