In the last lesson, we spoke about the structure and body of your presentation. It should all be coming together nicely with a punch, a direction, an expansion of the points, and a synopsis followed by a powerful conclusion…
However, most occasional and non-professional speakers fizzle out at the end of their talk… Even if you have structured your presentation like I suggested in the last lesson, you can easily still fall at the final hurdle. So in this lecture, we look at how to give an unforgettable finish – which research shows is one of the best-remembered elements of a talk.
Remember, in the last lesson, we seemed to complete our talk with a synopsis of the main points, which led to a powerful conclusion based on our earlier statement of "By the end of this speech, I want you to…" whatever you said.
However, we still have to navigate the question and answer component, and it's here that speakers fizzle and die.
That's not to say that an like you expert can't answer the questions from your audience – but that's not what's at stake here. Let's run a typical speech ending.
With conclusion made – the speaker – or even the Master Of Ceremonies says to the audience. "Does anyone have any questions…"
Two scenarios ensue. The first one is that no one has any questions… the hollow silence is eventually punctuated by the speaker who says something like "I've obviously covered it all then!" or some other embarrassing statement. The speaker then looks across at the conference organiser or MC and says to them, "Er, well, that's about it really… So.. erm Thank you…" This is the standard weak finish of far too many conference presenters.
The second scenario is that there ARE questions – but, at a point, there are no more questions and exactly what I said earlier happens… eventual hollow silence and damp squib ending.
Even if there are many questions, there comes a point when either the speaker or the MC call a halt because of time pressures, and ushers you off stage to polite applause – eager to introduce the next speaker of send the delegates out for a long-awaited break.
Never again will YOU fizzle out – and the answer is startlingly simple.
Let's run the ending again.
You provide a synopsis of the main points and lead to your powerful conclusion. HOWEVER, you pave the way to your request for questions with these words…
"So before I give you my final thoughts on this… has anyone got any questions?"
You still have control of the space… as soon as the questions stop – or there is no time for more, you can wheel back and say, "Thank you for those questions or ("Well, if there are no questions), here's my final thoughts….
At which point you hit them with what could effectively be thought of as another punch. Personal, Unexpected (or unusual) (Novel or New) Challenging or Humerous.
Even if you are not expected to run a Q & A session – or (as is too often the case) the previous speaker has over run and you have to shave 5 minutes by NOT running a q & a), deliver your conclusion, and then say "And now let me leave you with my final thoughts…
This is your opportunity to leave the audience in a heightened emotional state – you'll experience their energy, you'll hear it in their applause, you'll see it in their eyes as they follow you off stage, you'll feel it when they come up to you and shake your hand in the coffee break… and say:
"That was brilliant – I am so glad the organisers booked you!" You just smile and say, "Thank you I am so glad you enjoyed it"
No task this time – so go right on to the next lesson, because now I want to give you a couple more hints and tips about handling questions – and also two examples of the final thoughts… one that I use, and one I heard recently from an environmentalist talking about how 'one use' plastics are ruining the environment. He really nails the ending – for which he received a standing ovation from the 450 in the audience.