Happy Endings

By Heather Baldwin

If you’ve done your job as a presenter, your audience will remember two things: your key message and your ending. We’ve devoted a lot of space in this newsletter to delivering a strong main message, but what about your conclusion? The last 30 to 60 seconds of your speech should be used to ensure that your listeners “understand precisely what you’re trying to tell them and what change in their thought or behavior you are advocating,” explains Alan Perlman, a corporate speechwriter and author of Perfect Phrases for Executive Presentations (McGraw-Hill, 2006). Here, he says, are some ways to make your conclusion powerful:

1. Summarize succinctly what you’ve said: “My message to you today has been simple and straightforward: if your organization continues to grow at 3 percent a year, as it has been doing for the past 10 years, you will outgrow your current software in 18 months and will no longer be able to process customer orders with the same speed and accuracy on which you have built your reputation. The time to make the change is not in 18 months – it is now.”

2. Return to your theme. This gives a sense of closure and coming full circle. You can mark the return with a phrase such as, “And that brings me back to my original theme….” Or you can simply weave it into the ending. For instance, if you sell electronic document storage technology and the theme of your presentation was “Data at your fingertips,” you might conclude with something like, “Let us help you reduce your paper clutter and reduce the time you spend searching for information by ensuring that the data you need is always at your fingertips.”

3. Give a reality check. If you’re urging the audience to embrace significant change, you may want to speak in terms of a reality check. Perlman suggests something like this: “You are no doubt beginning to feel the opportunity – and the pressure – of all the changes I’ve been discussing. It’s how you feel that pressure, how you view the changes, which makes all the difference. You have to act fast if you are to stay ahead of the wave. You have to embrace – not avoid – change.”

4. Urge listeners to play an active role in determining their future. For instance, “To me, having ambitious goals and the means to reach them is truly inspiring. I hope you are as excited as I am about the opportunities we have to make a difference in your organization.”

5. Close with a quote or proverb. Here are some of Perlman’s examples:

  1. Success is not a destination but a journey. I hope we’ll make that journey together, with all the enthusiasm, commitment and vision that have brought us this far.
  2. Finally, I would leave you with these words from Emily Dickinson: “Truth is such a rare thing it is delightful to tell it.” Today I have shared with you the truth.
  3. The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change – but the realist adjusts the sails. Let us be realists. Let us help you adjust your sails and get ready for the next leg because we are in this race to help you win!

When you give your audience a strong, clear ending to your presentation, they will remember it and they’ll remember you as a strong, clear presenter. So give some thought to your closing remarks. Use those final minutes with your audience to bring your speech back full circle, and to bring your prospects to a “yes!”

For more information, visit www.alanperlman.com.