104

There are some possible options as the last slide of a typical thesis presentation. I've heard of some possibilities:

  1. A question-mark image (as the time to be slaughtered by the referees!),

  2. A Thank You declaration (There are some negative viewpoints about these two options.),

  3. A slide including summary of the presented ideas,

  4. A slide reflecting the presenter's contact info (I think it does not really make sense for a thesis presenter.),

  5. A slide including a quote (I really doubt it's the best way.),

  6. ...

What is the best practice to arrange the last slide, then?!

  • 8
    There are probably also cultural differences to consider. In France it's customary not to thank the audience at the end of the defense -- you only thank everyone once the jury has decided to award the degree to you (or not, if they don't...). So option #2 would not be doable in France, for example. – user9646 Apr 14 '17 at 8:59
  • 3
    I'd finish on a one-liner that summarises what the audience should take away. Or the biggest lesson that you have learnt. – user2768 Apr 14 '17 at 14:13
  • 8
    Don't make it the last slide, stop at the summary, but have additional slides afterwards giving any figures or data that might be useful in answering the questions that follow. You might not need them, but they are there just in case you do. – Dikran Marsupial Apr 14 '17 at 18:40
  • 49
    Clearly this – David Z Apr 14 '17 at 19:34
  • 3
    Why Not Zoidberg? ;) Seriously though, probably a good choice is the conclusions slide... I used one on my slides that you can see here. – Andrea Lazzarotto Apr 15 '17 at 16:24

14 Answers 14

88

The last slide will typically be seen for some minutes after you finished talking – until you jump to some other slide for addressing a question. This is something that you should use. If you ended your talk with a summary (which is a good thing in most cases), leaving that slide gives the audience opportunity to reflect on your talk, remember what they wanted to ask a question about, or just let your central messages sink in. If they do not want to do this, but focus on the questions, they are not distracted by anything new that you didn’t talk about.

The main exception is if you find it difficult to orally convey that the talk has finished – in that case a thank you slide or an any questions? slide may be the lesser evil and save you from a few seconds of awkward silence that everybody needs to realise your talk is over. Note that you can use such a slide as a backup behind your summary slide – if you manage to finish your talk on the summary slide, the audience never gets to see it. If you botch it, you can quickly jump to the summary slide.

In most situations, however, I consider thank you slides and any questions? slides pointless, as they do not tell the audience anything new and are things that you or the chair have to say. A quote would distract the audience from the questions – unless you are going to read it, but then the quote has to really fit the occasion. Your contact information does not need an entire slide and can usually be fitted on the bottom of the summary slide.

Finally note that on some rare occasions, the following order of slides may work:

  1. main talk with main results
  2. summary and outlook
  3. one or two appetiser slides illustrating first steps into what you just announced as future work, e.g., to show that you paved the way for something interesting.

In this case, you can either jump back to the summary slide or stay on your last appetizer slide – depending on what is more attractive.

  • 8
    +1 - for everything in this (particularly noting that the 'thank you' or 'any questions' slides seem pointless unless speaker has a hard time 'closing' a talk. (And then, just flash it and get back to the summary slide so you don't leave non-content fluff up in front of audience for longer than any other slide in the talk while waiting for questions, etc. – Carol Apr 15 '17 at 14:18
  • 21
    @Carol I find your comment deeply unsettling. (I do fully agree with it though.) ;) – Martin Ender Apr 16 '17 at 22:22
  • 4
    The "any questions" slide is not only useless - it's rude. The presenter is usually not the host of a meeting - it's chair's responsibility to decide whether there is time for questions, and when it's appropriate to open the discussion. – BartoszKP Apr 19 '17 at 18:38
  • 5
    @BartoszKP I strongly disagree that it's rude. Even if the host has absolute authority over the structure of the meeting (which seems strange to me, especially at a defense, since presumably the speaker knows the schedule and can see the clock), the speaker is merely signaling that they are ready to take questions. – JeffE Aug 18 '17 at 2:55
  • 1
    @JeffE You're right, that the intent can be clear, and be a simple signal that they are ready for questions, but it looks rude, regardless of the intent. It looks like "taking over" the meeting, intruding into the position of a host. Especially at a defense, which usually is a quite formal occasion, with quite strictly defined structure and quite strictly defined rules of behaviour. – BartoszKP Aug 18 '17 at 10:00
67

Another alternative I have tried recently is putting thumbnails of all the previous slides on it:

enter image description here

It's just a recent experiment, though; I don't have enough data to tell if it's the best last slide. Apart from the eye-candy, I think it can be useful as a pseudo-summary if your slides are sufficiently recognizable (for instance, if they have pictures).

For sure it helps solving the problem mentioned in another answer: "You had this formula on one slide. Can you go back? ... No not that one, before that ... Ahh yes that one."

It's kind-of tricky to do automatically in beamer, though. You can always do it manually by copying the output file somewhere else and specifying the page numbers manually, which is how I achieved it:

\begin{frame}
\begin{tabular}{cccc}
\includegraphics[page=1, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=2, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=3, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=4, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} \\

\includegraphics[page=5, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=6, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=16, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=17, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} \\

\includegraphics[page=18, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=19, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=35, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=45, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} \\

\includegraphics[page=46, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=50, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=51, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} &
\includegraphics[page=52, width=0.2\textwidth]{poloni_slides_pdfpages.pdf} \\

\end{tabular}

\begin{block}{}
\centering Thanks for your attention!\\
Questions?
\end{block}
\end{frame}
  • 17
    Interesting touch... but don't you think it might not transfer any meaningful idea to the audience? Especially when there is a multitude of slides. So, the thumbnails will be very small and unreadable. – Roboticist Apr 14 '17 at 6:36
  • 14
    @Roboticist Depends on your goal... If you want to transfer meaningful ideas with your last slide, this works definitely worse than a summary but definitely better than a big question mark. :) The thing I wanted to do is trying to remind the audience of the content of your talk by appealing to visual memory. Just a random thing I am trying, anyway, it's not like I have research on its effectiveness. :) If there are too many slides, you can choose to include only the "most important" ones. – Federico Poloni Apr 14 '17 at 6:43
  • 10
    This is great! As a bonus it provides incentive to keep presentations within a reasonable number of slides. – user1717828 Apr 14 '17 at 12:17
  • 16
    And if it a computer science course you should include this last slide in the thumbnails, recursively, all the way down. – Dithermaster Apr 15 '17 at 14:32
  • 11
    “It's just a recent experiment, though; I don't have enough data to tell if it's the best last slide” Now we are all wondering how many thesis defenses you are going to do in order to test this approach with enough data. :D – Andrea Lazzarotto Apr 15 '17 at 16:26
23

If I were on your thesis committee I would be most happy with your slides if they were your original work and represented your own personal tastes and sensibilities. Therefore I would be more impressed with even a goofy or weird last slide that I knew you actually came up with yourself and made sense to you, than one that was proposed to you by people on academia.se, even if it were ostensibly more professional looking or slick.

In other words, the "best last slide" is, by definition, whatever you decide it is.

And yes, I realize this is a bit of a smartass answer. I am trying to make a point here about the value of original thought, and hope that some people will find this perspective helpful or thought provoking. But to anyone who doesn't get it or thinks I am barking up the wrong tree, feel free to downvote this answer.

  • 2
    I actually think it's a good sensible answer. – scaaahu Apr 14 '17 at 8:33
  • 3
    Knowing when to learn from Academia.SE is important. I'd say "designing the last slide" is one of the cases where one can learn and not reinvent the wheel. – svavil Apr 14 '17 at 23:43
  • 10
    @svavil if OP had framed the question as "what are some good ideas for the last slide" then I would agree that that's a reasonable thing to get advice on here. But the question is framed in a way that assumes there's a unique "best last slide", which I find off-putting. In general, many questions here seek advice on optimizing every little nuance of academic life. At some point I think it makes sense to encourage people to think for themselves. And as I said, I am more impressed by people who put personal/creative touches into their work even if the result is quirky and a little less slick. – Dan Romik Apr 14 '17 at 23:51
  • @DanRomik thanks, the last comment makes your stance clearer. – svavil Apr 14 '17 at 23:52
  • 2
    This. My last slide was a picture of the beach I was planning to spend the next month on, trying to recover from the ordeal of writing the damn thing. It got a laugh from the audience and helped me have something to look forward to while answering the questions :) – terdon Apr 17 '17 at 21:56
16

In my opinion, the best last slide is a short summary of your presentation. It should contain the question you researched and what your result was. This has several advantages:

  1. Your audience can recapitulate your talk. This allows them to better place what you told them in your conclusion and why what you did is awesome. Following the scheme "Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them." makes your topic easier to understand. Since it is a graduate thesis, chances are your topic is rather complex and merits recapitulation.

  2. This is the last slide your audience is going to see and should be the "take home message". So it can be a condensed version of what you presented, now that you explained all they need to know. This is going to fortify what the audience remembers from your talk.

  3. A recapitulation also offers the referees prime material for slaughtering you (in the positive sense). You can keep all your used variable names, concepts, definitions, etc. on this slide so that the referees remember them. This makes asking questions so much easier and prevents question of the style: "You had this formula on one slide. Can you go back? ... No not that one, before that ... Ahh yes that one." If this is out of the way, you can directly jump to the interesting questions.

11

It's not anything particular to a thesis presentation, but I've found that an acknowledgement slide is a solid last slide for the presentation. It's a choice that I've found rather common from experienced presenters (e.g. visiting professors when giving seminar talks.)

I agree with others in saying that slides with just "Any Questions" or "Thank You" isn't the best. They're rather content free, and such sentiments can be handled verbally. (Also, depending on how things are handled, your advisor or committee chair may be the one to open the floor for questions and select who asks the next question, in which case it may be slightly awkward if you've already opened the floor for questions.)

Instead, you can take the opportunity at the very end of your talk to thank and acknowledge the people who have helped you out. Generally this takes the form of a photo of your advisor's group, often with a list of names of others in your group, along with several columns of names pointing out any collaborators. It's also nice to point out in a corner any funding sources, if you received any grants or scholarships which supported the work. If you put their names up in writing you don't necessarily need to read out everyones name, but it is good to point out some of the key people and potentially mention their specific contribution.

One caution is to keep the amount of talking you do on your acknowledgment slide brief. I'd recommend a minute or so at most. Spend too long - particularly with a bland recitation of 20+ names - and you'll bore the audience. If you're going to name names, pick out just a few key people whose help you'd like to highlight. Err on the side of being too brief rather than too effusive. If you have individual names up, you can acknowledge in groups ("my collaborators in the Smith Group") rather than individually.

With an acknowledgement slide you have a rather "neutral" slide that clearly signals the end of the presentation, but contains a non-trivial amount of content in itself.

Note: You didn't mention which field you were in, so I gave an answer from my experience in biochemistry. Do keep in mind that presentation styles do vary somewhat from field to field. If it's not common in your field for experienced people giving seminars to present an acknowledgement slide, please ignore my answer and pick something that's more common to your field.

  • 2
    While this is certainly laudable, it's also likely that this will bore at least a part of the audience. In that respect, presentations are quite a bit like movies - when the credits (that producers are ethically, and possibly even legally, obliged to show) start rolling, almost the entire audience stops watching and leaves. – O. R. Mapper Apr 14 '17 at 17:19
  • @O.R.Mapper Oh, certainly. Spending too long on an acknowledgment slide is indeed terribly boring. I added in more mention of keeping it brief. -- Even then, I agree some people will "zone out". If you're lucky, they'll take the "free" time to formulate the question they want to ask you. – R.M. Apr 14 '17 at 17:36
  • 4
    I second @O.R.Mapper here: Any form of acknowledgement at the end of the talk is lethal to attention, enthusiasm, and flow. The only thing I consider bearable is if you just show the acknowledgement slide but do not talk about it – but then it still steals the attention of your audience. If your talk has “coäuthors”, list them on the title slide. If specific parts have collaborators, mention them on the respective slides (but only in writing). Funders can also be acknowledged on the title slide. – Wrzlprmft Apr 14 '17 at 19:19
  • 3
    I prefer acknowledgements up front as part of the settling-in phase. – The Nate Apr 15 '17 at 2:45
8

Most people won't remember where they had questions without some help.

So if you want questions from the audience, end with a summary slide.

And if you don't want questions, just write: "Thank you! Any Questions?"

That's how my thesis tutor described it, great advice!

  • Wouldn't that be the other way around? Remind them if you want questions, and don't remind them if you don't? – timuzhti Apr 17 '17 at 6:53
  • 1
    @Alpha3031: That's the point, that explicitly inviting questions is not as effective as laying the groundwork for questions. – Ben Voigt Apr 17 '17 at 17:02
6

What I was advised to do and have seen done several times, and it worked rather well was to highlight 3-4 main pertinent points, specifically:

  • brief reiteration of the research problem
  • reiteration of a main aspect of the method
  • a statement or 2 of the main result/outcome of the results

Underneath, I included my email address and any other main researchers - with a statement that if they wished to receive a copy of the presentation to contact by email - but check to see if this is allowed first.

(The slides before had the acknowledgements and references)

This way, while questions and/or discussion was occurring, a clear and concise summary of the presentation remained projected.

3

Having gone through many variations myself, more recently I settled on putting a brief bibliography on the last page. I think it is more meaningful than a "thank you" or "questions?" page (certainly more meaningful than some "inspirational" quote!), and perhaps more appropriate than contact details. Of course it does not prevent me from having a summary (if applicable) on the next-to-last page.

The bibliography need not be long; it may include references to your prior research relevant to the current presentation, or other key pieces of literature that anyone in the audience who became interested in the topic of your presentation might benefit from. (A couple of times I went overboard and had two dense bibliography pages; I don't think that was a good idea.)

2

I have not yet had to prepare and present a thesis but I have done a lot of presentations for my studies.

I usually use a dark background for my first slide, with the title in a light coloured font and use a light background with dark text for the presentation so my solution is to have a blank last slide with a dark background.

I usually thank the jury for their attention verbally, as a sign the presentation is finished so I do not need to thank them "in text" which feels awkward.

I also avoid the "Any questions ?" slide, especially if it is going to stay on display. I rather say something close to "If you have any question feel free to ask them I/we will do my/our best to answer them".

The reason I don't leave the summary visible too long is that I find I tend to read it over and over again when watching a presentation rather than listening to other peoples questions. If I'm like that I'm sure, or at least I hope, other are as well.

  • Would the downvoter explain what's wrong with this answer? – scaaahu Apr 14 '17 at 8:08
  • 2
    I did not downvote, but the answer is a bit unclear. Is the proposed solution simply a blank last slide? – user21264 Apr 14 '17 at 9:26
  • Yes that's it. I could maybe edit my answer to make it more obious. It should be noted though that I usually have a very simple summary of the key points and/or conclusions before that blank slide. – Valentin Pearce Apr 14 '17 at 9:30
  • Also, it should fit in your presentation's overall appearance, to show that it is, in a way, part of it and not just a white slide. – Valentin Pearce Apr 14 '17 at 9:32
2

US Military typically employs option 3 as the penultimate slide, followed by a slide asking for questions, followed by the statement or a slide "This concludes my brief" or presentation.

For the presentation of a thesis, option 3 is always good for a penultimate slide at which you can ask for questions. I'd follow that with a thank you slide to conclude.

  • Interesting and practical response, thank you! – user70612 Apr 15 '17 at 15:04
  • 1
    @Saturnus Thanks. This is my first post on the site. I think a summary should always be included in any good conclusion, like most of us are taught in grade school. – user26439 Apr 15 '17 at 15:12
1

I've been at a Master thesis defence, where professor N., known for his inspiring and engaged teaching style, and admired by many students, was present. At the end of the presentation, the last slide said

Thank you for your attention!

The chairman asked whether there are questions, and as usual, there was one from N. The student answered, and then clicked to the next slide, saying

Thank you for your attention, professor N.!

1

How about combining option 2 and 3

Since I sometimes find it hard to round-off a presentation without creating an awkward silence, but do not like having a slide saying only "Thank you", let me offer one more alternative.

Have a last slide with a summary/conclusion of your main results, and possibly some future work. Also end the talk by quickly reiterating your main result(s). Then at the end, let the words "Thank you" (or "Questions?" or whatever you want to end the presentation with) appear at the bottom of this slide. I usually use a slightly larger font and different color, such that it stands out.

This allows you to smoothly end your presentation, yet keeps the useful summary slide on screen during the discussion.

0

This will depend largely on what happens after your presentation. If the last slide will stay on screen during discussions between the thesis committee and you, a picture representing your work (e.g. your thesis cover) might be a good choice.

-4

Best way to end your presentation is to give an overview of whole things you described in earlier slides. you can also request for feedbacks for your presentation to improve according to audience point of view.

  • 10
    And would should be on the last slide then? – FuzzyLeapfrog Apr 14 '17 at 16:59

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