"Thank you for your attention!" or how to "flush" your presentation

Author: Andrew Letnitskiy
You see these words quite often, don't you?
Looks like a simple innocent slide with an even more innocent phrase. But be careful not to jump to conclusions.

Let's think

How did the phrase "Thank you for your attention!" get into the slides in the first place?

Most likely, it came from originated from the same place as the first presentations with visualizations - from the academic environment.


Before special computer programs were developed, in order to create slides many schools and universities used codoscopes (see the picture below). They helped to project the text that the teacher wrote on transparencies onto the board or a wall. A particularly polite teacher liked to write at the end of the lesson something like "The lesson is over. Thank you!" The idea itself is excellent - to thank those who listened attentively, so I can not blame the teachers for this phrase.

What happens next?

Times change, and scientific progress does not wait for those who are late. PowerPoint appears.

Now the slides look more impressive, at least for the reason that they get readability and color. But after all, they are still made by the same teachers as before. And they still thank us, diligent students, for the attention that we give them.

Everything that happens next is quite simple: we grow up, we start to master the boundless world of public speeches and presentations, try to make our own slides and thank our listeners for the attention that we have received from them.

It seems that everything is in such a perfect harmony and even a little luscious, that the problem that lurks behind the noble final slide can't be noticed at first sight. And this problem exists. And it grows exponentially, already resembling a small catastrophe of the world of communications.

And the name of this catastrophe is simple - your presentation was wasted.

Why?

In order not to be verbose and not write memoirs about how one simple phrase "sank" hundreds of presentations, I'll just give an example that you have seen in your life more than once.

Back when we were kids, our parents used to remind us about hygiene and how important it is to wash hands thoroughly before meals. Sometimes we were lazy: we would not wash them at all and run straight to the table, where a delicious dinner was already waiting. Now imagine that your child is doing or is going to do the same, and it's your responsibility to explain how important it is to wash hands. So you say to the child:


— There are bacteria that live on our hands. We cannot see them, but they are there. Even more of them come to our hand when we touch things where they live - mobile phones, door handles, shoes. If you do not wash your hands, germs jump into food, which means they get into your tummy. Because of this, you may get sick and feel bad. Do you understand?

— Yes, I do.

— Thank you for your attention!

So, what happens next? Will your child wash his hands before eating? Perhaps, just once. And then he will simply forget what harm the microbes on the hands can do. All you had to do is just to end your dialogue with a call to action.


— … Do you understand?

— Yes, I do.

— Come on then, go wash your hands!


A similar thing can happen in a restaurant during a romantic dinner, when a guy proposes to his girlfriend. He says that they have been together for 7 years and how important it is for him; how many things they have experienced together and how many more are yet to come; then he takes the engagement ring out of his pocket and says: "Thank you for your attention!" Is she likely to accept his proposal? Hardly.

I know what you're thinking: "This has nothing to do with presentations and your examples are too hyperbolized." This is not true. Your presentation is also a kind of a proposal that you make to the audience. Its content depends on whether the audience says "I do" or not. And the chances of failure are extremely high if people feel that it is more important for you to get something from them, rather than give them something: knowledge or opportunities to solve their problems.

One simple phrase can change a lot. This applies to presentations as well. People feel insincerity and formalities, and a careless phrase at the end of a presentation can smear the impression of even a good performance and good slides.

The final part of a presentation is important, since it greatly affects whether you will achieve your goals by presenting them. Speaking of goals, by the way. "Deserving attention from the audience" cannot be the goal. More precisely it is close to narcissism. But "to change people's attitude to smoking", "to attract the audience to a bank service", "to increase the number of regular visitors to the site" – are what a goal should be. And here you will need a strong presentation.

Is a call to action always appropriate?

Of course, it's not. In many respects it depends on the audience. For example, it would be inappropriate to end with a call to action when speaking at a quarterly company selector, demonstrating the results of the work and determining further plans, because it will be of no value to the audience. In this case, you would simply say it to yourself. It is also inappropriate to call for action if the audience consists of professors and scientists. Most likely, they just need resources that will help them learn more about your idea in a relaxed environment at home.

The same applies to presentations for investors, where links would be more appropriate so that they can learn more about your project and, of course, information with your contacts.

So, in addition to the call to action, on the final slide you can show:

• your contact details,

• next steps (websites, articles or other resources),

• the company `s logo,

• a quote that fits the context,

• an impressive photo, corresponding to the message of the presentation.

Let's look at examples of such slides:
An example of a quote. A model speech by Guy Kawasaki on TEDxBerkeley on "The art of innovation".
An example of an image. Ilon Musk finishes his presentation "Tesla Unveils Powerwall 2 & Solar Roof" with a slide showing houses equipped with Tesla solar panels.
Image and text. Bill Gates finishes the performance on the TED slide with number "0" on the background of the image. It is unlikely that it will mean anything to those who haven’t seen the presentation, but for the audience it was an impressive slide with a reminder.
Slide with a question. You always have to be careful, ending with a slide like that. But for Alan Gore’s magnificent presentation about a possible ecological catastrophe, this slide came to perfection.
Image and logo. Jeff Bezos finishes the presentation of his brainchild, Fire Phone, with the smartphone’s logo and its image on a slide.
Slide with contacts + a joke, which was at the beginning of the lecture and then repeated. The "Reprezent" team always leaves their contacts on the slides at the end of the master classes and lectures, so that the audience can find them without problems and ask for help ;)

And now - to the most interesting part

What if there is no speech? If you want to email a presentation? Is there still no way to say "Thank you"? Exactly! The fact that you send slides by e-mail does not cancel the disastrous effect of the final slide with gratitude for attention. In this case, it is still important to determine the purpose of your presentation and show it to the reader. It is still important to make a strong and memorable ending. It is also important not to miss the chance to impress, and not waste both your and the recipient's time.

There is just one difference - relevance. The inspirational photo on the last slide will look great if it is accompanied by a speaker's comment, but it is unlikely to have a deep meaning if there is no speaker. It will be just a good, nice picture. But if you add a short comment to it on the slide, it will immediately convey the message to the recipient. Other options for the final slide (quote, contacts, logo, resources) are quite universal and suitable for a presentation that you intend to email.


And one more thing

Good news for those of you who still feel obliged to thank someone at the end of the speech: you can do it with two simple words "Thank you!" Say them after the final slide of the presentation appears and, preferably, take a few seconds' pause. As I said, there is nothing wrong with gratitude, but it should not be the final message for your audience to leave with.

Encourage, inspire, motivate!

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