This is the second part of a four-part series exploring the many ways in which you can close your presentations with greater impact. My goal is to motivate you to be more creative and experimental with how you close out your presentations. We’ll look at video examples from TED.com and YouTube and see how other professionals and expert speakers use these closing techniques with success.
- If you didn’t see Part I, check it out
Guidelines about presentation closings
In Part 1, we introduced five guidelines pertaining to your closing remarks for a successful presentation.
- Avoid the weak wind-down
- End “naked”
- You get the last word
- Practice your closing remarks ahead of time
- Have a contingency plan
In Part 1, we covered the first two of the five guidelines:
Now for the third guideline:
3. You get the last word. As the speaker, you are positioned as the subject matter expert (at least temporarily). When you present, you are the focus of the presentation. You want and need to carry this implicit authority all the way to the end of your presentation. Start strong – finish strong. Choose your final words carefully. It’s also a good idea to signal to the audience that you are done. This is why you’ll see many speakers state their final words, pause briefly, and then say, “Thank you.” Know when to stop talking. Silence may be your last word. Be confident with that silence, and use eye contact and breathing to maintain the leadership moment.
In part 1, we also studied these three specific closing techniques:
- The traditional close
- Leave them with a conundrum
- Motivating quote close
Now, let’s unpack three more closing techniques that you could experiment with in a future presentation:
4. WWW close
5. Physical props to create a lasting visual memory
6. Metaphor close
#4: WWW close
At a Glance: At the end of your presentation, simply summarize what needs to happen next by communicating who does what by when. This is a concise, clear, and straight-forward way to close a business meeting or a small group presentation. What it lacks in inspiration, it makes up for in clarity and action. It’s also easy to remember with the familiar term, WWW.
Written Example: “In closing, we’re excited about this new marketing campaign, and are confident that it will help grow our sales. (who) Tina and her marketing team (does what) will announce the details with the sales team (by when) by September 1st. [pause] Thank you.
If it flows more naturally, you can switch up the order by saying, “In closing, we are excited about this new campaign, and confident that it will help grow our sales. We plan to (does what) announce it to the sales team on or before (by when) September 1st. (who) Tina and her marketing team will make it happen. [pause] Thank you.”
#5: Physical props to create a lasting visual image
At a Glance: Use a simple everyday object to create a memorable and meaningful connection between the object and your message. Get creative and leave your audience with something to remember you by, possibly for years to come. Learn to hold and show the prop effectively. For example, face the prop outwards towards audience and move slowly. No flicking or fast movements. Figure out when you should put down the prop. Do not pass the prop around or you risk distracting your audience and losing or damaging your prop.
Video Example: Here’s the close that I used in my 2009 keynote at a professional women’s conference in Connecticut. I used the prop of a Boomerang to change their thinking and behavior around the importance of networking follow up. Because the audience was all women, I felt safe to have a little fun with it.
Here’s the transcription: “In fact, I think of follow up and networking much like a boomerang. Now we recognize this as a symbol of Aboriginal culture and art, but this had purpose. This is a useful tool. It’s used in sports and also in hunting and gathering. Right? So in networking, you can either look at it and say, ‘isn’t that a pretty piece of art,’ or you can learn to throw it. There’s a way of throwing it so that it comes back to you. And always in life, what you put out is what comes back to you. So be careful how you throw it (laughter). But it is just as important that you use the tool. A motivated networker will use the follow up to help get more, so that you can sustain yourself: your business, your career, and your relationships. My final words are, ‘don’t throw like a girl, throw like a motivated networker.”
Coaching tip for Kathy McAfee (oh, that’s me!): Cut down on the number of words and tighten your close. See if you can bring it down, and deliver it effectively in ninety seconds or less. Still take your time and maintain the levity and power of the punchline at the end.
#6: Metaphor close
At a Glance: This closing technique is similar to the prop closing, but instead of something physical and tangible, the speaker creates in the mind’s eye of the audience. The metaphor is highly related, familiar and clear, and without cultural confusion. Simply by stating the metaphor, it conjures up a meaning for the audience, preferably one that leaves the audience feeling the way you want them to feel at the end of the presentation. HINT: test your metaphor ahead of time to make sure it’s effective.
Video Example: Jonathan Tilley gives a keynote at TEDx Stuttgart in 2013 “What creativity is trying to tell you.” He forms a motivating metaphor of a permission slip to empower the audience to take action and be more creative. (idea borrowed and credited from Brene Brown) Advance to time code 16:21-17:37 to observe his closing remarks.
Transcription: “In your goody bag this evening, you have a permission slip. I learned this from Brene Brown. She gives you permission to write permission slips for things that you’ve always wanted to do. Now take this permission slip and you can do whatever you want with it: put it on your vision board, carry it in your back pocket, put it in your wallet or purse, or make a hundred and forty seven copies of it and share it with strangers and friends alike. On your permission slip, it says this: I give you permission, allowance, the ultimate green lights to listen to what creativity is trying to tell you. Create something truly spectacular and share it with the world. However individual, get universal. So what are you waiting for? Go. Create. Thank you.”
Coaching tip for Jonathan Tilley: Delete the number of times you say the filler word, “so” in your presentation. Be careful not to clear your throat on stage. I’m curious what would happen if you actually held up a sample of the goody bag and reached in to pull out the actual permission slip that you reference in your closing. Could this cause distraction, or would it add more visual interest (not to mention the value of training your audience what specifically you want them to do). Something to try out next time to see what happens. P.S. I loved how you use your voice at the end of the whisper. and paused before you said ‘thank you.'” Very impactful delivery!
Preview of Part 3
Next week, I’ll expound on the idea of why you should practice your closing remarks ahead of time (guideline #4). I’ll also share with you three more closing techniques, including:
#7 – Inspiring story close
#8 – Final advice close
#9 – Call-to-action close
Need help with your presentations?
Contact Kathy McAfee, Executive Presentation Coach and Trainer at or email her at Kathy@AmericasMarketingMotivator.com
Check out these professional services available to you and your organization – http://www.americasmarketingmotivator.com/services/motivated-presenters//