Don’t finish with a whimper: make sure your last slide is your best slide. Here’s how to end a PowerPoint presentation.
“End on a high.” “Go out with a bang.” “Finish with a flourish.” All true but all been said 1,000 times before. Forget the generalisations: we want to hone in on specific examples of how to end a PowerPoint presentation. The sort of finale that will leave your audience thirsting for more whilst relishing every morsel that they got.
If you’ve already aced everything that came before (the tricky what to wear part, the critical introduction part and the crucial body of your presentation), you’re just seconds away from a resounding success. All that stands between you and victory is one final slide and a memorable sign-off. Short of literally falling flat on your face, you really can’t fail at this stage. At least you can’t if you take the following advice to heart.
How to end a PowerPoint presentation
If you think this article is going to include exhortations to summarise your key points and leave your audience with a powerful take-home message, you’re right – you’ve just read them. But, we’re Buffalo 7, we can do better than that, because you already know that stuff. Instead, how about some actionable advice you can actually use?
Alright then, let’s do this.
#1: Drop a bomb
If you want to go out with a bang, you have to drop a bomb. A truth bomb preferably – for some reason health and safety take a dim view of incendiary devices being detonated in the boardroom.
Shock your audience into action with a statistic, confession or story that’s too powerful to ignore. Bonus points if you can get it to tie in with your introduction, like this:
“Remember that cringe-worthy resumé I showed you at the start? The one filled with typos and the phrase “process-oriented individual”?
Well, do you want to know who wrote that garbage?
That was my first CV, and at the time I genuinely thought it was the business. I thought agencies would be tripping over themselves to hire me. You’ll be amazed to hear that I never heard back about that job, and yet, ten years later, here I am lecturing you on how to craft a winning resumé. If I can change, anyone can.”
Okay, here’s another one:
“I’ve just spent the better part of an hour speaking to you about “X”. I’ve poured my heart out, deployed my best PowerPoint slides and a couple of times I even tried smiling.
And yet it’s all to no avail, because research tells us that by the time you walk out that door you’ll have already forgotten 40% of what I said. By the time you wake up tomorrow, you’ll have forgotten another 20%. And by this time next month, you’ll remember a mere 10%.
I can’t help that any more than you can – that’s just how our brains work. But I want you to focus very carefully, because my next and final slide contains the only part of this talk you have to remember next week and next month and every subsequent month for the rest of your life. I’ve put my best 10% into this slide and every word is too important to forget. Are you ready to see this? Okay, here goes…”
These examples might seem flippant or over the top, but if you heard them in a lecture theatre we’ll wager you wouldn’t forget them in a hurry. Think. If it was your presentation, how would you end it? What would you say to make people sit up and listen?
#2: Last pic, best pic
You’ve heard about the power of pictures and you’ve definitely heard about saving the best till last. But when we say finish with your best picture, we don’t mean the cutest kitten you can find on Flickr or your strongest selfie. We mean an image powerful enough to be remembered, and just as importantly to be remembered in the context of your message.
The student stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square is an iconic image, but it probably doesn’t belong in your presentation. Likewise with pictures of Marilyn Monroe clutching her dress as it flutters above a New York subway gate and Beyonce showing off her twin baby bump.
How about a photograph of a free runner dangling off a crane 300ft up? If your closing message was about belief or trust or boldness, then yes, that would definitely work.
As always, context is key. If you can possibly help it, ditch the crappy stock photos and use one of the awesome photography sites we’ve recommended to you before. That’s how you leave an indelible impression on an audience.
#3: Choose pop culture
“Finish with a quotation” – Unknown.
Before you start Googling for Steve Jobs quotes to close your presentation, step away from the internet for a moment. No, not that far away – you still need to be able to read these words. Stop, there’s just fine.
Okay, so quotes are good. We all like quotes, just as we all like memes and emojis and all those other pop culture tropes that are eminently shareable and relatable. But if you’re thinking of finishing with someone else’s words, why not take those words and make them your own? We’re not talking about stealing; we were thinking more of remixing, so that when your audience catch on they’ll be hooked.
What exactly do we mean? We’re just saying that if you wanted, you could choose ending your presentation with a pop culture reference. You could choose to quote Russell Crowe from Gladiator or Bane from The Dark Knight (but without the funny voice).
Choose aping your favourite heroes and villains. Choose charts, bar graphs and a strong call to action. Choose telling a story, an anecdote or a joke. Choose jumping up and down on the spot with frustration because no one’s getting the Trainspotting reference you painstakingly worked into your conclusion. Choose ironically aping post-modern satirical takedowns on consumer culture and the futility of trying to be original in a world where everything’s been done before.
Choose finishing with a bang because it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
Choose your ending. But first, choose life.