Closing remarks – question or clincher?

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On the last day of this year, we naturally think about closure.

In the context of presentations, what’s the role of that closing slide?

  • Is it to say: “Thank you!”? (how often have YOU groaned when you saw this?)
  • Is it to ask: “Any questions?” (how often did this lead to a stunned – or simply awkward – silence?)
  • Is it to prompt immediate action: “Call us now?” or amazed reaction: “How about that?” (how often does this actually translate into either?)

The thing is – all 3 closing impulses are apt.

  • You do want to thank your audience for staying with you through your presentation (especially in these days of online fatigue);
  • you do want to have an engaging Q&A session that will help deepen understanding and open up a potential dialogue;
  • and you do want them to follow-up and follow-through; to leave the meeting feeling “Wow, how about that!”

The trick, then, is – to do it differently.

Instead of saying ‘THANK YOU’ in big bold bright letters, why not instead show an image that reveals gratitude, or a quote that brings a smile?

Don’t choose the obvious ones, or the over-used ones… Spin it. For example, “Enough is a feast” is a Buddhist Proverb – imagine using it wittily, to say how you know the audience must finally have had enough…. but as they say, “enough is a feast!”

Choose a quote from a personality not necessarily from the field. For example, why not this gem by Oprah Winfrey, which would fit any presentation from investor to product pitches: “Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I’m just wearing better shoes.”

Now, the question about question-time – should you indicate it on a slide? Should you include it at all in your presentation?

Our gut-feel says NO to the first, and YES to the second.

But how? By using a question that really makes you think. The kind of question that you might use to open your presentation might very well be the one you want to close with.

It could be a specialist question e.g. “Do endo-fungal fungi exist?” or it could be a hypothetical question “Is there life on Mars?” The point is not just to arouse curiosity – it is to prompt further questions.

You could even play it like this – open with a question, and bring it back right at the end, because by then the answer should be clear to those who have stayed with you – especially if you’ve crafted the flow really well. And that Aha! moment will lead directly and organically to the third wish on the list: i.e. the call to action.

Before we leave you, for this post and this year, here’s a parting thought: What if you were to go for an open-ended ending?

A cliff-hanger? Cut at the moment of maximum interest, the way thrillers and page-turners work?

Leaving the audience dying to know “What happens next?”

That’s the principle that successful storytellers use!

The interest generated is genuine, and you don’t have to browbeat your audience into interaction. Be sure, though, not to resort to the cliched “This is not the end… this is just the beginning” kind of statement! Look at closing lines from famous books or films, and choose what fits best. Better still – spin it!

Happy closures. Happy new year.