When a speaker fizzles with the following types of sentences, the messages in your presentation are replaced with an unforgivable feeling of disappointment. How do these sentences make you feel?
- ‘Well, that’s about it really… ‘
- ‘There’s more stuff in the notes if you want to read up later… ‘
- ‘I think I’m probably out of time, so I’d better stop… ‘
Endings require attention and it is up to you to wrap your message in a memorable way. You want to go for applause. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, you have worked hard to write, rehearse and deliver this presentation. You deserve some reward. Second, and this is vital, applause makes the audience feel better. They are sharing with their fellow delegates in a positive feeling, brought about by what you have just told them.
Optimism is the key.
Even if the content has been doom and gloom, you have to leave your audience believing things will be better tomorrow and the future is filled with exciting opportunities. Often, it is in the face of adversity that great orators emerge. I think this is related to their ability to make the audience believe things can only get better.
Leave yourself a minute right at the end to deliver your well-written, carefully rehearsed, tightly packaged finale. Build towards it and at the appropriate moment, stop, and applause will follow.
Good lead ins to your last few sentences go something like this:
- ‘I’ve talked about some serious issues today. We have, without doubt, some exceptionally difficult challenges to meet, but I’d ask you to remember one thing… ‘
- ‘Out of everything I’ve said today, there is one issue that stands out for me as more important than anything, and that is… ‘
Choose the single, most important point from your presentation to finish. A good strong ending keeps you in control, and it will help to make you look assertive and confident, plus the applause resulting from a strong ending generates a positive feeling throughout the room.
From a structural point of view, plan the last five minutes of the presentation. Summarize and then move into managing expectation, like this:
- Manage expectations: ‘This has been a complex issue and I’m happy to take some questions in our run-up to the coffee break at 11 o’clock, but before that I want to finish by reiterating one important point… ‘
- Passionate ending-call to action, rallying cry, or plea for support.
- Say ‘Thank You!’ and shut up.
- Question and answer session.
- Round off the question and answer session with a final rallying cry.
- Next step (in this case, coffee).
Speak from the heart and your audience is bound to warm to you as a person. It’s the look in your eye as much as the tone in your voice that carries your passion. If you really mean what you are saying, you don’t need to worry about how the ending will come across. Your natural feelings will carry you through.