If we agree that a strong close to a presentation can help send our audience off in the right frame of mind, ready to act on our suggestions, and pleased they have spent time listening to us, then we must recognise that the moment when we bring the presentation to a close is at least as important as the rest of the content. Here are some things to do, and some things to avoid in your next business presentation.
Avoid questions at the end. This is something of a conference standard… “I’m now going to throw the floor open to questions” and you, like me, will have seen the range of awful reactions. No questions, too many questions, people with a serious (in their minds) point to make which is the total opposite of your presentation and so on. No matter if we allow ten minutes for questions, in which case we get one, or allow three minutes in which case everyone wants to speak, this part often looks and feels messy. So my strong suggestion is not to do it. Invite questions throughout the session, and reference you are happy to talk after the event (if you are) and prepare your audience for no questions at the end. Now on occasions i have had to put questions at the end because the client requires it, but in those cases I want something between questions and me stopping. Questions are too unpredictable to put at the end and can so easily derail all your great work earlier.
Do thank your audience for being lively, enthusiastic, engaged, for making great points, for their attention… Whatever is appropriate to your style and the delegates themselves, even if they have sat their in sulky silence. I know this seems unusual to be so complementary to them, but either they genuinely think they were behaving appropriately, in which case you don’t want to shatter their beliefs right now, or they know they have not behaved well, in which case a little reflection will tell them that’s the case… Again you don’t need to tell them now. Do this genuinely and mean it… If they were truly awful, you can enjoy the moment privately.
Avoid confusion, by checking in advance what is happening after you finish…are you handing over to another speaker, the facilitator, are delegates going to lunch…? Find this out and it makes your finish tidied and cleaner and you look better prepared and professional.
Wish your audience the best at the end,with the ideas you have proposed (which subtly reminds them of your content) and invite them to contact you with any queries they have following your presentation. If you show them, or refer them to any printed information which has a website, or your email, number or anything else you can virtually guarantee that no one which actually contact you, but the gesture is polite, supportive and really appreciated at this point. Tell them you look forward to meeting them again and hearing all about their success. Tell them you know they will get great results from what you have suggested. All of this is well rehearsed and allows us to know you are finishing so we are being led neatly through the presentation.
Avoid phrases like “in summary” and “to conclude” and so on. They are awkward and only really get used at events like this. It is also very off putting when someone says “to finish” more than once, and keeps showing no sign of finishing!
Always work toward your last words being “thank you”. This is a neat and tidy full stop. People know for a fact you have finished. It’s polite. It acknowledges the chance you have been given in being able to talk to your audience. Best of all, it gives a gentle nudge for people to applaud (if that is relevant in this situation) which whether or not you want, is how many audiences like to finish a speech. When you say “thank you” you pause and smile, the audience automatically applauds, and you can walk off the stage in a positive frame, rather than the awkward silence many speakers leave to!
I promise if you act on these suggestions you will have a strong, professional finish, which looks and feels so much better than many speakers. Thank you.