The ending of your presentation is your last chance to encapsulate everything you said in your presentation. It is also your last chance to bring all of the material together in one unified whole. There are many ways to end your presentation. You can use an electrifying quote or a thoughtful story. You can ask a reflective question or use a contemplative poem. For example, Brad read the following poem at the end of a keynote on self-esteem to an audience of physically challenged children and adults:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but please don't quit.
Life is unpredictable with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out.
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit—
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Not only is the poem in and of itself a very strong ending, at this particular meeting the poem was read as a pianist played the theme from Chariots of Fire.
Brad: When I started reading the poem, there was no music. By the time I got to the second stanza, the music was barely audible and was becoming increasing audible, but not so much that it interfered with the reading of the poem. When I finished reading the poem, the impact was electrifying. The poem was an exceptional choice, and the music was absolutely wonderful, however, the poem and the music together moved the audience significantly more than either could have done alone. They could see themselves as heroes and heroines, just like the runners in the movie, because just by showing up at the conference, they had proved that they had not given up. The audience could anchor this experience in both the poetry and the music.
An additional hint to make your ending powerful: Master Presenter Mark Sanborn cautions us not to put FEAR into your endings. FEAR stands for False Endings Appearing Real. This happens when the presenter is so in love with his or her material that he keeps presenting when it is well past the time to close. Instead, Brad and David recommend giving your audience HOPE: Helping Others Persevere Effectively.
Please describe the most powerful closing you have ever heard. Why was it so powerful?
How can you make the closing of your next presentation more powerful?
By this point in this book we have looked at the importance of knowing your audience and of aligning your content to your audience's wants, needs, expectations, and aspirations. We have looked at developing outstanding content and organization and at 13 methods that can make your presentation more dynamic. All of these efforts will have been for naught if your listeners don't remember your presentation and/or put it into action. We'll address this element of your presentation in the next chapter.