How to Close the Last Minutes of Your Presentation
January 18, 2016
The last few minutes of a presentation are some of the most valuable moments for a presenter. To make a lasting impact on the audience, use the end of your presentation to deliver a powerful conclusion. Here are some suggestions to help you close your presentation on a high note:
Don’t end with a Q&A session.
Q&A sessions can drain the enthusiasm from an audience. Since Q&A sessions typically signal the end of a presentation, attendees who don’t have a question will either tune out, or start packing their bags and get ready to walk out of the room. Restless energy is often contagious; distracted attendees will influence otherwise attentive audience members to lose their focus and interest in your presentation. To keep your presentation from dying a slow death, solicit questions for a Q&A immediately before your conclusion, instead of using the Q&A as your conclusion.
To keep attendees focused on your talk, let the audience know that your Q&A does not signal the end of your presentation. For example, say something like, Before I wrap-up by telling you how to utilize these insights in your career, I would first like to open the floor to questions for two-minutes. Does anyone have any questions? This statement accomplishes a few objectives; it lets the audience know there is still valuable content to be covered, and it also lets the audience know that the Q&A will be brief, which is important to communicate so attendees don’t get antsy under the assumption that the Q&A will be lengthy.
If your audience has a lot of questions, announce a follow-up option for attendees who want to dialogue with you more extensively. You can provide your social media contact information if you want to keep your follow-up discussions in the public forum, or you can provide your email address if you prefer to answer questions via private messages. Also, you can linger after your presentation to answer questions in person. Conclude your presentation with something more exciting than a Q&A session.
Make a lasting impact.
After the quick Q&A session, raise the energy level in the room. Reinvigorate lethargic attendees with a final display of passion for your presentation topic. Enthusiastically remind the audience of the value of your presentation material, specifically listing benefits attendees will enjoy if they embrace your message and follow through with the call-to-action. It is important to end on a passionate note as well as with a focus on the audience so they are inspired to carry your message with them and take action in the ways you suggest.
As explained in the book Talk Like TED, Pace University management professor Melissa Cardon has dedicated her career to defining passion and understanding how passion relates to leadership and business success. Cardon, along with dozens of other scientists in the field, has discovered that passionate business leaders are more creative, set higher goals, exhibit greater persistence, and record better company performance. Cardon and her colleagues also found a direct correlation between a presenter’s “perceived passion” and the likelihood that investors will fund his or her ideas.
If you tend to be dry when you present and grand displays of enthusiasm feel unnatural to you, make a lasting impact by ending your presentation with a moment of honesty and vulnerability. For example, tell a personal story that is relevant to your topic, or show an inspirational video that exposes your emotional connection to the material that will also stir the emotions of the audience members. According to Chris Anderson, the most powerful TED talks are ones in which the speaker lets down their guard to let the audience see their humanity:
The key part of the TED format is that we have humans connecting to humans in a direct and almost vulnerable way. You’re on stage naked, so to speak. The talks that work best are the ones where people can really sense that humanity. The emotions, dreams, imagination.
– Chris Anderson
Don’t use your conclusion to simply summarize what you’ve already said; help your audience develop a meaningful connection to your ideas by demonstrating your passion for the material as well as your desire to see the audience succeed as a result of your suggestions previously expressed in a clear call-to-action.
Conclusion: Don’t let your presentation fizzle during the conclusion. Leave a memorable impression on your audience by ending your presentation with a passionate call-to-action, instead of a Q&A session that will cause many of the attendees to start planning their immediate exit.
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