How to Conclude a Presentation: Tips & Tricks
According to Guy Kawasaki, a well-structured presentation has three parts:
- Introduction to gain attention
- Middle with a logical progression of support
- Conclusion to round out the story
What is the purpose of the presentation conclusion?
Just like the introduction, your concluding remarks should express your primary message or point, producing an overall impact on your audience. The close really finishes off the entire message that has been delivered, and leaves with your listeners a sense of understanding and appreciation for what you had to say.
Let's face it: Most presentations would benefit from better conclusions. In fact, a lack of a clear and memorable conclusion is why many people dislike being forced to sit through those tedious business meetings where the presenter desperately tries to wrap up a 90-minute presentation.
Keep reading and you’ll find out how to make perfect conclusions for any type of presentation!
Compare your opening statement with your conclusion
When you are finished, you may want to write a short summary, but such summaries are for the audience, not for you. You should, however, compare the opening statement to the conclusions you draw. In almost all cases, your opening will make a claim and your conclusion will test that claim.
If you make an unsubstantiated claim, your conclusion will have a hard time proving you wrong. But if your opening claim is supported by evidence, your conclusion will need only support itself, and your conclusion will generally be more convincing.
Are there any places where you seem to be making the same point twice? If so, delete one of them.
Once you have finished, read your conclusion again, and ask yourself if it sounds as though it proves your opening. If it does, you've succeeded. If not, you've failed.
Communicate the core message
The conventional wisdom is that presentations have three purposes: to entertain, to persuade, and to inform. But all three are secondary. In fact, no matter how well you think you have them covered, unless your presentation has a core message, it is likely to fail.
The core message is what you want the audience to remember. You want it to be memorable, but you also want it to be true. The core message is usually a short sentence or short phrase, it conveys the interpretation in a way that doesn't depend on background knowledge. The core message is usually the hypothesis, not the answer. It's what you're going to communicate, and if it's not understood, then nothing else you do will communicate anything.
Give the audience something to take away
The phrase "give the audience something to take away" can be applied to almost any situation, whether it is an essay, a talk, or a meeting. It means not just that you have finished, but that you have something to give the audience. At conferences, for example, speakers are always being told to give the audience something to take away. But what does it mean? Usually it means that the speaker should end with a teaser, little gift, or a short summary of what he/she said.
Address any questions or concerns
If you never ask a question, you won't have an answer. But if you ask a question and the room freezes, you've lost.
So, what can you do?
As a speaker, your job is to get the audience to give you the floor, and your job as an audience member is to stay on that floor. When you make a mistake, it's a mistake of judgment, not of facts. So ask yourself: "How can I acknowledge my mistake, and still get the audience to let me ask the next question?"
Think of any mistake you make as a question. Then try to answer it. If it takes too long, try again. If you stumble, don't worry. The mistake isn't as bad as it seemed. Just keep going.
End with a story/quote/fact
The best way to end a presentation is by telling a story. Stories are what make us human. They connect us to the past and to the future. They make us laugh, they make us cry, they teach us.
A quote is good for two reasons. First, it shows the audience you have some idea what you are talking about—and you don't have to say much. Second, it shows that you are paying attention. If you end your presentation with a quote, the chances are pretty good that the audience will nod in approval, especially if that quote is from someone else. And knowing they are nodding encourages you to keep paying attention.
Whenever you're speaking, you want to end with a factual statement that the audience can evaluate. When you have done your best to summarize and synthesize your most important points, say a fact or two about them. This "fact" may turn out to be the jewel in your crown: something overlooked but which, when put together with the rest, makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Give a clear call to action
A clear call to action, by contrast, is simple to state. It tells the audience exactly what you want them to do. If they need more information, you ask for it. If they don't need more information, you ask them to take an action.
The call to action can be a question like: "Is there anything else we need to cover?", "What questions do you have?", "Do you have any other questions?", "Who would like to make a brief presentation on XYZ?"
Or you can give them a clear next step: "If you need further information, please ask me.", "If you have any questions, please raise your hand.", "If you'd like to present, please stand by.", "If you want to discuss this further, please call me or send me an e-mail."
In the business world, presentations are usually over in just a few minutes, and your audience's attention will drift away. But that's no reason to rush through your presentation. A presentation is a speech, and a speech is, of course, an attempt to persuade. So the conclusion is the most important part. People are more likely to remember the conclusion than to remember any other part of the speech. Think of these tips when you create your next presentation for the wide audience!
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