We’ve all seen it happen. It’s the last slide of a presentation and those two words are emblazoned across the screen.
Yep, I used to do this, too. In fact, I formerly had “Any Questions?” as the final slide for all my presentations. I thought I was being proactive by encouraging questions. But looking back, I realize now that I was being lazy and naïve of the negative impact this one slide had on my delivery.
If you are guilty of this common habit, here are some things you may want to consider before ending your killer presentation with the kiss of death.
Use Questions to Engage
Depending on the size of the audience, questions are a great method to engage a group in conversation throughout the presentation. Instead of waiting until the end to see if anyone has questions, consider asking questions during the delivery. This creates an atmosphere where audience members feel more personally involved in the topic. If the presentation is interactive, you won’t need to encourage questions at the end with a prompt that feels artificial and forced. In fact, you won’t need to encourage questions at all. Some level of back-and-forth discussion creates an engaged environment that is more conversational in tone. Asking questions throughout the presentation is a more organic and genuine way of engaging an audience in their own learning experience. As a natural result, when audience members have a question, they’ll be more inclined to ask it.
Use Questions to Validate Learning
By asking “Any Questions?” at the end, a presenter can get a false sense of security about the success of the presentation. Silence at the end of a presentation does not mean you have successfully landed your learning objectives. Rather, the presenter is, in effect, holding the audience solely accountable for the learning experience – which is really the responsibility of both the presenter as well as the audience.
Presenters can take accountability of learning validation by asking questions based on the presentation’s main objectives. By asking multiple questions on the key points, a presenter can verify the audience’s understanding. It also gives the presenter an opportunity to clear up any confusion if answers show a specific point may not have been understood. Validating questions also reinforce the presentation’s objectives as the audience is given opportunities to restate the main points in their own words.
Use the Final Slide to Share Productive Information
The final slide of a presentation is valuable real estate that should not be wasted on a pithy request for questions. If a conversation does ensue at the end of a presentation, this slide is on display for a considerable period of time. Don’t let that opportunity go to waste! Consider using this slide to summarize the main teaching points from that lesson. If you’ve provided charts or helpful visual representations throughout the presentation, divide the final slide into quadrants and show mini-versions of those images.
Don’t wait till the end of your lesson to see if there are any questions. Instead, encourage dialogue by asking engaging questions during the presentation and validating questions at the end. By employing effective questioning techniques, your audience will walk away from the presentation both more familiar with the learning topic and more engaged.
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Jacquelyn is the CEO and Founder of Ristole, a consulting business that transforms corporations through engaging employee training. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here.