By Vinette Hoffman-Jackson, Toastmasters International
Every business presentation takes time to prepare and present whether you are doing this online or in-person in the same room as your audience. Given this you want it to work for everyone; your audience, yourself and your business. This means ending your presentation by wowing your listeners. By ending with impact they’ll remember what you say.
You’ll have heard presenters ending abruptly, telling the audience they’re done, hovering in front of the camera if they’re online, or muttering “thank you”.
This is not how you want to end your business presentation, or a conference speech, so let’s look at ways to increase your impact and get the ‘wow’.
Make the closing ten- fifteen percent of your presentation. 10% of a thirty-minute speech is just three minutes. This gives time for summarising key points, a call to action or repeating key messages.
Craft and practise your ending. Deliver the closing as practised. Going off on a tangent is likely to decrease the potency of your words.
Your presentation should flow towards the conclusion. Use effective transitions to link the body of your presentation to the ending. A story encapsulating your key points/message is a great way to end. If you start and end with the same story and added an unexpected twist it will have even more impact. You can also use transitional connectives: ‘having heard all this, you now understand why’ or ‘I am sure at this point you are thinking…’
Do not rush your close. If you lose track of time do not rush to squeeze in every sentence. If necessary, cut something before the end, but still deliver your closing. Experience will help you become more adept at timings.
Signpost the ending. If you end abruptly the audience’s brains will not be prepared. Most speakers tend to incorporate terms such as ‘in summary’, ‘finally’, or ‘to conclude’ to herald the closing of their presentation. These words will help the audience focus.
Your body language. If you are presenting in-person to the room, make the most of your body language. For example, standing in a fixed position, arms at your side and slowly looking around at your audience with a smile on your face, in most cases, will quieten a room. Try and get eye contact with specific audience members at different points around the room to spread calm and silence. When the room is quiet and you have everyone’s attention, then start your ending.
You can use a similar principle on video too. Face the camera, stay still, pause, possibly look around at the attendees on your screen (although you can’t make eye-contact in the same way, the gesture is clear), and then, having signposted with this body language, start your ending.
This ‘pause’ will need to be shorter via video than it would be if you were on-stage, but the aim and the effect is the same.
Use the stage. If you are on stage, whether the audience is in the room with you, or watching via a live stream and seeing the entire stage, then this point applies.
Each story or each point should ideally take place at different points on the stage. Movement will attract the attention of your audience; you determine the level of subtlety or exaggeration depending on your audience and what you are comfortable with.
Two thirds from the back and in the middle of the stage is where you should stand to end your speech. This enables you to see your entire audience and focus all their attention on you.
The wrap-around technique. Expert speakers do a wrap-around and tie the closing of their speech to their opening. For example, the speaker may ask a rhetorical question at the start and ask the same question at the close using the closing minutes to give their answer.
Another clever technique, used in the movie industry, is the cliff hanger. The best thing about storytelling is, everyone wants to know how it ends. Start your speech with a story and leave the ending of the story to synchronise with the close of your presentation. A word of advice here; this technique is best for shorter speeches as your audience can lose interest if the story is broken for too long.
How you structure the closing of your speech will depend on your intended outcome. Do you want to leave your audience with a takeaway message, a call to action or a feeling?
An informative speech should always end with a short summary of the main points. A ‘call to action’ requires appealing to emotions through emotive language. To inspire choose a short, impactful story that reinforces your message. Stories make wonderful, memorable endings.
I hope these tips will help you add the ‘wow’ when you end your presentations and speeches.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vinette Hoffman-Jackson, DTMis a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org