I was at a national health care conference a few years ago.
One of the presenters finished, signed off with sincerity and warmth, and promised to stick around.
The handclapping had been spirited.
What a great way to close your presentation I thought!
As they filed out, people were talking to one another and there was a feeling of energy in the room.
“Wow!” someone said. “You said it!” someone else agreed.
This is what you want to hear when you close your presentation!
Some months later, I returned to the same room to hear another presentation.
That one ended quite differently.
I didn’t hear anyone say “wow.”
In fact, there wasn’t even any applause at the conclusion, because people weren’t quite certain that the presentation was over.
The screen went to black, at which point the presenter merely said, “Thank you,” and left the stage.
There were a few awkward moments of people looking around, unsure whether it was time to go.
Then they began to drift out, silently.
Not the way to close your presentation!
So what went wrong?
The presenters had equally interesting topics, good material, and polished deliveries, yet one sent the audience out the door buoyed and energized and the other let them leave feeling let down.
The difference was that the first presenter knew what performers, directors, and producers—people who are always conscious of the audience—know almost intuitively: You need to put as much emphasis on the finale as on the opening of a show.
How you close is critical.
Don’t lose them at the very end!
But Rule the Room Public Speaking style is to plan to the end—and beyond.
The presentation isn’t over until you’ve met the needs of all the audience members.
Do that, and they’ll be saying “wow” about your presentation, too.
To make that happen…
Show that the presentation was worthwhile.
Put up the summary slide and summarize all the takeaways in one sentence.
Begin the sentence with “You have just learned . . .” and complete the statement using the summary of the main hook for your presentation.
For example, at the end of my presentation bootcamp, I say…
“You have just learned forty-eight new ways to create a customized, memorable presentation; feel more prepared and confident; and engage and entertain even the most challenging audience.”
Address any remaining questions.
When you’re finished summarizing the presentation, and while you’re still on the summary slide of all the takeaways, make your final question request.
“What questions do you have about [the title of your presentation]?”
In my case, it would be…
“What questions do you have about giving an irresistible presentation?”
Tell the audience where they can get more information.
You’ve reminded them what they got and why they wanted it, and presumably have won their trust and appreciation.
Take advantage of the opportunity to make an ongoing connection, and do it correctly, when you display the final slide.
Avoid a heavy-handed approach such as…
“If you’d like more information about [whatever you’re offering], go to [name of website]. There you’ll find material and information that will make you a huge success.”
It’s more subtle and, I believe, more effective, simply to include the contact information on the very last slide of your presentation along with the words “Thank you.”
Let them read the information, and assume they will contact you.
This shows a lot of confidence.
If you have offered to the entire group or to any individual that you will answer particular questions, provide a resource, or make a phone call, confirm at this point that you will follow through on your promise.
You can make a generic statement such as…
“I will follow up on [the information you promised] by [specific date].”
Part with warm closing words to close your presentation on a high note!
When you thank your audience, give an actual, specific reason to thank them and you will seem even more sincere.
Many presenters tend to thank the audience for their time, which suggests they might have been spending their time doing something more important.
Instead, mention why you appreciate something they have done.
For example, if they were very responsive—they were listening attentively and asking great questions—you might say…
“Thank you for being such a warm audience.”
If they gave you some great feedback you were looking for, say so…
“Thank you for your feedback.”
Keep your volume down, your pace normal, and your speech free of inflections.
Close with a pleasantry.
You have to be able to read your audience.
If your audience has been especially responsive, then you can add again…
“If you have additional questions, stick around…”
Which shows again you want to reach out to them.
Otherwise cut directly to your closing remark…
“Have a great day” will suffice.
It shows them you’re done, just as if you’re closing the curtains on a performance.
To make sure they have no doubt, walk away from the sweet spot as soon as you’ve uttered your closing words.
Often, some of your audience will approach you to have a few words before you leave.
Stay where you are or return to center stage and answer the individual questions you promised to handle.
Oh…and expect some applause.
It may begin when you make your pleasant final remark or when you walk away from the sweet spot.
(The audience needs such a cue to begin.)
You may never have gotten applause for a presentation before…
But if you’ve followed through on all of our suggestions, now you will hear it time and again, after every amazing presentation you give.