Closing a presentation effectively can feel like a greater challenge than opening it.
We are all familiar with crucial importance of creating the right first impression when presenting to an audience.
Often, the same attention isn’t always given to closing a presentation. Many speakers forget the all-important, last impression.
Some of the best presentations can be undermined by a few moments of indecision at the end.
A great presentation should be like a brilliant firework show
Most of us look forward to the grand finale so don’t let your presentation fizzle out like a damp fireworks display.
Always end with your best.
Avoiding these six mistakes when closing a presentation see will serve you well.
1. Get off the back foot
Many presenters close their presentations by stepping backwards -physically, verbally and mentally.
Your very last words are the time you need to literally step forward and up.
Maintaining a strong vocal projection with the right pitch, tone and volume will leave you sounding confident.
– Take a small step towards your audience
– Maintain eye contact
– Leaving them with an assured smile
2. “After the Lord Mayor’s show comes the dustcart”
You’ve prepared extensively and delivered compellingly.
Now it’s all over, don’t rush to collect all of the papers and pack up the projector and laptop. That’s the ‘dustcart’ from the old proverb.
Your behaviour right at the very end, is still telling your audience a lot about you.
Stop and chat with people in the audience; make yourself totally available and approachable.
Get the ‘dustcart’ out when they’ve all left.
3. It’s painful having to wait to visit the toilet
Closing a presentation often sounds like this: “Thank you very much, now if there are any questions…”
The questions are asked and answered and then everyone leaves forgetting your closing remarks.
Many people will just remember the last couple of questions
The best speakers see their presentation as a conversation.
They welcome the opportunity to take questions at any point and not have the audience save them to the end.
Remember the last time you were on that long car journey desperate to visit the toilet?
You knew you had miles to go before you came to the next service station.
It may seem like a strange analogy but if you’re an audience member with a burning question that you can’t ask until the end, you really can’t focus on anything else.
Stay flexible and let them ask you anything at anytime
If you really must have the formal Q&A at the end, don’t leave it at that.
As you answer the last question make sure you have a compelling close to follow.
Make sure that’s the last thing your audience hear, not the answer to someones question.
4. Close the ‘black hole’
Have you ever sat through a presentation asking yourself what the speaker expects you to do with all of the information they’ve shared with you?
If you have then you’re not alone, it’s happening to unsuspecting audiences every day, right across the world.
I call it the ‘black hole’ of presenting
It’s where you’re left wondering what that was all about and what’s expected of you.
Make it clear what you want your audience to do when closing a presentation
– “Buy our product’/service”
– “Approve my project/budget”
– “Donate now”
– “Vote for change”
– “Give us your support by…”
– “Recommend us”
5. What time does this story end?
I remember my son’s very first day assembly at school.
After 10 minutes of listening to the Head’s energy-draining speech he looked up at his mother and I.
He quietly asked, “What time does this story end, it’s giving me a headache”
Even the best presentations need to include some form of signal that the presentation is about to come to an end.
Don’t leave your audience wondering whether you’ve finished. Let them know you’re coming to the end. When you make that promise, be sure to keep it.
You can do that very simply by saying:
– “I’m going to close with … ”
– “In conclusion … ”
– “In summary … ”
6. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Many presentation closes we see today are rather lackluster, offering little in the way of impact or imagination.
We have a choice when closing a presentation
We can close with the usual, “ Thank you very much, are there any questions?”
Or we can make a conscious and creative choice to:
– Tell a relevant but compelling story
– Share an unusual but powerful quote
– Show a thought provoking image
– Link back to our opening and our message
– Let them see the real you – a little humility goes a long way
– Use ‘The rule of three’ – “ Here are the 3 things I’d like you to remember…”
– Ask a provocative question
– Share a surprising fact
– Leave them with a final thought. ‘In closing, I’d like to leave you with one final thought…’ Make sure it’s a good one
Decide exactly how you would like your audience to feel the moment you begin speaking and the very moment you finish.
If you need help closing a presentation:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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