Weeks ago I attended a lecture/seminar in NYU Shanghai, and I am not a student nor an alumnus of it. After the lecture I attempted to ask if I can have a copy of the slides because the content is so interesting. The lecturer said to me that I'd better email her later and she will send me it. And I searched Google for her name and found her email address and shot her an email(using my hotmail email address), but now I still have not recieved the slides.

I thought she doesn't know me and hence might don't know that I am not affiliated to NYU Shanghai. But it seems that she doesn't have any reason to share with me the slides.

When I was a graduate student I attended a lecture on open source and what the lecturer said about it is still whirling in my head: the slides that are not allowed to share are not valuable enough to be shared. I love such ideas, abeit sometimes too idealistic.

But when is it appropriate to ask for a copy of the slides and when it is not?

EDIT after one day of waiting and two additional emails:
Following the suggestion by @WolfgangBangerth I sent the lecturer one more email and she redirected me to the host of the seminar and then I cold-emailed the host with some explanations such as who I am, how I relate to the university and why the slides are important to me. Just now I recieved the slides from the host. Thanks.

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    Do you have a better email address? Hotmail frankly has a reputation for being a bit sketchy (rightly or wrongly) and it's quite possible your email was caught in a spam filter.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 23:33
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    @BryanKrause Oh. Maybe my gmail?
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 23:42
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    That might be better, particularly if you have an appropriate professional gmail address.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 23:44
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    Don't exclude the possibility that the academic is slow at keeping up with emails, especially in the aftermath of a conference - she may have come back to hundreds of messages in her inbox.
    – G_B
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 1:39
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    Try asking using an old fashion smail letter with your email address included. I'm sure a prof would get fewer letters than emails.
    – MaxW
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 12:53

5 Answers 5


It is always appropriate to ask. But some people are unwilling to share their slides for a variety of reasons (none of which I think are particularly good, for basically the reasons you mention in your quote).

So you may or may not get the slides, but it is certainly ok to request them!

  • Great! I will request them the second time. Let me see.
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 23:10
  • But with no luck this time again. But let me try again. Let me see what would happen.
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 21:55
  • @Lerner there's nothing wrong with asking a first time, but repeatedly emailing this person may start to cross over into harassment. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 22:45
  • @GregoryJ.Puleo I understand what you mean. She replied and let me ask the host of the seminar/lecture, and then I CCed her in my email to the host.
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 23:21
  • @Lerner OK, that makes more sense then -- your comments led me to think you were repeatedly emailing her despite receiving no reply at all. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 23:27

The answer depends on what you mean by "OK". If by that you mean "not inappropriate", then sure. It isn't some kind of taboo or insult. But if you mean when is asking even a bit too much, well if they didn't respond apparently it was.

Every email request that requires the other person to perform some new task runs a high risk of crossing that line and not getting a response. I.e. requests where they have to go look something up, or dig out some document to attach, etc. Sometimes people mean to but then forget, but often they just think "nah" and move to the next email.

This is magnified greatly when the person receiving the request is in a position that gets many such requests every day. And moreso in a academic jobs where they are always fighting to get out from their todo list to make time for "real work" like writing and doing research.

Finally, if the person requesting the information has absolutely no relationship with the other person, the odds go down another order of magnitude. In such cases the person is basically a saint if they consistently respond to everyone. Yes I know such people too.

Conversely, I'd note that when you put someone on the spot in person and ask if they will do you some favor such as this, it makes them uncomfortable to refuse directly even if they want to. So they may give you an agreement they didn't mean. Indeed in some cultures it is supposedly impolite to decline a request directly, which is often seen as too blunt. So they will agree (or seem to agree) in a face-saving not-really-agreeing way that is hard for outsiders to read as a refusal.

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    Your last paragraph gives a perspective to all of this I did not consider at all until now (even though I've heard of "never-say-no" cultures).
    – penelope
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 13:26
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    I've never heard of it, either. It seems like a vague, non-committal answer would serve the purpose of saving face without actually being a lie.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:55
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    Yes. I think you are right. I don't get them on my second attempt(in fact third attempt).
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 21:54

In my opinion it is always ok to ask for something. One thing to keep in mind is the question whether the lecture was public. In Austria most lectures from universities are public so anyone can join and listen/participate (only lectures, no seminars).

A reason for you not getting the slides may be that the professor was just busy and forgot to reply to your mail.

Another point to keep in mind is: Do you need all slides? Is there something the interests you particularly and you know the number of the slides. Then I'd suggest to ask for this slide rather than the full set of slides. I've seen situations where lectures have just been copied by a lecturer. So some lecturers might be cautious to send their slides.

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    I would find a request for a single slide much more annoying than a request for the entire presentation.
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 5:40
  • Not to mention that it seems unlikely that someone who doesn't already have a copy of the slides would know specific slide numbers. You could describe the content of the relevant slides, but then the professor would have to search through the slides trying to figure out which ones you're talking about.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:51
  • So some lecturers might be cautious to send their slides. But the lecturer specifically said that she would send them when she was asked after the lecture.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:52
  • Great idea. I do need only several slides but unfortunately I just took some notes and forget which slides.
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 21:59

Saying "e-mail me later and I'll send you the slides" may be a way of telling "no, I won't give you the slides" without starting a discussion as to why not. Same as saying "we will keep you informed" at the end of an interview to a candidate which didn't pass.

It's not impolite to ask, but unless you're entitled to the slides, there's no guarantee that you will get them.

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    Yes, I failed again. This time she didn't refuse me directly again and let me cold-email the host for it. And I will just follow her suggestion.
    – Lzn
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 22:01

Asking is fine; there's no reason for it not to be.

The top hypothesis that an academic doesn't get back to you about any particular thing must always be, "Too busy; not caught up on the last thousand emails."

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