Communication Rebel Blog

How to Ruin a Presentation in the Last 30 Seconds

A great conclusion begins with the end in mindYour speech is going great! You're engaging, the audience asks great questions, they are loving your every word and then in the last 30-seconds you blow it. 

By doing one (or more) of these:

  • Ending a presentation with Q&A
  • Saying, “Well, that's it.”
  • Saying, “Thank you for your time.”
  • Running off the stage with no real conclusion.
  • Concluding with a sales pitch.

I've done all of these at one point in my speaking career. I blew it with my audience. I'm most guilty of ending with Q&A. Do you want your audience to remember some wing-nut question or something that adds value to their life? 

The conclusion of your presentation is what your audience members remember most. This is called, “The Recency Effect.”  The conclusion  needs to be memorable. Leave them with a message that sticks. 

We've discussed the BIG IDEA statement.Your conclusion is KEY to reinforcing your idea. The conclusion should contain 3 parts: Summary, Call to Action (or Pitch) and  Remarkable Close.

Summarizing your speech

The summary doesn't need to be long or detailed. It should reinforce your BIG IDEA statement and briefly recap the supporting points. Don't be boring. Don't say “In summary, I discussed this, that and that other forgettable thing.” First, it's not conversational. Second, it's not memorable. Third, it sucks. Think about how you can use a story to summarize your big idea or a metaphor. Be creative. The conclusion is not the place to skimp on creative impact.

Craft a call to action

I'm going to discuss calls to action in great depth in the next few weeks, but here is a crappy call to action. “We've seen the importance of not feeding Gremlins after midnight. We can sign the petition or visit the website or donate money. But we must stop the Gremlin problem soon.”

The problem with that call to action:

  • It does not address one person – remember we is the tiny word that murders persuasion and sales.
  • It gives more than one action to take. Tell them exactly what you want them to do. One thing only. Giving them 3 options is a surefire way to guarantee analysis paralysis.
  • There's no sense of urgency. Soon? How soon is soon? Do we need to take action now or 3 months from now? 

Calls to action need to include the magical word “you.” Give ONE clear action to take and create a sense of now or never. 

Don't end with a pitch – Leave them with a tip

Do not end with your pitch. It's a bit sleazy. If you're speaking to sell your wares, make the pitch and end with a memorable tip. This can be a quote, encouragement or something they will value. It should also be related and reinforce your BIG IDEA statement. The tip is a remarkable way to close your presentation.

Leaving a lasting impression. Creatively summarize the value you shared, craft a call to action that has impact and never end with pitch. Always be creating value even at the very end of your speech.

Want more help? Check out this slideshare I created about concluding your presentation powerfully!

[slideshare id=20982951&doc=concludewithpower-130511092752-phpapp02]

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  • Nice post Michelle.
    I’m also guilty of ending with Q&A.
    It seems so natural…
    Guess I’ll have to stop that 🙂

    • Daniel, it’s nice to know that I am not the only one. I’ve learned that it is good to take questions then circle back to your message and leave them with a clear take away. That way the audience remembers you and not the question!

  • I wrote an article about never ending with Q&A because of two bad things that could happen: no questions, or combative questions. I’ve since added a third one: good questions! Why is that bad? If you had gotten them earlier, you could have worked them into your conclusion. They remember the first thing and the last thing more clearly than anything else, so you want to control those. If you have Q&A, then come back with a strong conclusion, you can revive the energy loss of no questions, correct the impression left by combative questions, and make use of the good questions!

    Michelle, is it OK to point to the original article? I hope it loads in a new tab or window without taking folks off your web site. Just in case it does, I’m going to update the post to point to this one.

    • Hi Donn! Of course, it is ok to link to the article! It’s been interesting the response to this post. I think MANY of us has ended with Q&A. From what you’re saying the best strategy is to work them in throughout. Check-in with the audience on a consistent basis that way you can take good questions and then work them into the conclusion on the fly. Great idea.

  • I needed this! Presentations are a weakness of mine. Thank you!!

    • Glad I could help you April. Good luck with your presentations!

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