This is the fourth and final post in my four-part blog 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 to see how other professionals and expert speakers use these closing techniques with success.
If you didn’t see the first three articles in this series, check out what you missed:
- Part 1 – Presentation Closing Techniques
- Part 2 – Presentation Closing Techniques
- Part 3 – Presentation Closing Techniques
Guidelines About Presentation Closings
I have a confession to make. In the past, I have been fearful of the presentation closing moment. I would often wing it, or hope that something would inspire me during the talk and just the right closing words would come out of my mouth. That rarely happened, and I would often ramble on at the end of the presentation. To overcome my fear, I began studying the art of presentation closings. I have also embraced guideline #5 of presentation closings. Having a contingency plan on how I will close out my presentations has served me very well. It will do the same for you.
Guideline #5: Have a contingency plan. Even the best-laid plans often go awry. You may have practiced numerous times, and have things set up, tested, and ready to go. And then suddenly, the situation changes. You run out of time, someone interrupts you and attempts to hijack your presentation, the technology fails, and the fire alarm goes off. It’s always best to keep your cool and remain calm. Humor helps, as does having a sure fire, tried and true, quick close alternative. Have your back up plan ready to go. Hint: you should also have a second close ready to go at all times. Inspiring quotes that you memorize and can deliver on the spot work really well as a second and final closing comment.
Presentation Techniques to Experiment With
There are many different ways in which you could close your presentation. In our final post of this blog series, I’ll share the final four techniques to help you close your presentations with impact.
#10: The question close
At a Glance: By posing a question or a series of questions near the end of your presentation, you can get your audience thinking in powerful new ways. This technique requires practice. You must deliver this close with full vocal awareness, and time the delivery so that there is no relief – no humor break or levity to lessen the conviction in your closing remarks. You want to create thought-provoking intensity with your audience. Also, do not take questions after a close like this. Let your audience seek you out after the presentation if they want to discuss or ask questions. This closing technique is strong and definitive. You, as the speaker, get to ask the last question.
Video Example: In his second big-hit TED talk delivered in 2014, leadership expert Simon Sinek delivers a great closing to his talk “Why good leaders make you feel safe.” Notice how Simon begins his closing with a compelling story, and then leaves us with an intriguing set of questions. To study his closing remarks, fast forward to time code 10:30-11:44.
Here’s the transcription: “I heard a story of some Marines, who were out in theater, and, as is the Marine custom, the officer ate last, and he let his men eat first, and when they were done, there was no food left for him. And when they went back out in the field, his men brought him some of their food so that he may eat, because that’s what happens. We call them leaders because they go first. We call them leaders because they take the risk before anybody else does. We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected and so their people may gain, and when we do, the natural response is that our people will sacrifice for us. They will give us their blood and sweat and tears to see that their leader’s vision comes to life, and when we ask them, ‘Why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person?’ they all say the same thing: ‘Because they would have done it for me.’ And isn’t that the organization we would all like to work in? [pause] Thank you very much.”
Coaching tip for Simon Sinek: In my opinion, this is a near-perfect closing performance.Simon speaks from the heart, with passion and intelligence. He is intense and compelling by nature. Keep up the excellent work, Simon. We love it!
#11: Customer tributes, poems, and musical scores
At a Glance: This closing technique is basically a spoken poem written in honor of your audience. It involves creativity in writing, as well as considerable time in practice and rehearsal. It is possible to outsource the writing of the customer tribute to a comedian or a professional storyteller. You might also want to look around to see what other talents are possessed by your teammates. You may have a poet or comedian, children’s book author, or songwriter amongst you. Alternatively, you might consider writing a song or a satirical mini-medley and performing it live on stage. Now, that would be a memorable close!
I have two examples of this closing technique to share with you. I’ll forgo the transcriptions in order to keep this blog to a reasonable size.
Example #1: Motivation Speaker and master story teller, Kelly Swanson, writes and delivers amazing tribute closings to her presentations. Notice how she reads from notes with dramatic flair, stepping away from the music stand, but magically connecting and honoring her audience (in this case, pest control professionals). Watch this 8-minute customer tribute closing by a master storyteller:
Coaching tip for Kelly: I love your creativity and enthusiastic performance (not to mention your notable voice). I have seen you deliver this customer tribute close in another speech. It was tighter, shorter, and more compelling. In this performance, you’ve added more content (e.g., story about the fast food drive-through), and I think it both lengthens and dilutes your tribute closing. Less is better as a general rule.
Example #2: Inspiration can come from anywhere. In this case, I was introduced to the Haiku form of Japanese poetry when my sons were in elementary school. I found it fascinating. A Haiku is a type of poetry that can be written on many themes, from love to nature. A Haiku consists of 3 lines and 17 syllables. Each line has a set number of syllables as folllows:
Line 1 – 5 syllables
Line 2 – 7 syllables
Line 3 – 5 syllables
On an airplane flying to Minneapolis on a business trip to give a presentation to a group of sales professionals in the financial services industry, I began sketching out what my Haiku closing might look like. Our topic was how to finish strong with presentation closing techniques that create impact. (Yes, this is where this four-part blog series came from.) Three pages of scribbled ideas later, I came up with the sassy, creative Haiku you see below. After explaining briefly what a Haiku poem was, I performed it live to my audience. Here’s the slide version that I created following the presentation as a visual reminder:
Coaching tip for me: I have delivered this poetic closing twice now, and I realized that some people in the audience may not understand it, or may be mildly insulted by the sassy nature of the poem. In the future, I will add one final sentence after I share the Haiku, tying it back to the focus of our presentation. For example, after reading the Haiku, I would say, “Ladies and gentlemen, by including more stories in your presentations, you will engage your audience and move them to action. [pause] Thank you.”
#12: Inspiring video or energizing music close
At a Glance: Create a crescendo to your presentation with an inspiring video, a music video, or an upbeat song. This final bit of audio visual is the final words that are spoken. You can leave the stage and do not need to say anything more. Step off the stage and let the video roll. You can watch the audience’s reactions from the sidelines.
- Hint 1: Remember that your favorite songs or music genre may not be a favorite of the audience. Find out what they like (and dislike) well in advance of your presentation.
- Hint 2: If the music or video was not created by you or our organization, you will need permission to use it in your presentation.
- Hint 3: Test the equipment to ensure it is working on the day of the presentation. Have a contingency plan in case something goes wrong. Consider bringing a set of quality speakers that you can plug in to your laptop….just in case. Be ready with an alternate close that you speak, if the video fails.
Video Example: Dean Kamen, famed inventor and creator of the Segway self-balancing human transporter, narrates this demonstration video as the closing to his five minute TED presentation about a new prosthetic arm design for wounded warriors. Notice that the video is not slick or professionally produced, but moves the audience to a standing ovation. This video is only 5 minutes long, so you may want to watch the entire thing to understand how his close fits into the overall context. However, if you just want to watch the closing video, advance to time code 4:28-5:05.
Here’s the transcription: “I’m going to show you a guy doing a couple of simple things with this that we demonstrated in Washington. Can we look at this thing? Watch the fingers grab. The thumb comes up. Wrist. This weighs 6.9 pounds. Going to scratch his nose. It’s got 14 active degrees of freedom. Now he’s going to pick up a pen with his opposed thumb and index finger. Now he’s going to put that down, pick up a piece of paper, rotate all the degrees of freedom in his hand and wrist, and read it.”
Coaching tip for Dean Kamen: I love how you voice over the video live from the stage. That makes it much more interactive than a finished video with professional narration. My suggestion to you would be to add one final statement following the video, perhaps a bold call-to-action, or repeating your key message. Deliver it yourself from center stage, not from the sidelines. This would put a nice “red ribbon” finish on this important presentation.
#13: The gratitude close
At a Glance: This closing technique has a strong feel-good factor. You can thank them for what they’ve done in the past (e.g., on the project, initiative, campaign, etc.), thank them for what they are currently doing (e.g., for you, the organization, the cause, etc.), and thank them for what they will do in the future (e.g., for their future efforts and contributions, including implementing the requests you made during your presentation).
Written Example: I first observed this closing technique from an executive at Royal Neighbors of America. Her delivery was authentic and sincere and her closing remarks had a positive impact on her internal audience of colleagues. I have since tried the gratitude closing myself on several occasions. Here’s one such example from my own experience:
“In closing, I want to thank you for your full participation in today’s program. I admire your commitment to presentation excellence, and applaud your ongoing efforts to Stop Global Boring by reducing your PowerPoint emissions. Thank you for proactively implementing the ideas and strategies we’ve discussed today in your future presentations. They will help you to create more engaging presentations that motivate your audiences to action. And always remember to Stay Awesome and Finish Strong! [pause] Thank you.”
Overview List of the 13 Presentation Closing Techniques
To summarize, this is the complete list of Presentation Closing Techniques presented in this 4-part blog series:
- The traditional close
- Leave them with a conundrum
- Motivating quote close
- The WWW close
- Physical props to create a lasting visual memory
- Metaphor close
- Inspiring quote close
- Final advice close
- Call-to-action close
- Question close
- Customer tributes, poems, and musical scores
- Inspiring video or energizing music close
- Gratitude close
Would You Like a Free Copy of the Digital Workbook?
If you’ve enjoyed this four-part blog series and would like a complimentary copy of the digital workbook, download the free workbook, Finish Strong by Kathy McAfee. This workbook is a great self-study workbook, or a resource that you can use with your team during a lunch and lead seminar.
Kathy is also available to assist you and your team with presentation coaching and training.
- Check out these professional services available to you and your organization – http://www.americasmarketingmotivator.com/services/motivated-presenters/
- Get the book, Stop Global Boring, book by Kathy McAfee, and help your team reduce their PowerPoint emissions to create more engaging presentations that motivate audiences to action.