The Last Word

By Heather Baldwin

Everyone talks about the importance of first impressions, but how often are last impressions given their due emphasis? In presentations, it’s your conclusion that counts the most. If you’ve spent time thinking about and rehearsing your introduction, but planned to say just a simple “thank you” by way of conclusion, it’s time to take another look at the message you’re sending potential clients, says David Richardson, president of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Richardson Resource Group ( and a professional speaker specializing in speech coaching and sales training.

The number one rule of powerful conclusions, says Richardson, is to give customers a call to action. This action statement should tie directly to the objective of your presentation. For instance, say you sell shipping software, and the purpose of your presentation is to convince the client to give you access to his warehouse to examine his current shipping methods. You might conclude with something like, “As you can see from this presentation, we have doubled the shipping reliability of dozens of companies like yours. What I’d like to do next is schedule a tour with the manager of your shipping department. May I call you Friday to set that up?”

The key is to get specific. Establish a date for a follow-up phone call, tell the client you’d next like to meet with the vice president of operations or suggest a time you both can meet again in person to move the project forward – whatever your objective, state it as an action step at the end of your presentation. Otherwise, your message risks being forgotten the minute you walk out the door. Richardson recalls working with a salesperson selling surgical supplies to a major hospital. At the end of his presentation, he concluded with, “Why don’t you think it over and get back to me?” The hospital ultimately purchased from his competitor. After working with Richardson, the salesperson went back two years later and, armed with a powerful, results-oriented conclusion, won the business.

“Your responsibility during a speech or presentation is not only to present and develop the facts,” says Richardson. “You must also draw conclusions and make them explicit – and then point to the action you want your audience to take.”