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When preparing my PowerPoint slides for a lecture, I often find myself wondering what to put as the final slide.

For presentations in industry, when not in a university setting, I often have a final slide which simply says "Thank you." The intent is to thank the audience for attending the presentation. However, this feels a little out of place in a university setting, especially where students may not have a choice of attending (well, the choice is attend or definitely fail).

So, I started using a final slide that says "Questions?" However, I recently read something indicating that a teacher should not ask if students have questions (the teacher should either ask a probing question to check for understanding or the teacher should simply expect the students to speak up without prompting).

It seems the final slide should somehow indicate that the slides are done and doing that with a content slide does not seem right either. I recently started using a final slide indicating what homework was expected of the students before the next class session (sometimes the slide simply says 'no homework'). This works several sessions into the semester once students see that every time the homework slide appears it is the final slide; however, it does not really work well at the start of the semester.

Returning to my question, what should I put as the last slide?

  • 3
    Just because your audience is (maybe) forced to attend your lectures does not mean it is weird to thank them. BSteinhurst's answer is a very good one, I feel it will be even better if you say thanks right after that. – PatW Jul 8 '13 at 7:28
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    A very neutral option would be to just have a black slide (screen goes off) at the end. Attention will then be focused on you so you can wrap things up verbally. – Deruijter Jul 8 '13 at 9:42
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    "attent or definitely fail" - is that only your personal opinion or a policy? In the latter case, it's a shame to treat (almost) adult students who may already know enough about the matter due to previous experience like children in kindergarden and force them to be here; in the former case you're just being naïve. – Tobias Kienzler Jul 8 '13 at 12:13
  • @TobiasKienzler It's a policy (not one that I have any control over). Right or wrong, it is a limitation within which I must work. – earthling Jul 8 '13 at 23:52
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    Then I apologize for the last sentence. I hope at some point those responsible for this policy realize how ridiculous it is - a lecture is much more beneficial for both lecturer and students if only those who want to attend are present; the others are either bored or actively disturb their usually attentive fellow students – Tobias Kienzler Jul 9 '13 at 4:57

10 Answers 10

23

Usually, a 'this is what you should have just learned' bullet point slide not only sums up what your audience has learned, but also reminds them about topics/questions that have come up during your presentation. This is a great way for them to remember and for you to guide questions/following Q&A session along the talk.

Another approach that I personally like is a collection of further resources (or sources) that the audience can look up after your talk if they are interested into more details (or simply didn't have the courage to ask questions).

  • 1
    I ended up doing a combination of this and BSteinhurst's answer. I start my final slide with Main Points and finish with "Next time on...." It is working quite well. I can only accept one answer and I chose yours because I think the summation is more important than the hint of the next topic. – earthling Mar 11 '14 at 5:44
41

Take a cue from TV. Pretty much every serial show I watch ends with "next time on..." It is simple, not prone to misunderstandings like trying to be funny, and actually serves a purpose of indicating what the students might look at before they come in for the next lecture. This is how I wrap up my lectures even though I do not use slides in the classroom. (I like to juggle multiple columns of coexisting text on a blackboard instead.)

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    This is a great idea. Of course, I rarely get through all my slides (I tend to over prepare), so my "Next Time" slide would inevitably appear about seven slides into my next lecture... – Chris Gregg Jul 8 '13 at 5:21
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    @ChrisGregg Couldn't you just surreptitiously press End so that nobody notices you skipped those seven slides? – gerrit Jul 8 '13 at 10:01
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    @gerrit I believe Chris is worried about a situation where (1) He prepared a final slide which says "next time on... we prove Theorem X" where (2) Theorem X was stated in the third to last slide, using (3) notation from the fifth to last slide. Jumping to the "Next time" slide skipping over the final 7 will probably be a bad idea. – Willie Wong Jul 8 '13 at 16:01
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    @gerrit The solution, in my experience, is to get your timing down quite well. This is easier said than done because some groups simply absorb information much faster than others. – earthling Jul 8 '13 at 23:54
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    +1. I also like the converse: to begin a class by saying "Previously on..." and giving a brief recap of what we did in the previous class. Sometimes I even attempt a TV announcer voice. But caution: one time after I'd been watching a lot of 24, I tried a Kiefer Sutherland impression. It came out as a strangled growl and the class dissolved into laughter. – Nate Eldredge Nov 6 '13 at 21:47
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You could consider making your last slide a reminder of what are the expected learning outcomes of the lecture, possibly with a link to other past, or future learning outcomes.

e.g.

In this seminar we looked at:

  1. Differentiation, from first principles,
  2. A graphical representation of differentiation, and
  3. The general formula for differentiating a function f(x).

Next time:

  1. Differentiation of trigonometric functions.
  • 2
    This idea of reminding the students of the key points to remember and a hint of what's to come is great! – earthling Sep 2 '13 at 10:36
8

There is a golden opportunity at the end of every presentation that begins with the words - "if there was just one thing you should remember, it is ..."

By being consistent, you will (hopefully) have students waiting to hear what you think that is. Since it is a consistent closer, you'll be able to build on this time to hook your students in for getting ready for the next lecture, or provide a topic for discussion outside the class, or ...

5

Here's one that hasn't been mentioned yet: a call to action.

My source for this idea is the youtube movie 5 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People by Susan Weinschenk. One of the things she mentions is that when you want your audience to do something (like give you money or vote for you), you have to spell it out really explicitly at the end of your talk.

The way to translate this to lectures depends on what you want students to do after the lecture is over. For example, I recently gave some lectures on programming, and I really wanted the students to do some programming for themselves (so they could feel the thrill of coming up with something and creating it). I made the review slide, and the "questions?" slide, but then I finished up with three slides containing ideas for fun programs they could write with what they've learned so far (a games, a fractal drawing, a music program, etc).

I wasn't super hopeful that it would work, but recently a student came up to me and told me that he'd used one of the examples and created a similar program. And even if they don't do it, putting the idea in their heads that they could, might be enough in the long run.

4

I'm quite stunned that no one mentioned it here, but one great way to make a final slide is to put references or further reading on it.

Not only does it give you the opportunity to talk about an opening to a wide landscape of wonderfully interesting topics (often a lot more than the abstract material you had to present), but it also leave enough time to students to write down the references they find interesting.

And if you don't have a lot of references, you can combine the conclusion/summary with the references on the same slide, great effect too.

  • particularly worthy if your slides are going online somewhere. for 1) it is meeting your obligation to credit your sources, now. 2) it gives students doing review a place to go to next if htye need a differetn explination of the topic. – Lyndon White Jul 22 '14 at 1:03
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I would do the same things as with scientific presentations: On the last slide I put a conclusion that consists of a few bullets of complete sentences and I read then out load as they are written down. This could look as follows:

  • Any continuous function attains its maximum on any compact set.
  • Any differentiable function is also continuous.
  • The derivative of a differentiable function need not to be continuous.

After I read the conclusion I just plainly say "Thank you".

My rationale behind this is: At the end of the lecture/talk I want to carry the main points in clear words (and not some formulation which pops up in my head during lecturing). Also, I do not write but say "Thank you" because I want the focus on me and not on the slides with the last words. (And also I find it a bit strange to write something personal like a thanks when I could also say it…).

2

Following on what BSteinhurst suggested, I often have the last slide as follows:

"The next event is (next topic/chapter)

Your training is (homework)"

I turn the last slide into an almost sporting type event. But it depends on your audience.

2

I end each (3-hour, once a week) lecture with a slide that says "next week". I let them know what we will be covering. For those who like to read ahead, and when we have a textbook, I'll tell them what chapters they might want to read. I remind them if they'll be getting an assignment, if an assignment is due, if some deadline is coming up, and so on.

Some of them start to pack up their stuff and make feet noises when they think the lecture is over. I actually tell them in week 1 that the lecture isn't over until they see this slide. There isn't anything important I need to say to it, so if the stampede drowns me out, those who care can read what is on the slide. And if there is no stampede, I can quickly summarize anything important on it and ask for questions.

1

"Therefore, What?"

Boyd K. Packer, himself a master teacher and long-time administrator in the Church Educational System, has a question he often asks when we have made a presentation or given some sort of exhortation to one another in the [council]. He looks up as if to say, "Are you through?" And then says to the speaker (and, by implication, to the rest of the group), "Therefore, what?"

"Therefore, What?", Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CES Conference on the New Testament, 8 August 2000, BYU

Consistent with the "call to action" response, most of the learning takes place after a lecture or encounter in which great ideas are introduced. Students should not be passive; the only way they learn is by grappling with the ideas and experimenting on them on their own and putting them to work. A simple invitation to ponder until the next meeting and then to share insights at the beginning of the next class correctly places the burden of understanding on the students, and should provoke the best questions, discussion, and discoveries, and it prepares them for future encounters. It also makes the homework much more meaningful once they realize that they are in control and are responsible for their own learning.

  • This is an excellent addition to the discussion. Thanks for adding it! – earthling Aug 3 at 5:00

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