First impressions "How should i open my presentation?" is a question we get asked often.…
Closing your presentation is perhaps the most important part of your presentation. And probably both the easiest and the shortest part.
Most important because it will contain either an idea or an action that you want your audience to consider or act upon and it’s your chance to confirm that for them, and to persuade them into action.
Shortest because in the body of your presentation you’ve already made your case or put your proposition to them and in your close you’re simply summarising what needs to happen now. You’re reminding them of what you’re telling them or asking them, and then convincing, persuading or inspiring them to take action.
Easiest because you’ve already made your case; you’ve put your proposition, and you don’t need to do all that again.
What’s the best close for my presentation?
Well, that depends on a number of factors and you will be the best judge of what to do. Whatever you choose it needs to be clear, short and motivational.
The first factor is what you want your audience to think, feel or do. Usually you’ll want them to take some action; whether that’s to buy your product or service, donate to a good cause, go out and sell more, or give you credit for a good project completion, for example.
It also depends on where they are in their thinking. For example, they may not yet have bought your proposition: they may still need more information or to be convinced that it’s a good idea, good value, or that they need to do it.
One way of looking at the close of a presentation, or any meeting for that matter, is to see it as the opening for the next step in the process. For example, athletes are trained to focus a few metres beyond the finishing line, so they continue running through the finish. Athletics coaches know that if an athlete only runs to the finish line they’ll slow down as they approach it; so they’re coached to run through it.
Be aware of your own energy in the presentation. See yourself as that professional athlete who runs through the finish line. Amateur presenters will tend to run out of energy toward the end of the presentation, leaving little energy or passion for a great close or even 10 minutes of a Q and A. Make sure, in your preparation, that you train yourself to see the close as part of your presentation, not the end of it.
Several possible closes to choose from:
Alone or in combination. Here is the classic list:
Ask for the order. Simply ask them if they’re willing to go ahead with your proposition.
Summarise the key points. Keep them simple and don’t add anything new. “So in summary we’ve seen that…..”. This should be short and clear. Don’t go over all the logic of your argument again; just give them the key points. A very simple and effective visual aid is to count off the points on your fingers.
Use a quotation. Make sure it’s a good fit with what you’ve said and shown them. State it clearly and attribute it accurately to the person who said or wrote it. If you opened with a quotation, it completes the cycle to close with the same quotation. Or maybe if the same author had said many good things, you could refer back to your opening, and tell them that the author also said…
Call for action. A passionate and heartfelt appeal to the audience as a result of what you’ve said and shown. “Let’s get going on this. Let’s not let our colleagues down by not acting. Do I have your agreement?”
Throw down a challenge. Many of us can’t resist a challenge that is soundly based and sincerely and passionately delivered. “I challenge you to make a difference to the lives of the young. Let’s get out there and make it happen!”
Clarify next steps. At the end of a presentation which is part of a process leading toward a sale, either to an internal or external customer, you could clarify where the audience has got to and agree the next steps.
Ask for a ‘yes’. Lead them logically and emotionally to a ‘yes’ decision. Make it easy for them to say ‘yes’. If/when you get your ‘yes’ be ready with an appropriate next step. If there is silence or hesitation, be ready with a good question. And be prepared for a ‘no’, or ‘not sure’. What question, or statement, followed by a question, could loosen the logjam?
Ask them what they’d like to do. If you’re giving a project report for example, your close might be to ask what the audience wants you to do next. Be ready to offer a possible next step. Or give them some options. This should be used with care; you don’t want to appear uncertain. We suggest you only use it when you know what the answer’s likely to be. But giving your audience the chance to choose what they do now, may be a very powerful way of getting them onside.
Close with your opening. This is a powerful and professional way of ‘closing the loop’. If you opened with a quotation, then close with that, or another by the same author; or maybe a similar quote from a different author. You choose. Or if you opened with your Key Message and its Importance, then close by reminding them of that. Or if you opened with a story, then close by referring back to it. (See our blog on how to open your presentation here).
And the simplest close. Simply say “thank you”.
The ‘rules’ in closing.
As with many aspects of a presentation, there are not many rules in closing; the above are only suggestions. And you can use them on their own or in combination.
As you approach the end of your presentation while you’re still presenting, you may realise that your planned close is going to have to change as you realise that asking for the order, or for their co-operation, or whatever, is not going to work.
If you’re unsure of what the audience is thinking you could take an approach from sales training. This recommends you ask a ‘trial close’. This is asking for the prospect’s opinion, rather than a decision. This is on the basis that if you ask for a decision and the prospect says ‘no’, then it can be hard for them to go back on that. So ask for their opinion, first. Essentially, you’re asking ‘what do you think?’.
Practically you can start the process with the question ‘How does it sound?’. Then on the basis of their response you can ask another question. We teach salespeople that they’re likely to get one of three responses: hot, warm or cold.
Let’s take the ‘hot’ response. This is the very positive response to your question, “how does it sound?” Now’s the time to close them on your proposition using one of the earlier closes.
A ‘warm’ response might be “sounds ok”. So it’s neither hot nor cold. In this case you can ask another trial close, more specific this time. Something like: “if you were to go ahead, would you want to include all the data you’ve collected or just the data from the UK?”. Notice the conditional question, “if you were to go ahead”. Notice we’re still not asking for a decision; we’re still only asking for their opinion. The answer should tell you what to do next. Technically, we looking to move them to ‘hot’ or to ‘cold’, which we can deal with more easily.
Finally, the ‘cold’ response. That might sound like “no, it’s not for us” or “I don’t see how it could work in our situation” or even, “we’ve decided to go another route”. The cold response is difficult to deal with at this stage in your presentation: you’ve outlined your proposition and, probably, believed that you’d convinced them, and then they say “no”! At this point you may have run out of time to do any more convincing, but you could establish what the problem is; why they’re objecting to your proposal.
The answer to not getting a ‘cold’ response at the end is to test the water earlier in the presentation. You can ask “how does it sound?” at an earlier stage after you’ve given them some information. But be aware that asking it too early is like the waiter asking you how you’re enjoying the meal when he’s only just served it to you; it’s too early for you to judge.
Whatever close you choose, plan it carefully making sure that it’ll work for your talk. This is one time when we recommend you learn the words by heart and then practise them so you can look into the eyes of your audience as you urge them into action!