When you are presenting your startup or talking on industry issues every entrepreneur wants to be memorable. Imagine a situation where your presentation starts well. You hook your audience with interesting content but then you lose them as your presentation fades away at the end.
Then, you come to the end of your speech, but you are the only person in the room who knows. So, you quickly mutter ‘Thank you’. There is an awkward silence, a few tentative, uncertain claps before it gathers momentum and you slowly slump off stage, or hover uncertainly in front of your camera, as the other video conference attendees gaze on awkwardly. How disappointing after so much work spent crafting your presentation.
The sad truth is many people do not dedicate enough time and effort to the closing of their speech. They either end abruptly, tell the audience they are done, or mutter thank you. For online presentation they can hover uncertainly in front of the camera. If the audience is uncertain whether you’ve finished this creates embarrassment, an awkward silence and some uncertain clapping. This will inevitably detract from the impact of your presentation.
There are a few general points for startup founders to remember when closing presentations or speeches:
1) The closing should be about ten to fifteen percent of your speech.
This may sound like a lot because most people tend to think the closing is only the last sentence of your presentation, but it should not be. Ten percent of a thirty-minute speech is just three minutes. This gives you a reasonable time to summarise key points, give a call to action or repeat your key messages without rushing. Remember to pause after each key point you want your audience to remember.
2) Your presentation should flow towards the conclusion.
Make use of effective transitions to link the body of your presentation to the ending. A story to reiterate your key points and repeat your take-away message is a great way to end. This can be a bigger wow factor if you started and ended with the same story and added an unexpected twist. You can also use transitional connectives such as ‘having heard all this, you now understand why’ or ‘I am sure at this point you are thinking…’
3) Put time and effort into crafting and practising your ending.
Once signposted, every word must add impact to your presentation. Do not lean into the temptation to ad lib. Deliver the closing as you have practised it. Going off on a tangent is likely to decrease the potency of your words and lose some part of your audience. You’re also more likely to use filler words such as ahm, err or like. Excessive rambling will decrease your impact.
4) Do not try to cut your ending short or rush it.
At some point in their careers, most speakers will lose track of time at least once. When this happens, do not rush to squeeze in every sentence. Acknowledge that you have run out of time. If necessary, cut something before the end, but still deliver your closing. Experience will help you become more adept at timings.
5) Close your presentation on a high by signposting the ending.
If you end abruptly you negate the recency effect as the audience’s brains will not be prepared. Most speakers tend to incorporate terms such as ‘in summary’, ‘finally’, or ‘to conclude’ to herald the closing of their presentation. These words will trigger what psychologist call the recency effect and the audience will re-engage – even those who have mentally wandered off.
6) Use your body language.
For entrepreneurs presenting in-person to the room, I recommend making the most of your body language. For example, standing in a fixed position, arms at your side and slowly looking around at your audience with a smile on your face, in most cases, will quieten a room. Try and get eye contact with specific audience members at different points around the room to spread calm and silence. When the room is quiet and you have everyone’s attention, then start your ending.
You can use a similar principle on video too. Face the camera, stay still, pause, possibly look around at the attendees on your screen (although you can’t make eye-contact in the same way, the gesture is clear), and then, having signposted with this body language, start your ending.
This ‘pause’ will need to be shorter via video than it would be if you were on-stage, but the aim and the effect is the same. It’s a signpost, a form of transition, it breaks the state and wakes everyone up!
7) Change the tone of your voice.
Monotony kills most presentations, especially if they are over five minutes. Every entrepreneur has their own voice/tone but a great presenter will always vary their tone and intonations. Your closing and final words should be delivered using your normal voice/tone. This will come across with more authenticity.
8) Use the wrap-around technique.
Expert speakers do a wrap-around and tie the closing of their speech to their opening. For example, a startup founder may ask a rhetorical question at the start and ask the same question at the close using the closing minutes to give their answer.
How you structure the closing of your presentation will depend on your intended outcome. Do you want to leave your audience with a takeaway message, a feeling or a call to action?
For example, as an entrepreneur your presentation is likely to involve a call to action. If so it must appeal to ‘pathos’, the emotions of the audience. Your closing should include emotive language that appeals to the senses. For example, if you intend to give your audience a call to action so they stop smoking, you could end your speech with the following lines:
The next time you feel the smooth texture of a cigarette in your hand. The next time you hear the voices in your head saying ‘ Go on, take a puff, nothing will happen! The next time you smell that cigarette smoke and think it offers comfort, contentment and calm. ‘ That next time… might just be your last time.
I want you to remember this picture of a father who will not see his children grow up, will not hear their laughter, will not kiss them goodnight, because of lung cancer. The message is simple. Stop smoking!
This closing is emotive and appealed to all the senses using a litany of literary devices. It is then followed by the final two words which is the key message.
If you follow these techniques to close your presentation your audiences is likely to be talking about your presentation in the coffee break and beyond. The strong ending will capture your audience’s attention and keep them focused on your entrepreneurial message.
Vinette Hoffman-Jackson, DTM is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management.