How to finish your speech or presentation
Don’t stand up unless you know how to sit down
The last thing your audience hears from you, the thing they are most likely to remember, is the end of your speech or presentation. Yet this part of the talk is often overlooked and underprepared by the speaker as we are so relieved to have reached the end of our talk we just want to get it finished and rush the ending.
I was once told: don’t stand up unless you know how to sit down – and this is good advice. Don’t stand up and start speaking unless you are clear about how you are going to finish your talk.
Here are 5 top tips to structure the ending of your talk for maximum impact:
Don’t say – ‘in conclusion’ unless you want your audience to start packing their notebooks away and checking their phones. Instead, signal that you are still sharing new ideas by saying something like: ‘Let me leave you with this final idea….’
Don’t repeat yourself. Simply repeating the main points from your talk, but faster, is not an effective way to end your talk. If you want to re-enforce your main point, present it in a different way – perhaps with a new illustration or emphasising a new benefit that you have not mentioned before. The old preachers adage of “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em” is not an effective way to structure a talk that will influence your audience to take action.
Do offer an inspiring call to action. Your call to action, the step you want your audience to take, should be presented in a positive, inspiring and uplifting way. Do not apologise in your tone or words for what you are asking the audience to do. If the audience starts to think that you don’t believe in what you are saying, they definitely will not buy into it.
Do finish with a flourish. If there is one sentence that you want your audience to remember and share with someone after you sit down – make sure you include it in your ending. If you don’t have this sentence, go away and write it. Because if you cannot summarise your talk in a single sentence, then you have not clarified your thinking and your message as much as you need to.
Do add unexpected value. Every time you stand up and speak you are selling something. A product, a service, an idea or yourself. Part of the journey your audience needs to take before they are ready to buy into whatever you are selling, is they need to know, like and trust you. You can help this process along and establish yourself as a likeable expert in the mind of the audience when you give them something of value that they were not expecting. You could offer handouts, to make yourself available for questions after the event or provide some valuable information that they would normally expect to pay for. The aim is to have audience say to their colleague – I’m really glad I went to that seminar.
The ending of your talk is your last opportunity to influence your audience to respond to your call to action and your last chance to provide them with value. Don’t waste it.