Presentation Skills: Presentation Content: Effective ClosingsGrand Finales
The Secrets of Ending Well
First Lady Muriel Humphrey once told her husband, “Hubert, a speech doesn't have to be eternal to be immortal.” This is good advice. A truly effective speaker knows when to end—and how to end.
The Two Key Elements of an Effective Close
A persuasive ending has two key elements, a call to action and a reason to act. At the end of a persuasive talk, you need to request the funding, get agreement on the plan, close the sale, push the new initiative, or request the donation.
Because the call to action represents the main purpose of your presentation, make it concrete. Be clear in telling your audience what they need to feel, think, or do. And make certain that you link this call to action to a solid reason to act, a reason that matters to them, not necessarily to you.
Calls to action that begin with “I want you to…” are probably way off base. People don’t care what speakers want. They care about what’s in it for them. Convince people to act based on their own interests and needs.
So if you’re asking for money for your new initiative, don’t tell them how much you need the money. Tell them how much they need the initiative. Tell them how it will help the company. Leave a few bread crumbs that will help them find the way to how it will help their individual careers. During the body of your presentation, you will have already allayed their fears and addressed any obstacles. You will have also pointed out the benefits of your plan. But at the end, bring it all home by tying together the benefits in a neat little package with the action. Make it clear how they will benefit from helping your initiative, and tell them exactly how to help.
Here are some simple calls to action linked to benefits that can serve as examples:
Approve this new program to increase revenue by 20%.
To increase revenue 20%, approve this new program.
This new infrastructure will not only meet our needs of today, but will lay the foundation of our growth for the coming decade. We must fund this project today.
If we vote today to support this program, Bithanisulum will be the first new product in its class, first to market, and first in sales for at least three years. However, if we wait any longer, we will miss our milestones, not be first to market, and never reach our goals. Vote now to support this program.
Your check for $1000 will feed four children for four months. As you sit down to this dinner, take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one who will not go hungry. Sign your check now.
Killing this project today is the only way for us to avoid following our former competitors out of this market and out of business.
Here are some excerpts from formal speeches that contain solid examples of calls to action (in italics) linked to reasons to take the action:
Dwight Morrow once said, “The world is divided into people who do things and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the first class. There's far less competition.” Well, here's your opportunity to be first class—to take action and make a difference. Donate at least $50 today to breast cancer research. That small amount of money will help us help millions of women.
Benjamin Disraeli, a former and famous prime minister of England, once said, "The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." Here is your opportunity: sign on as a partner in our marketing venture.
You do not need to deliver a dramatic conclusion to every talk, but you are more likely to get what you want when you close effectively. Aim to have a strong call to action linked to a clear benefit to your listeners. Look carefully at the two examples above. In the first example, the benefit is to “be first class,” “to make a difference.” In the second example, the benefit is “success.”
Avoid wishy-washy endings or stale phrases that weaken your close. “I hope that you will,” “I urge you to,” “I want you to,” all put the focus on you and remove action from the reason to act. Phrases like “I believe,” “hopefully,” “maybe you’ll consider” also cloud your close by adding uncertainty. If you want a more gentle call to action, consider something along the lines of “The data suggest that Option A will have the best results.”
Finally, make sure you stop talking. Don’t fall into the trap of the false conclusion. If you say “In conclusion,” and then keep talking and talking, you can watch people lose attention. Close succinctly. You'll chip away at your overall effectiveness with each extra sentence you utter. As George Eliot once remarked, “Blessed is the man who, having nothing [more] to say, refrains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”