By Vinette Hoffman-Jackson
When you are working hard to create and important business presentation or speech, whether online or in-person you want people to remember what you say – and that means ending strongly
Unfortunately it is the case that many business owners do not dedicate enough time and effort to the closing of their presentations. They either end abruptly, tell the audience they are done, or mutter a ‘thank you’.
Unless you are blessed with an eidetic memory, most human beings are more likely to remember the start and the ending of any presentation or speech. The recency effect is a memory default where we tend to remember the most recent events; so, it is important to ensure your presentation starts with a bang but ends with an even bigger bang!
Here are ideas to help you end your presentation strongly and get the maximum value for your business from the time spent:
Work at crafting and practising your ending.Once signposted, every word must add impact to your speech. Do not lean into the temptation to ad lib. Deliver the closing as you have practised it. Going off on a tangent is likely to decrease the potency of your words and lose some part of your audience. You’re also more likely to use filler words such as ahm, err or like. Excessive rambling will decrease your impact.
Your speech should flow effortlessly and purposefully towards the conclusion.Make use of effective transitions to link the body of your presentation to the ending. A story to reiterate your key points and repeat your take-away message is a great way to end. This can be a bigger wow factor if you started and ended with the same story and added an unexpected twist. You can also use transitional connectives such as ‘having heard all this, you now understand why’or ‘I am sure at this point you are thinking…’
The closing should be approximately ten to fifteen percent of your speech.This may sound like a lot because most people tend to think the closing is only the last sentence of your presentation, but it should not be. Ten percent of a thirty-minute speech is just three minutes. This gives you a reasonable time to summarise key points, give a call to action or repeat your key messages without rushing. Remember to pause after each key point you want your audience to remember.
Close your speech on a high by signposting the ending.If you end abruptly you negate the recency effect as 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 trigger the recency effect and the audience will re-engage – even those who have mentally wandered off.
Vary the tone of your voice.Monotony kills most speeches, especially if they are over five minutes. Everyone has their own voice/tone but a great speaker will always vary their tone and intonations during their speech. Your closing and final words should be delivered using your own voice/tone. This will come across with more authenticity and sincerity.
Use 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. It’s a signpost, a form of transition, it breaks the state and wakes everyone up!
Use the stage effectively. This only applies if your speech involves you moving around on stage. If it’s just your head and shoulders that can be seen on screen, then ignore this point! However, 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.
If your speech involves a podium or limited movement, use technique number seven.
Use 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 all 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.
And finally If your intention is to inspire and leave an audience with a feeling, whether it is love, inspiration or even anger; choose a story. No other tool can evoke such a range of emotions than a well told story. Choose a short, impactful story that reinforces your message. Carefully craft the final line of that story and deliver it word for word. The final line of your story should be followed with a pause then your call to action. Your call to action must not be more than three sentences long.
We give presentations and speeches for good business reasons. Make sure you end strongly, and both give and receive value from all your hard work.
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