How to end your seminar or conference talk

The ending of many talks I attend are awkward, abrupt, or ambiguous. Perhaps the speaker just stops talking. Or we’ve probably all witnessed the “non-ending” where the moderator has to walk up and verbally interrupt the speaker. Both scenarios drive the audience mad. Let’s fix this.

Runway

The following advice is so basic I can hardly believe I’m taking the time to type it, but you would be surprised how many people don’t do this.

When I give a talk, I have a script1 for the close of my presentation. I have rehearsed this so many times that I don’t even think twice about it anymore. When I hit my (quasi?-)famous question mark slide (see below—I’m a finite element researcher after all), here’s the verbiage that rolls off my tongue:

“With that, I’d like to conclude my presentation and thank you for your kind attention2. If you have questions, I’m happy to answer them at this time. Thanks.”

Concise, composed, direct—that’s all you need. It tells the audience to start clapping, gives the moderator a clear cue, and makes you look like you know what you’re doing.

A few bonus thoughts about your closing slide:

Question mark slide

  1. Credit goes to Dr. Lisa Rosenstein at Georgia Tech for this bit.

  2. I stole the “for your kind attention” part from the opening lecture in The Constant Gardener, although I have never had the courage to deliver it in a British accent.