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Presentations: presentation endings, conclusions

Concluding Your Presentation: End With A Bang, Not With A Whimper.

Your conclusion should do much more than simply tell your listeners that your presentation is over. Your entire presentation, in fact, can hinge on the final impression you make. It's that last impression that can linger the longest. So preparing a strong ending to your presentation is every bit as important as preparing a strong opening.

A strong opener grabs your audience's attention and leads them to your key messages; a strong close takes them back to your key messages and brings your presentation full circle to your ultimate objective.

Plan your conclusion.
Your conclusion is a critical part of your presentation. It's where your entire presentation is heading. It should bring your presentation full circle to the objective you've been building towards. It should reinforce your key messages. It should sound like a conclusion, leaving no doubt that it is a conclusion. It should add to the positive impression that hopefully you will have created with your audience.

Conclusions should be short.
Don't ramble. An ending that drags on can actually undo much of the positive impact of an otherwise good presentation. Once you announce you're about to wind up, don't go on talking ... and talking.

"you should be clear about what you want your listeners to feel, think, and do at the conclusion of your presentation."

If it's a call to action, make it crystal clear.
If you're concluding a presentation designed to persuade your audience, your conclusion should have two key elements: a final call to action based on the argument you've just made, and a reason to act.

Your call to action should be clear and specific. Your audience should be left with no doubt about what it is you're asking.

At the same time, you should be clear about what you want your listeners to feel, think, and do at the conclusion of your presentation. The reason to act should be framed in terms of what matters to them. So avoid phrases like "I want you to ..." Instead, for example, if your listeners have been looking for ways to increase their work productivity, make it clear to them that your call to action represents an effective way to achieve their goal. Show them how your call to action serves their interests.

Stay on message.
Be careful not to tuck into your conclusion new ideas or messages that you did not include in your presentation. That runs the risk of confusing your audience and obscuring your original messages.

Obvious as it may seem, be absolutely certain that your conclusion extends logically from everything preceding it. You clearly don't want to offer a conclusion that's disconnected from the body of your presentation. At the same time, don't leave out references to a major point you may have made much of in your presentation.

Make your last impression a lasting one.
People tend to recall best what they hear last. So prepare and rehearse your conclusion with special care. Consider how you can make your conclusion memorable both in substance and delivery.

Use some of the techniques from the successful presenter's toolbox. Consider, for example, combining intonation, pauses-and especially, to-the-point phrases that are likely to stay with your audience. Jack Welch, in his early days as CEO of General Electric, faced head-on the need for radical changes in the company's business direction. He would often end meetings with a simple call to the company's employees: "Change ... before you have to." The message behind that sound bite was unmistakable, and eventually resonated throughout the company. It was perhaps the best and most successful summation of Welch's business philosophy.

Speak or read?
It's usually better to speak your conclusion without reading it. If you're more comfortable using notes, put them in bullet form, listing the main ideas and messages you want to reiterate and reinforce from your presentation. Keeping your eyes focused on your audience instead of your notes is always helpful, the more so when your conclusion is a call to action.

When your presentation is followed by Q-&-A's.
If a Q-&-A session follows your presentation, don't stop talking when the questions are done. Have a strong finishing flourish ready as your final statement. Your best summation, however brief, should be the last thing your listeners hear. You can repeat your closing statement or re-phrase it, underscoring your key message one final time.

For more on how to conclude your presentations read our article on Grand Finales.

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