How to ruin your presentation in the last 30 seconds

You’re about to wrap up a fantastic speech, and you choose to end with, “Well, that’s it. Thanks for your time.” You just ruined everything.


Your speech is going great. You’re engaging, and the audience is asking good questions. The audience loves every word — and then you blow it in the last 30 seconds.

Here’s how you probably did it:

  • You ended the presentation with a Q&A session.
  • You said, “Well, that’s it.”
  • You said, “Thank you for your time.”
  • You ran off the stage with no real conclusion.
  • You concluded with a sales pitch.

I’ve done all of these at some point in my speaking career. I’m most guilty of ending with a Q-and-A session. Do you want your audience to remember some wing-nut question or something that adds value to their lives?

Your presentation’s conclusion is what your audience will remember most. This is called The Recency Effect. Your conclusion needs to be memorable — leave the audience with a message that sticks.

Your conclusion is key to reinforcing your big idea statement. It should contain three parts: a summary, call to action (or pitch) and remarkable close.

1. Summarize your speech.

The summary doesn’t need to be long or detailed. It should reinforce your big idea statement and briefly recap the supporting points.

Don’t be boring. Don’t say, “In summary, I discussed this, that and that other forgettable thing.” It’s not conversational or memorable. It sucks. Think about how you can use a story or metaphor to summarize your big idea. Be creative. The conclusion is not the place to skimp on creative impact.

2. Craft a call to action.

This is a bad call to action: “We’ve seen the importance of not feeding gremlins after midnight. We can sign the petition, visit the website or donate money. We must stop the gremlin problem soon.”

Here are the problems with that call to action:

  • It does not address one person. Remember, “we” is the tiny word that murders persuasion and sales.
  • It lists more than one action. Tell audience members exactly what you want them to do, but only give them one thing. Giving them three options is a surefire way to guarantee analysis paralysis.
  • It doesn’t have a sense of urgency. How soon is soon? Do we need to take action now or three months from now?

Calls to action need to include the magical word “you.” Give one clear action for people to take, and create a sense of now or never.

3. Leave the audience with a tip.

Do not end the presentation with your pitch. It’s sleazy. If you’re speaking to sell your wares, make the pitch and end with a memorable tip. This can be a quote, encouragement or something the audience will value. This tip should be related to your talk and reinforce your big idea statement. The tip is a remarkable way to close your presentation.

Creatively summarize the value you shared, craft a call to action that has impact, and never end with pitch. Always create value, even at the end of your speech.

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a public speaking coach and communication expert. She blogs at DrMichelleMazur.com, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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