Have you ever ended a presentation and wondered if your audience got the point or was convinced to invest in your venture? If you have, chances are you did not properly prepare your closing.
Here, Vinette Hoffman-Jackson of Toastmasters International explains how to close your speech, pitch or presentation successfully.
As a business owner you will inevitably find yourself in many formal and informal situations where you are required to give a presentation. You may be asked to pitch an idea to investors, present at a networking event or sell your service/goods to others.
Whilst most people tend to focus on the start of their presentations, few give enough attention to the closing statements which could make all the difference to your success.
After a long presentation or if you are the last of many presenters, ensuring that you are memorable is vital. Closing your speech with impact can make you stand out from the competitors. This is even more relevant now that we are presenting online.
Unless you are blessed with an eidetic memory, most human beings have a greater probability in remembering the start and the ending of any speech or presentation.
The recency effect is a memory default where we tend to remember the most recent events. With this in mind, we can see the importance of making sure your speech starts strong but ends even stronger.
Give your close sufficient time
The closing should be about ten to fifteen percent of your speech. Craft and practise your ending meticulously and do not try to cut it short or rush it when you present.
Your closing is important so you do not want your audience to miss it. Most speakers end abruptly or whisper the words thank you. You may lose your audience if they were not prepared for the end. You must always signpost your ending so the attention is focussed and everyone is alert.
Provide verbal signposts
Do you remember the last time you sat through a long presentation? Do you remember how you suddenly sat up and engaged when the speaker said the words, finally or in summary?
There are verbal indicators that you are about to end. We all occasionally zone out of presentations to think about mundane things. These words will force the listeners to pay attention as it clearly signals the end
After making these statements every word you say must add value by reinforcing your message, reminding them of the key points or a call to action. A succinct, measured and well-paced delivery will ensure you get the attention you deserve.
Why use movement?
Movement engages the brain. People are used to people pacing around the stage so incorporate a different type of movement. We have all been in those zoom meetings where someone suddenly shifts and our eyes are automatically drawn to their picture.
Our bias towards motion stems from our primitive instincts for survival. When something moves, we are wired to take notice and perceive it as a potential threat, so we pay closer attention to it.
It is the same reason why digital signs with movement get more attention than static ones. A nice wide gesture such as open arms with a big smile will attract the attention before you end your presentation or speech.
The emotive power of stories
Human being are emotive animals. We remember and react more readily to events or experiences that evoke strong emotional responses. No other technique triggers such a range of feelings than a great story. End your speech or presentation with a story.
Most successful businesses have a story. Stories elicit emotions and make them difficult to forget. One of the most successful entrepreneurs from the Dragon’s Den, Levi Roots fumbled his numbers but he had a story that connected with Peter Jones.
We have all heard the phrase, people invest in people, then the product or service they are offering. Tell an authentic, personal and emotive story at the end of your pitch and watch people synchronise their emotions to yours.
Craft the final line of that story carefully and then make sure you deliver it word for word. Once this final line is delivered follow it with a pause, and then your call to action. For maximum effect limit your call to action to three sentences at most.
If you your audience to act then you must tell them exactly what you want them to do. Do not leave it up to them to interpret what you mean. Use your closing to remind them.
Every politician on their campaign ads or speeches will always end with the obvious statement ‘Vote for me!’. It reminds people why you are there and your expectations.
Another technique is engaging your audience so that they feel part of the presentation.
If for example, your presentation involves a repetitive phrase or slogan, you could start the phrase, pause then hold out both arms palm upwards or if on a digital platform indicate that you’re listening for a response and let them finish the phrase. They will feel included and more likely to respond positively and remember your presentation.
Asking questions in your closing is another powerful tool you can utilise. There are many types of questions at your disposal.
A rhetorical question can be used to add a dramatic effect in your closing statement. It is always more effective if you pause for about two or three seconds after the question so your audience can process a possible response.
Try to ask closed questions with obvious answers. A hypophora is asking a question then providing the answer. For example, ‘Why are we all here? I will tell you. You are here to invest in the best product or service you have seen in a while.’ The hypophora helps your audience to focus their thoughts where you want them to and answer any question they may be asking. It is the verbal equivalent to the FAQs on a website.
The simple question is also very useful. This is where a response is expected from the audience. It engages because you force everyone’s attention on you and give them the opportunity to participate in your presentation. We all like to feel included and we tend to remember what we said in a conversation.
Keep a flow to your presentation
Do remember that all parts of your presentation must be cohesive and have a natural flow with smooth transitions. Although the ending is important, do not neglect its connection to the body or the start of your speech.
Your ending must include a link to a story, phrase or information relayed to your audience. Highlight the main points, give a solution to the problem outlined or remind them of the benefits you provide. When you deliver the final word of your rehearsed presentation, do not say anything else. Stop!
If you follow these techniques to close your presentation or speech, your customers and other audiences will be talking about what you said long after you have exited the stage, or emerged from behind the podium. Always end your speech or presentation with a big bang.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Vinette Hoffman-Jackson, DTM, a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. With 400+ clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland, find your local club at Toastmasters.org
More help on perfecting presentations, pitches and talks
You can find lots more tips to help you deliver winning presentations, pitches and and talks in these other ByteStart guides;
- Perfecting your pitch: 10 Principles for entrepreneurs
- How to deliver ‘rocking’ presentations and pitches that will captivate your audience
- Harness the “Power of Three” to nail your pitch
- How to overcome your speaking nerves by turning fear into your friend
- The 3 Golden Principles of public speaking
- Using the power of your body language to deliver show-stopping speeches and presentations
- How NOT to Network – 7 Business networking mistakes to avoid
- How to get more out of your networking than passable plonk canapés
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks