A FINE FINISH: HOW TO DRAW A MEMORABLE CONCLUSION
Audience attention levels start high but inevitably dip as your presentation unfolds.
However dull your presentation may have become, there is one thing you can be sure of. Your audience will mysteriously emerge from their slumbers as you start to finish. So the trick is to use this re-awakening to make sure they have got all your key messages.
Just as your INTRO can be devised with a simple model, you can do the same with your Conclusionsssssss. And here the trick is remembered by keeping just one letter in your mind ‘S’. But there a few of them.
So what is the first S? Well to waken your audience you need to give them a…
Everyone loves to hear these golden words….
‘And finally…’ ‘To finish…’ ‘To conclude…’
Like magic even the deepest sleeper will be summoned back to the real world. All performers know this. Every band will preface their final song of the set with a few remarks like
‘Sadly, this is going to be our last song. You’ve been a great audience but it’s time to say… goodbye Bournemouth!’
Even the punters who weren’t enjoying the show feel like giving the band the benefit of the doubt and tap their feet to the final number, secure in the thought that it is nearly over.
In a presentation we aren’t signalling a final song. Instead we will employ our second S, which stands for…
The summary cannot cover every point you made but it should remind people…
Why the issue is important
What the options are for dealing with it
The best solution
What should happen next
In the midst of this lot there will be three key points – which is about as many as anyone can be expected to remember. The rule of three is based on the principle that people tend to remember three things. In oratory it comes up all the time. Here are some examples:
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen” – William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar
“Blood, sweat and tears” – US General Patton
Our priorities are “Education, Education, Education” – former Prime Minister, Tony Blair
We need people to be safe so they are used in public safety announcements:
“Stop, Look and Listen”
Film moguls know a rule of three title is more likely to stick in the public mind:
“The good, the bad and the ugly”
“Sex, lies and videotape”
Putting it simply, if you want your message to be remembered put it into a list of three.
The summary should add nothing new in factual terms but it should certainly punch your points home more strongly with maybe an additional metaphor, simile or telling piece of evidence.
Having got your audience’s attention back and reiterated your killer points, you might think your job is done. Think again. You also need to leave them with a killer one liner that ties the whole thing up with a pink ribbon. That S is called a…
Beloved of politicians, a soundbite is a phrase also beloved by the journalists who write about them.
A soundbite might be as simple as a slogan. Remember Barack Obama’s wonderful first presidential campaign which featured the refrain:
‘Yes we can’
It might be a more complete sentence that somehow sum it all up. Even today, people still quote and remember John F. Kennedy’s famous sound bite:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Winston Churchill, a master orator, was equally good at a memorable phrase:
“Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
Hopefully, your soundbite will resonate with the audience. Pause long enough to let it do just that.
By now the audience should be in the palm of your hand, marvelling at your erudition and the importance of your argument. They are ready and willing to follow your command. So you need to tell them what to do, in other words what is the next….
All good communications are designed to prompt some sort of action. You might want the audience to give to your good cause, buy your product, or even vote for you. You want them to do something, so you’d better remind them what it is.
Marketing professionals call this a CTA or Call to Action. You will see them on every ad or website, and a good salesman will always have one ready. An effective call to action has the following characteristics:
It is clear and direct.
Makes your audience act quickly.
Lower any barriers to action.
Focus on benefits for your audience.
Here are a few examples, some formulaic and one rather memorable:
‘Book now to avoid disappointment’
‘Buy now while stocks last’
‘Don’t go to the pub tonight, just give us your money’ – Bob Geldof, Live Aid
This is quite a challenging moment, you are basically closing your sale. It’s up to them to react. Ideally this is the end of your presentation – ending on a real high. So all that remains is to…
SMILE…. and SHUT UP
Don’t say anything lame, such as asking for questions. If you have to ask for questions, you might be greeted with silence – which is always embarrassing.
A strong call to action will mean that your audience they will either leap into life and applaud you to the rafters.. or ask you questions – without being prompted.
About the author
David White is a highly experienced trainer and consultant, focusing on senior management and personal training and development. Following university he went into sales and marketing and worked in the automotive, food and chemical industries. In the early 1980s he was a founder manager of BT’s pioneering venture into telemarketing, before becoming a director of a direct and database marketing agency in London.