Closing with Impact

February 3, 2017.

Closing with Impact, Leaving Your Audience on a High
From World Class Speaking in Action, Chapter 9 by Robert Gordyn

Starting your presentation with a bang is one of the key components in making an impact on your audience and getting their attention and interest right from the start.  But how you end your presentation is just as important—because you want your audience to go away with a positive feeling about what they have just heard, and full of enthusiasm to act on that feeling.

Why is it so important to close your presentations effectively?  For two main reasons:
• People tend to remember the first and last parts of a speech.
• The closing is the time when you can summarise what you’ve been telling your audience and reinforce your message.

Before looking at some strategies for effective closing, there are a few general Dos and Don’ts:
• Do let the audience know when you are about to close, so they can be prepared.
• Do designate about 10% of your presentation to the closing, to be effective.
• Do make sure to review each main point covered in your presentation, to enhance the audience’s retention.
• Don’t introduce new topics, because you won’t have time to develop them.
• Don’t end with a Question & Answer session, because that risks your presentation, potentially ending in an anti-anticlimax as you never know what questions will come up.

QUOTATIONS. Using compelling words and phrases, from well-known individuals, adds weight and credibility to your message, especially at the close.  The quotations don’t necessarily have to be from famous people—cliches should be avoided—but they should be expressive and thought-provoking. For example, you could use memorable phrases you’ve heard family or friends use.  A quotation should be brief and be appropriate to the subject.

POEMS. People enjoy listening to words that are well-crafted and conjure up images, and a stanza of poetry can encapsulate your message in a pleasingly lyrical way.  The poetry should be kept to single stanzas (four or five lines) and rhyme, as far as possible, because rhymes are easier to remember.  Be eclectic in your selection, to fit it to your audience, for example, rap lyrics for younger audiences, traditional poetry for older audiences.

CALL TO ACTION.  This is a call to transformative action, that will benefit the audience, for example, in a speech on change, the call to action could be a request to the audience to go and meet new people in order to change their perspective.  The call to action should legitimise and support, in a real way, the arguments presented in your speech – taking the audience from theory to practice.

LETTING THEM SPEAK. This doesn’t refer to a Q&A session – that should already have been done before your closing.  Letting them speak, means giving your audience the opportunity to feel they are actively participating in your presentation. For example, you could make some statements summarising the key points of your speech, but leave out the last word and let your audience shout it out.  This not only reinforces your message but also gives your audience a memorable finish.

A QUESTION. You can close your speech with a question to your audience, that isn’t to be answered there and then, but is for them to take away, giving them the opportunity to think about a response. In the process they will be able to combine their own personal views with what they have learned from you.  The type of question can vary, as long as it is tied to the main points of your speech, and is short and clear.

CIRCLING BACK. Establishing a link between the opening and closing of your presentation highlights your opening remarks and reinforces your message through repetition.  For example, you might start your presentation with a story – an effective way to start – and then, in closing your presentation, return to the same story and conclude it.  This neatly packages your presentation and helps make it memorable.

World Class Speaking in Action, Craig Valentine & Mitch Meyerson, Morgan James Publishing, 2014.

This article first appeared in the EMC Quest newsletter series.

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