In my last post, I introduced the idea of opening and closing your presentation with a bang, thus taking advantage of the Law of Primacy and Recency. Then I gave you some suggestions for openings that make people sit up and listen. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Today I’m jumping to the other end of your presentation — the close. This is the other place where your audience’s attention is at its highest, so don’t squander the opportunity with a lame ending. I cringe every time I hear someone end a presentation with, “That’s all I have for you on this subject. Any questions?”
What will resound in your audience’s heads is the last thing you said, so make sure it’s worthy of remembering. Here are some suggestions you can model to end your next presentation with a bang.
Review your main ideas
This does NOT mean doing your presentation all over again! I’ve heard too many people do exactly that instead of giving a concise summing up.
How many points did you make in your presentation? (Hint: if it’s more than seven, considering cutting some out, as human beings have a limited capacity to remember many points.)
Let’s say you had five points. Write one sentence that summarizes each point, and use that to close. You’ll also need a concluding sentence that tells them why these points are important. For example, “If you implement these four closing ideas, you’ll give your audience something to remember after your presentation is over.”
Use an appropriate quotation
I gave you this one as a potential opener, and it can serve just as well as your big close. The key is that it must be appropriate to the message you’ve just delivered. For example, “If you present well, people think you do everything well.” — Helen Wilkie.
Take it full circle
If you’ve opened with a clear statement, point of view or question you want the audience to accept, end by repeating it in a slightly different form. For example, “Your best chance for audience engagement comes at the beginning and the end of your presentation. Make the most of both these opportunities.”
Ask for what you want
In the sales world they call this asking for the order. In an earlier post I talked about the importance of moving towards your objective for your presentation. If you want your audience to do something as a result of your presentation, it can be effective to close by asking for it. For example, “If you have a high-stakes presentation coming up and you need some help in compiling and delivering it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about my Presentation Panic Intervention.”
Never end your presentation with questions and answers. If there are some questions, you could be dragged over your time. If there are none, your presentation will end with a whimper instead of a bang. Instead, hold the Q&A session before your big finish. Tell them you have a few minutes for questions, take a few and then move into your carefully prepared close.
I hope you’re enjoying this series of posts about presenting with pizzazz. Next time I’ll address a major element that can ruin your presentation if you don’t get it right — visual aids.