Contrary to popular belief, asking, “Do you have any questions?” is not the best way to end a presentation. Instead, end with a call to action, says Frank Carillo, president of ECG, a strategic communications consulting firm.
“If you ask [your listeners] to do nothing, they will happily comply,” he says, “Instead, ask for the business in the context of the differentiated benefit that you’ve been arguing for the last thirty minutes. For example, you can say, ‘If you want to have XY and Z, which aren’t easily attainable anywhere else in this marketplace, then you should use us as your supplier.'”
Carillo says another way to end your presentation is to restate your main point. This doesn’t mean a long, detailed summary but the main point you’ve been driving at during the entire presentation. What is your main objective? Remind your audience of the benefits of working with you or your company; make it a logical conclusion. End with a call to action, even if the call to action is nothing more than asking for another meeting.
“Maybe my presentation is not about asking for the sale at the end, but it’s making you believe that we are a credible company,” Carillo explains. “Tell a story that will stick in their minds that makes you credible. Maybe it could be about how you came through for a client when that client really needed you. Stories have texture. People remember stories better than anything else.”
Never announce that you are about to end your presentation, warns Carillo. Don’t use the words, “in conclusion,” or “to wrap it up,” or “the bottom line is.” By using these phrases, you won’t end with a bang. It will actually turn off your audience.
Carillo also cautions against moving around too much during your conclusion. “There are critical times during a presentation when it almost always works against you to move around too much, and the conclusion is one of those times,” he says. “Instead, when you are heading toward your conclusion, bring yourself to a complete and utter stop so everyone can focus on you and what you are about to say. Use a pause as you plant your feet. This will heighten the anticipation for what you are about to say.”
There are also many things you can do vocally to help people pay more attention to your conclusion. You can slow your voice or insert a dramatic pause. Again, you want to create anticipation.
Carillo also advises separating the conclusion from the question-and-answer session. Make them two different presentations. After you’ve made your final call to action, say something such as, “If your schedule allows, we can have a Q & A.” End this part of the presentation (the Q & A) by stating again why your clients should do business with you or why they should meet with you again.
“At the worst, repeat your other conclusion verbatim,” Carillo says. “At best, find another way to say the exact same thing. You don’t want the last part of your presentation to trail off into the answer to someone else’s question, or ‘Well, if that’s all the questions you have’ Make it simple. Your conclusion should speak the words that are already logically in the listeners’ heads.
“Don’t look for any easy gimmick to end a presentation,” summarizes Carillo. “Draw it to a logical conclusion by stating your differentiated benefit and what it means to the audience.”