How you end a presentation is just as important as how to start a presentation. If you start strong but flounder and flail at the end, what feeling are people going to be walking away with?
Not a good one, that’s for sure!
The end of your presentation is your last chance to make an impression. Make sure it’s a good one with these 9 top tips on how to end a presentation.
1. Call to action
What’s the point of giving a presentation?
To share important information, yes. But you also want people to DO something with that information.
And in order to do that, you need to end your presentation with a clear call to action. Something which motivates, empowers and inspires your audience.
Make even more of an impact by starting your presentation with a negative motivation, something shocking perhaps, about how bad things could be if they don’t take action. Then, end it on a positive motivation, showing how great things could be if you do take action.
You can also use the design of your PowerPoint slides to highlight this call to action. Here are a few examples of great call to action slides:
2. Don’t end with a Q&A
Certainly make ‘question time’ a part of your presentation, but not the end.
Q&A sessions have the tendency to run long, off-topic and have the possibility to turn sour. You want to end on a high-note or at least a note of your choosing.
Not having questions at the end of a presentation means you can stay in control of the mood, what people take away from your presentation, and the timing.
3. BUT you can end with a rhetorical Q…
Asking a rhetorical question on the other hand can keep your audience thinking about your presentation long after it’s over. Provocative questions can compound your message, stir emotions, or invite action.
Entrepreneur and CEO Ric Elias gives a great example by ending his talk about his near-death experience with four very powerful and poignant rhetorical questions:
4. End with a story
Storytelling is a powerful presentation tool and is a great way to neatly bookend your presentation.
As we learned in How to Start a Presentation, emotional listeners retain more information. An emotional story, whether it’s funny, sad, or thought-provoking, is a sure fire way to engage your audience.
If you can, try to tie the beginning and end together with your stories, like Heather Lanier does here:
5. The power of 3
Summaries are essential for info heavy presentations, but they can be super dull!
Use the power of 3 to keep them short, snappy and more importantly, keep them memorable. This is a tried and tested method that has worked throughout the ages.
Here are a few of the most famous examples of the rule of 3:
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” - Winston Churchill
“Blood, sweat and tears” - General Patton
“I came, I saw, I conquered” - Julius Caesar
“Just Do It” - Nike slogan
For an example of the power of 3 in action check out this TED talk by Alan Siegel:
6. Come full circle
Give your audience a sense of completion by referring to your opening message at the end. It’s a great way to bookend the presentation and is a neat and tidy way to sum up. You can set this up at the beginning of your presentation in a few different ways:
Pose a question which you answer at the end
Tell a story and either refer to it or finish it at the end
Repeat the first slide, this work especially well with powerful images or quotes
7. Product demo
Show don’t tell is a great rule of thumb, as the saying goes ‘actions speak loudly than words.’ End your presentation with a practical demonstration will not only clarify your message but be memorable for your audience.
It can also be a chance to inject some fun into your presentation, much like Ian Guage did in his talk on the Ig Nobel Awards:
8. The either/or scenario
Give your audience a choice at the end of a presentation. This is one way to encourage your audience to continue thinking about your presentation. This can be linked to your ‘call of action’ ending in tip 1.
For example, you can close a presentation by saying something along the lines of,"We can do this, or we can do nothing. The choice is yours."
9. On a high
Whichever way you choose to end your presentation, end it with energy! If you don’t show any passion or enthusiasm for your topic, then no one else will.
As well as a more energetic ending, try to lift the mood. This can be especially important for those presentations which may tackle a difficult subject or convey some bad news. You don’t want your audience leaving the auditorium thinking, ‘well, that was depressing!’
Even if you do have to give dark data, try to end on a high-note and with hope.
10. A sound bite
A sound bite is like a slogan, a phrase which demands attention. Can you condense your presentation message into a quick and catchy phrase?
If you can fit the central message of your presentation into a few words, they will be memorable and ‘Tweet-able’. Here are a couple of great sound-bite examples for ending presentations:
"Stay hungry, stay foolish." – Steve Jobs"Chance favors the connected mind." — Author Steven Johnson
11. End with a provocative question
How often have you been sitting in a presentation only to find that you have stopped listening before the end and are now day-dreaming or thinking about lunch?
Make sure your audience is still with you at the end by asking a provocative question. Questions, especially those that jolt us out of our comfort zone, stimulate and challenge our mind.
12. The title close
Another useful trick to ending a presentation is to use the title of your presentation as the closing words. It’s another way of bookending your presentation and helps compound your message to your audience.
13. A quick recap
A good presentation follows these three rules:
Tell them what you're going to tell them
Tell them what you told them
No matter how amazing your presentation has been, you will still need to remind people what you’ve covered. However, try to avoid dull phrases such as “In conclusion” or “To sum up”, you’re not writing an essay!
Instead, instigate your summary with a question, such as “Where is this all leading?” or “What does this all mean?”
Summaries don’t have to be dull. Make use of your PowerPoint to create a final slide that summarizes your main points. You can leave this final slide up on the screen as you make your closing statement.
14. Powerful quote
Sometimes you just can’t improve upon what has already been said before. Using a relevant quote from a historical figure or modern day hero can make your message both credible and memorable.
The key is selecting a good quote, one that isn’t too long-winded, and that sums up your main point of your message.
You can verbally deliver the quote, but it’s also a good idea to have it present visually as the closing slide on your presentation.
15. End with a visual image
Much of our brain power is dedicated to processing visual images. Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist says that "It's by images, pictures, videos that we understand the universe."
To deliver a powerful message hard and fast, then visuals are key.
They can be to shock, to humor, or as a metaphor to be explained and highlight your message, just like in this TED talk by Barry Schwartz.
16. A clear cut end
This is a must! There is nothing more uncomfortable than a presenter that doesn’t know how to end and just waffles awkwardly.
The audience is left thinking, ‘Is that it? Do we clap now?’
Make sure you and your audience know when the presentation has reached its final destination. This can be a clear cut, ‘thank you!’, a wave, a bow, but let it be a clear signal this is the end.
Or it can even be a summary slide that wraps up your talk and leaves your audience with the key takeaways and learning points.
17. Timing is key
Remember time is precious.
If you want to impress your audience, then end on time, or even better, with a few minutes to spare.
The trick to keeping time is to practise your presentation well in advance, timing yourself each time. Cut out any fluff or filler and stick to what you’ve rehearsed.