February 16, 2012

Never can say goodbye

Do you ever go to a party or family gathering and find it hard to leave? You start saying goodbye to people, and it's inevitable that there's someone you didn't talk to enough. So now you're getting caught up, and the clock keeps ticking. You try to say goodbye to everyone you know, here you are, 30 minutes later, still trying to leave.

Presentation closings are a little bit like saying goodbye at a party. Speakers have an incredibly difficult time saying goodbye to the audience. Here are some examples of presentation closings I see all the time.

1. The Fade

The speaker gets to the end of her talk, her volume starts to drop, she mumbles a few things no one can hear and says, "That's it."

2. The Beaten Bush

The speaker gets to the end of her talk and tries to find as many ways possible to recap her points, going in circles without actually ending.

3. The "What the...?"

The speaker gets to the end of her talk, but the audience doesn't realize it. There's an awkward pause until the speaker finally walks away and the audience, confused, starts clapping.

You've probably seen these closings and more -- if you can call them closings, that is.

Here are some good reasons to put more time and thought into your closing.

1. The audience needs to know when you're done

There's nothing ambiguous here. If they don't know you're done, you're not done. It's awkward and uncomfortable, not to mention unprofessional. If nothing else, say "Thank you" so the audience knows they can clap and leave!

2. You get to leave your audience with your final thoughts and message

This is your opportunity to remind the audience of your points and your core message. You've talked about a lot of different things, and they may be focusing on any one of them. Offer Q&A, and then take your last few moments to remind them of your message.

3. You get to ask your audience to do something

This is called a "call to action," where you challenge the audience to take the next step, whatever it is. You might want them to call you or buy something from you. You might want them to donate money, call their congressional representative or hang flyers advertising a local festival. What do you want the audience to do as a result of your presentation? This is your chance to ask for what you want.

4. You have an opportunity to be memorable

This is where you say something so interesting, funny, astounding, clever, heartwarming, intriguing or instigating that they can't stop thinking about your message. You can show a great image, you can share a meaningful quote, you can finish a story you started in the beginning, you can do one of a million things. Just make sure it's something that brings your presentation full circle and ties it all together. Make sure it will connect with the audience (as much as you can be sure of anything before a presentation!).

There are lots of good reasons for using an effective, memorable closing. There are no good reasons to fade out at the end, say "That's it," and slink away. Give your audience a nicely-wrapped package all tied up with a bow. Now they can leave, and once they leave, they will remember you.

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