Best Summary

Asking listeners to summarize your presentation from time to time is a good technique for encouraging people to listen carefully, take notes, and to review the content. Best Summaries uses this basic concept.


  • To encourage active and collaborative review of the presentation.
  • To focus listeners' attention on important points in the presentation.


Any number. Participants are divided into teams from time to time during this activity.


Depends on the amount of information and the number of summary interludes. Suggested time: 60 minutes (consisting of three 10-minute presentations, each followed by 10 minute team review sessions).

Supplies and Equipment

  • Index cards
  • Timer
  • Whistle

Use This Strategy When—

  • the instructional content involves concepts, principles, and procedures
  • participants are capable of taking notes, summarizing the content, and evaluating other people's summaries
  • you have a logical outline for your presentation

Sample Topics

  • Organizational values
  • Basic principles of customer service
  • Doing business in Texas
  • The coaching procedure
  • Life cycle of a high-tech product
  • Maintaining a database


Prepare an outline. Chunk the content of your presentation into logical 10-minute units. Also prepare appropriate flip chart pages or slides.


Brief participants. Explain that you will be making a series of 10-minute presentations. At the end of each unit, you will pause for each participant to summarize what you presented in that unit. These summaries will be evaluated by other participants and the best summaries will receive special recognition. Encourage participants to take good notes during your presentation so they can produce effective summaries.

Present the first unit. Keep your eye on the clock and try to stick to your schedule.

Pause for summaries. Distribute blank index cards to each participant. Ask participants to summarize your presentation on one side of the card. Suggest a suitable time limit. At the end of this time, ask participants to stop writing. Ask them to write a four-digit identification number on the other side of the card. Participants should remember this number so they can identify their card later.

Form teams. Organize participants to teams of four to seven members each. Seat each team around a table. Ask someone at each team to collect the summaries from team members and shuffle the packet of cards.

Exchange and evaluate. Give the packet of summary cards from the first team to second one, from the second team to the third one, and so on, giving the cards from the last team to the first one. Ask members of each team to collaboratively review the summaries and select the best one, using whatever criteria they want. Announce a suitable time limit.

Conclude the evaluation activity. At the end of the allotted time, ask each team to read the summary that was rated as the best. After all teams read the best summaries, ask each team to read the identification number on the back of the card. Ask this person to stand up, and lead a round of applause for this person. Briefly comment on the summaries, identifying the key points and correcting any misconceptions.

Repeat the process. Continue with your next unit of presentation. Follow up with individual summary writing and team evaluation to identify the next set of best summaries.

Conclude the session. After the last round of presentation and evaluation, thank all participants for their contribution. Invite participants to retrieve their summary cards from the next table.


Not enough time? Reduce the summary to a single sentence to be written within a minute. Also make the entire presentation and conduct a single round of summarizing and evaluating.

Too many people? Instead of asking all teams to read their best summaries, select one or two teams at random and ask them to read the summaries.

Auditorium setup prevents teamwork? Individualize the evaluation process: After writing the summaries, ask participants to exchange summary cards several times. Now ask each participant to read the summary on the card she ended up with. Invite participants with a good summary on their card to come to the front of the room and read it. Identify and congratulate the authors of these summaries.