So you've spent days (maybe weeks) putting together a killer presentation. Now, you stand up with confidence, present every bullet point with poise, and then you get all the way to the end... and the presentation just fizzles. It's like a marathon runner who trains for months (maybe years), then just a half mile before the finish line, starts to cramps and can't finish the race.
The last thing that you tell your audience will most likely be what they remember. So, you want to end your presentation with a bang!
In this post, we will cover three things that you should absolutely avoid when you close your presentation. In addition, we will also cover 6 killer ways to end on a positive note.
Eliminate these "Show Stoppers" from Your Presentation Conclusion
Let's start with the presentation endings that you should avoid, though.
- Avoid Ending Your Presentation with a Question & Answer Period.
It reminds me of some sage advice from my jr high school football coach. He was an old-school running game type of coach. He'd say,
"In football, when you pass the ball, only three things can happen and two of them are bad."
I kind of feel the same way about Question & Answer periods. There are only three ways that Q&A sessions can end, and two of them are bad.
Yes, If your audience asks you great questions, you can end your presentation on a high note. However, if your audience asks you odd questions or uninteresting questions, you can end on a low note. Even worse than getting crappy questions, though is getting no questions. Now, the ending will just seem odd.
When I present, I encourage people to ask questions DURING my presentation. That way, I can use a more dynamic way to end my presentation with a bang.
- Don't End by Thanking the Audience for Their Time.
When you stand up to speak, you should have the attitude that your audience is there to hear from you because you have important information that they need. When you thank your audience for their time, you are conceding that their time is more important than your time.
- Also Avoid an Abrupt Ending with No Conclusion.
This happened to me early in my career. The first time that I really bombed a speech, I made two really big mistakes. The first was that I sped through the information so quickly that I finished in less than half of the alotted time. Then, I just ran out of things to say, so I sat down. The people in the audience were confused. I had more time and the ending was so abrupt, that they weren't sure if I was finished.
So, spend time preparing your conclusion. Practice it a few times, and you will end on a high note.
Bonus Tip: Warn Your Audience Ahead of Time that Your Speech is Coming to a Close.
Our brains are wired to look for structure in things. That’s why people get frustrated with cliffhangers in movies. Only in movies, there’s a sequel. In speeches and presentations, the end is the end.
Give a hint that you are nearing a close a couple of slides or paragraphs before you actually do. Saying something like, “So let's review what we’ve discussed so far”, “As I wrap up this presentation” or “In conclusion”.
Signaling the close prepares your audience for the ending. Ironically, it also makes the ending more memorable.
Secrets to a Powerful Presentation Ending - 6 Ways to End Your Presentation with a Bang
Not that we have covered what NOT to do, let's focus on a few, turnkey ways to end your presentation with a bang.
- Briefly Summarize You Key Points.
If you are delivering just a few key points (as we suggest,) an easy conclusion is to just summarize your topic and key points. Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker used to say, "Tell 'em what your 'gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em." So, his suggestion was to give an introduction outlining your topic and key points as an introduction. Then, cover your presentation one point at a time clarifying and giving evidence for each point. Finally, just recap your topic and key points one more time as a conclusion.
This technique works really well because it allows you to repeat your key points a few times. This repetition helps your audience remember the content better. A couple of months ago, I had a class member that used this technique really well. She worked for a local TV station who was trying to attract new viewers. Here is the presentation outline that she created:
We Can Increase the Number of Young Viewers by Focusing More on Our Social Media Platforms
- Teens get most news from social media.
- Increase coverage w/ teens increases interest in station.
- Making social media selective will make us stand out against competition.
[Introduction] "My topic today is about how we can increase the number of young viewers by focusing more on social media. The things that we are going to cover are, how teens get most of their news from social media, that if we increase our coverage with teens there will also be a corresponding increase in interest in our TV station, and how making our social media selective will allow us to stand out from the competition."
After the introduction, the speaker would then cover the "meat" of the presentation by going through each point with specific examples and evidence about how each of those points are true.
At the conclusion, the speaker could just recap by saying, "So in conclusion, since teens get most of their news via social media, if we increase our coverage with teens, we will also increase interest in our station, and if we make our social media selective we will stand out from the crowd, I believe that we can increase the number of young viewers by focusing more on social media."
The summary technique is a very easy way to conclude your speech, and it will also increase the retention of your audience.
- End with an Example, Story, or Anecdote.
My favorite way to both start and end a presentation is with a compelling story or anecdote. I delivered a breakout session speech a few weeks ago about how to design better technical presentations. I started my presentation by describing my first day in Macroeconomics class in college. (That day was really, really boring.) Of course, I described it in a very funny, over-exaggerated way. And I used the story to show how if you are delivering dry content, your delivery has to be fairly energetic, or you will bore your audience. (My professor did not do this, by the way.)
I spoke for another 45 minutes, and then I finished the presentation by describing the success story of one of my class members. He had implemented the very content that I had just delivered to that breakout session group. However, he was delivering a very data-intense presentation for the Center for Disease Control. (So his content was even more boring than the type of content the audience had to deliver.) The story showed the group how a speaker can take even boring, data-filled material and deliver it well.
Those contrasting stories -- the one at the start of my presentation, and the one at the end, work really well together. They bookend the entire presentation.
An Easy Way to Find a Funny Anecdote to End Your Presentation.
Sometimes a good anecdote or funny story can be a good way to end on a positive as well. A good place to get funny anecdotes is from Reader's Digest. (RD has a great book published that has just funny work-related stories. You can purchase it here: Laughter the Best Medicine @ Work: America's Funniest Jokes, Quotes, and Cartoons)
This is kind of an embarrassing incident, but it shows that if you get a little creative, any type of story can be a great ending.
I was training an instructor years ago, and I had her just pick a random funny anecdote from Reader's Digest. I told her that, no matter what the story was about, I'd find some way to insert the funny story into our class. Here is the story that she picked...
A woman went to her boss saying that she was going to go home early because she was feeling sick. The boss, having just gotten over a cold said that he hoped it wasn't something that he had given to her. A coworker overhearing the conversation said, 'I hope not. She has morning sickness.'"
(Obviously, this instructor-in-training also had a sense of humor, as well.) I thought about it a while, and I just ended the session with, "So, in summary, one of the most important parts of the presentation design process is knowing your audience. In fact, that reminds me of a story..." I then just added the anecdote word-for-word, and I got a big laugh.
- End Your Presentation with the End of an Earlier Story.
If you want to be more inspirational with your stories, give the beginning of a story early in the presentation and then end the story in your conclusion. For instance, I sometimes start my public speaking classes telling the story about how I bombed my first big presentation as a college intern. I will often go into great detail about how my hands were sweaty, and how I rushed through the whole 15-minute presentation in about three and half minutes. I was mortified.
Then, I finish the presentation by telling how, just a year later, after a little outside training, I had to stand in front of over 400 people to give an acceptance speech for an award. This time, I was calm, and I used my humor to win over the audience, and I killed it. By continuing the story and providing a positive result at the end, it makes for a pretty nice presentation ending.
So start with a story where you had a challenge and end with a success story about how you overcame that challenge.
- End Your Presentation with an Open-Ended Question.
Questions simulate the part of our brain that overrides instincts and old behaviors. So, when you pose a question, your brain automatically thinks about it. Sometimes, your brain will instinctively answer the question whether you want to or not.
That’s why people are drawn to thought-provoking questions. So a great way to end your speech is with a well-designed, thought provoking question.
When I teach a class, I use this technique before almost every break. For instance, if I teach an hour-long session, it will be easy for the audience to forget a lot of the content if it isn't reinforced right away. So, by asking a thought-provoking question about the content, it stimulates the content in the minds of the audience.
When you ask questions, though, avoid easy questions where the answer is an obvious “yes” or "no." Instead, ask open-ended questions. The easiest way to do this is to ask for the audience members' opinions.
For instance, if my title is "Starting with a 3-Point Outline Will Help You Save Time When You Design Presentations," I could end the speech with a question like, "Based on what we've talked about today, how can you see starting with a three-point outline helping you save time?"
Any answers that the audience provides will help me prove my point. The more the better.
- Give the Audience a Call-to-Action at the End of Your Speech.
Quite often, when we deliver a speech, we are doing so to get the audience to take action. And, more often than not, the audience never does what we suggest. So, if it is important for your audience to do something with the great content that you have provided, end with a call to action.
Just as an FYI, here, though, if you ask them to do a single thing, they are more likely to do it. If you ask them to do a second thing, they are more likely to do neither. Sp, to prevent that and to inspire your audience, challenge them to do one specific thing from your speech.
If your presentation is about why your company should invest in advertising, make your call-to-action very specific. "So, my suggestion is that we increase our advertising budget by 10% and use that budget for additional re-targeting ads."
The thing to keep in mind here is that the more calls to action that you have, the less likely they will do anything. So, make your call-to-action just a single item. And make the item easy to implement.
- The Echo Close Is an Inspirational Way to End Your Speech with a Bang.
You can end with an inspirational quote, and then echo a single part of that quote as your presentation capstone. For instance, you might say something like...
A wise man once said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
So, when you present, kindle the fire of knowledge.
Kindle the fire of enthusiasm.
Kindle the fire of humor.
Kindle the fire of empathy.
And you will kindle the fire of learning from your audience.
Another example might be.
So, in conclusion, brevity in public speaking is pretty important. In fact, George Orwell once said, “If it is possible to cut a word out of your speech, always cut it out.”
So, when you create a presentation, cut the fluff.
Cut the repetitive bullets.
Cut the platitudes.
And when you do, you will cut the confusion from your audience.
It is an easy technique if you prepare the ending and practice it a few times.
So that concludes the six ways that you can end your presentation with a bang. However... There is...
- “One More Thing”
Steve Jobs was famous for concluding his keynotes with “One more thing…” then following it up with a surprising fact, feature or innovation.
Why is this effective? Because it leaves people talking.
Next time you’re about to give a speech try leaving out the most surprising part ‘til the end. Then channel your inner Steve Jobs.
Regardless of how you choose to end your presentation, spend a little time on the ending. Make it flawless, and you will leave your audience wanting more! If you do, you will end your presentation with a bang!
Choose the Best Presentation Ending for Your Presentation Purpose
With all of the great choices, how do we know which presentation ending to use? Luckily, we have created a free handout to help you pick the best presentation ending. Although many of the tips above will work in many different types of speeches, the handout will help you identify which ending will accomplish specific purposes for your specific presentation.
For instance, if your goal is to help your audience retain the content, then summarizing your key points is a great choice. If your purpose is to inspire the audience, you might try the Call to Action or Echo technique instead. Just complete the form below for instant access!