How not to thank people in presentations
Thanking the presentation audience is something that almost all presenters do, but most presenters do badly. Common mistakes include repeating the same thanking phrases and using thanking phrases that could be used in any situation. These mistakes make the presenter sound both insincere and indistinguishable from a recorded video, and so the audience don’t really feel thanked at all.
How you should thank people in presentations
Good thanking should obviously be the opposite of bad thanking, meaning as specific to the situation as possible and therefore unique every time, in order to show that the presenter is noticing the audience and situation, and to show that they truly feel as grateful as they are saying.
This kind of thanking can be used in several ways:
- At the beginning to connect personally with the audience/ show awareness of the audience
- When receiving questions
- At the end
The audience members might also need to thank the presenter, especially during the Q&A session. Examples and further explanation of all of those situations are given below, and are practised in Teaching Presenting: Interactive Classroom Activities.
How to thank people at the beginning of a presentation
Perhaps the worst example of all is saying “Thanks for coming” at the beginning of a presentation. This phrase sounds like a recorded message from the CEO instead of real communication, meaning it does the exact opposite of the connecting personally with the audience that we should be aiming for at this stage. Also, “Thanks for coming” almost always means it is time to leave!
The most similar good thanking phrase is one which shows why you are thankful for them coming, such as:
- Thank you for coming at what I know is an especially busy time for you.
- Thanks for battling through the snow to get here today.
- I’m really impressed that you got up so early in the morning to come here.
- I know you must get so many people asking you to hear their ideas, so I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to present my idea for a new product directly to you.
- Thank you for inviting me to speak at this conference. I’ve attended many times but I never dreamed that I’d be the one standing up here someday.
- Thank you so much for coming all this way for this presentation.
Note that all the good examples in this article must be true to have the desired effect, and so probably have to be changed for each presentation.
Perhaps the next most common situation in which you should thank the audience is when asking a survey question (to learn about their knowledge of the subject already, hook them into the topic, etc). This kind of thanking phrases also need to be true and specific to the situation, but include:
- Thanks for being so honest.
- Thank you. I think that’s the first time that I’ve got everyone to put their hands up.
- That’s really interesting and useful to know.
How to thank people in presentation Q&A sessions
The second most boring and pointless thanking phrase in presentations is “Thank you for your question”. Similar but better options include;
- I was hoping someone would ask me that.
- Thank you for that question. I’m sure many other people are wondering the same thing.
- Thanks for mentioning that. I wanted to talk about that too but had to cut it because…
- Thanks for asking me about that. I think I’ll add that to my next presentation, because…
- I’m so glad you asked me that, because it leads me onto…
However, there is no need to thank every questioner, and other phrases like “That’s a great question. No one has ever asked me that before” are often better.
Questioners are also often guilty of thanks which sound insincere like “Thanks for your presentation”. Better versions include:
- That was absolutely fascinating. I have a question about…
- I feel like I understand… much better now. However, I wasn’t clear on…
- Thank you. I think I’ll find all of that really useful. I’d also like to know…
- Thanks for a really thought-provoking presentation. It made me wonder…
There are fewer options for thanking the presenter after they answer the question, but they include:
- Thanks, that’s much clearer now.
- Thanks, that’s exactly what I wanted to know.
- Thank you. I’ve always wanted to know that.
- Thank you for your very detailed explanation. Sorry for asking such a tricky question.
- Okay, got it now, thanks.
- Okay, thanks. That’s what I thought, but I just wanted to check.
The attendee might also need to thank the presenter if the presenter offers to answer the question another way with “That’s a bit deep to go into right now, but please come up afterwards and ask again” or “If you give me your email address, I’ll do some research and let you know”. For example, the questioner could say:
- Will do.
- Thank you. That’s very kind. Much appreciated.
How to thank people at the end of presentations
My other most hated thanks in presentations phase is “Thanks for listening”. My reaction as both an audience member and teacher is “Surely the audience has done something more impressive than just not putting on some headphones and listening to music instead!” “Thank you for your kind attention” is more formal but no better, “Thanks for listening so attentively to my presentation” means thanking them for something that you can’t know for sure unless you can read their minds, and “It’s been an honour/ a pleasure to present to you” is too formal for most situations and rarely exactly true.
“Thank for you for sitting through my long and difficult presentation” is more specific to the situation, but it’s a terrible idea to finish with something negative as it is likely that they will now remember your presentation that way even if they weren’t feeling that way before you said that.
As long as other presenters haven’t said the same thing on the same day and that it’s true, probably the most generally useful phrase is “Thanks for all your great questions”. Similar ones include:
- Thanks for your really thought-provoking questions.
- Thanks for all your great questions. You’ve inspired me to do some more research on this topic myself.
Most other useful thanking at the end phrases start with “Thanks again for…”, as in:
- Thanks again for braving the elements to come here today.
- Thanks again for choosing to spend thirty minutes listening to this rather heavy but important topic when it’s such a lovely day outside.
- Thanks again for coming all the way from… just for this brief presentation.
Note that although they start with the words “Thanks again…”, you should try to avoid repeating the wording of the thanking at the start phrase as much as possible.
The person organising the presentation should also try to personalise their thanks to the presenter with phrases like “Thanks to Alex for what I’m sure you will all agree was a surprisingly easy to understand presentation on what sounded like quite a scary topic”. If there is no MC, the next presenter can do something similar. However, for the next presenter similar phrases without thanks like “It will be really hard to inspire you as much as I was inspired by that last presentation, but…” are often better.