What should you do to close your presentation?
There are lots of tips out there for starting strongly and getting the first impression right, but far fewer on how you should end.
But it is important to give this some consideration. A weak finish, whether your presentation is online or face-to-face, could undo your good work and leave your audience feeling uninspired or unclear on what you want them to do.
And, as it is the most recent part of your presentation, it is likely to be the bit your audience remember the most.
You need to finish with a bang.
Here are 9 tips from our presentations skills training courses on how you can do it:
Lose the ‘thank you’ slide
We’ve all seen presentations finish with slides emblazoned with ‘thank you’. But what does it add?
Although well-intentioned, it is mundane, uninspiring and best avoided.
Another uninspiring slide is the one that says ‘Questions?’. But it is not just the slide you need to do away with here.
On our presentation skills courses, we advise against finishing with a question and answer session.
Why? Well, because there is a good chance you will lose control of the presentation and what your audience takes away from it.
You could be met with an awkward silence. You might face several largely irrelevant questions. You may find yourself answering some awkward ones.
By finishing with questions, you allow the audience to decide how your presentation ends. And there is a good chance it will not be on the main message you want them to take away. Do you want them to focus on the bizarre question Colin from Accounts asked right at the end?
We suggest presenters ask for questions at regular intervals throughout the presentation and focus on providing a stronger ending.
So, if you shouldn’t put up a ‘thank you’ slide or finish with questions, what should you do?
There are more creative and less predictable ways than ending with a summary.
But this can be a useful approach, particularly if you are discussing something complex.
As with the rest of your presentation, if you do end with a summary, inject some life with stories and anecdotes or even a little well-judged humour.
Repeat something from the beginning
This is a great way of summing up your speech without it being obvious that you are summing up.
It works particularly well if you posed a question at the start of the presentation, as you can revisit and answer it. Similarly, if you posed a problem at the start, now you can offer the solution.
Another good way to do it is to finish a story you used at the start, a bit like how a stand-up comedian might start his set with a joke and then go back to it at the end.
Call to action
Take the opportunity to make it clear to the audience what you want them to do as a result of listening to your presentation.
The key is to be as specific and detailed as possible – make it clear exactly what you would like them to do next and how they should do it.
But you need to be creative – ‘make sure you look out for our product/service’, for example, sounds pretty flat.
Sound bites are more typically used in media interviews. Essentially, it means condensing your message into a crisp, memorable single sentence.
And it can be an impactive way to end your presentations.
Here are a couple of examples:
“Men still run the world. And I’m not sure that’s going that well.” Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook
“Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country.” John F Kennedy
We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” Barack Obama
A strong quote can be a simple and effective way to end a presentation.
You need to find something that supports your message. But it also needs to be one that hasn’t been used extensively before - you don’t want to finish with a cliché.
You could leave your audience with an image to consider.
Again, it needs to support the message you want to get across and it needs to be original. No-one has ever come away from a presentation thinking ‘wow, that was a great stock image’.
Instead of inviting questions from the audience, how about asking the questions yourself? A short quiz is interactive, fun and will help your presentation stand out from others. It also enables you to assess how well you have got your message across.
These tips feature in our new online Presentation skills and personal impact course. Developed by our expert tutors, it will show you how to overcome your concerns and fears about presenting and learn to enjoy public speaking, whether it is online or face-to-face.
We will show you how to appear relaxed and confident and deliver impactful and memorable content with authenticity when you next present.
And, because it is online, you can learn at your own pace and access the training whenever and wherever you need it. Find out more about it here.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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