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How to End Your Presentation on a Positive Note

communication influence presentations
Group of smiling people sitting in chairs listening to a presentation

I realized the secret to success was finishing! And not just finishing, but finishing strong!

Eric Thomas

By John Millen

Which is more important, the opening of your presentation, or the close?
 
This is an often-debated question because they’re both critically important. In communication, we talk about primacy and recency. Do people better remember what they hear first or what they hear last?
 
Generally speaking, due to extremely limited attention spans, I believe your opening is more important because if you don’t engage people right away, you might lose them forever.
 
There’s also that matter of making a positive first impression. If you get off to a bad start, you’ve dug a hole that can be difficult to climb out.
 
Having said that, how you end your presentation is also important. You definitely need to end on a strong note that is action-oriented. 
 
Here are four tips to help you end on a positive note. These apply to speeches, meeting presentations, sales and all other communication that is meant to influence others:

1) Summarize 

We like to say that a speech, in its simplest form, has three parts: you should tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. Reinforcement of your message is extremely important, especially as you close. (Remember those teeny tiny attention spans.) Summarizing this way will help you to plan a strong close and also to streamline your presentation.

2) Issue your call to action 

Toward the end of your talk, request action by your listeners. Asking people to do something, almost anything that is relevant to your presentation, matters for retention of your ideas. That’s because our brains are activated by requests. 
 
If there is no request made, people walk away retaining very little information because they have no reason to do anything with it. If there’s no action associated, it doesn’t get flagged as important.

By issuing a request, you have alerted their brains to the fact that something must be done with the information you provided. Your call to action can take many forms, from you requesting certain behavioral actions, like buying or signing up, to something simply attitudinal like being open-minded about a controversial topic or change you discussed. In any case, ask for something.

3) Set up your questions and answers

If you take questions at the end of your presentation, it's important to end on a positive note. To do that you should plan to do two different closes. At the end of your first close, provide your summary and your call to action, then say “thank you” to signal the audience for applause.
 
Then announce that you’ll take questions, perhaps for a certain amount of time, and begin your Q&A. As the questions wind down, try to end on a positive question with a strong response from you. If you don’t have a positive question to end on, finish your response to the neutral or negative question in a positive way.

4) Use a second close 

Then say something about time running out and offer your second close, which is a slightly reworded summary and call to action so people leave with your key messages and with an action step to take, helping to aid their recall of your message.

That’s called ending on a positive note.

Thanks for reading,

 John

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