How to avoid the emergency stop…crafting a clear end to your presentation

l- platesMy nephew has just passed his driving test!   For the next few months at any rate if you are driving in Cheshire, UK, then take good care!  Talking to my Sister-in-law, the journey to get to the test wasn’t all a bed of roses.  There were many frustrating occasions where her normally calm approach and his normally sanguine personality were sorely tested, not just driving skills.  But he got there in the end.  The funniest story was when he thought she had asked him to do an emergency stop (she had been waving to a pedestrian she recognised) which he then did with full enthusiasm causing her to spill water into her (designer) handbag!

This post is part of a series examining clarity in presentations. My nephew’s achievement and disastrous emergency stop reminded me of presentations that are going great guns only to stop suddenly, without warning and to the audience’s surprise.  Where the speaker seems to reach the summary without us realising.  When the audience are asked if they have any questions before they recognise that the end has actually arrived.  Where there is lack of clarity about structure, flow and content.  There are a couple of problems going on here:

  1. The ending has not been crafted. Rather a formulaic , ‘to summarise…’ Or ‘ thank you , that’s me..’ has been bolted on the end of the presentation with no thought as to how to guide the audience, reinforce and reiterate the core message or leave the audience with a final thought.  Presentations should always have a deliberately and carefully crafted ending separate to and essential for the rest of the content.
  2. In order to get true clarity throughout the presentation, the ending should include a clear call to action. In a study in the US, students who were asked to donate food items to a food bank behaved differently depending on the written request they received.  Where there was simply information given about the food drop, not many students donated, even those who were supportive of the charity approach.   In contrast, those who had received the information including a map and detailed of times to drop off were much more likely to donate even those who had shown no previous interest in the charity.

In other words, your ending needs to be very clear and very specific about what you want people to do with what they have heard. Less of an emergency stop and more of a precise instruction.

Here are seven steps to making sure you get clarity in your crafted ending and include a clear call to action:

  1. Signal your ending.  Tell people that it is coming so they can tune in.  No emergency stops!
  2. Summarise succinctly.  Work on how you can package a summary without resorting to repetition of everything you have said or introducing new information
  3. Tell people the necessary but boring information( your email address, phone number, please contact me here etc, where to pick up leaflet etc.) Lots of people say this right at the end .  It often needs to be said but should not be the last thing people remember you saying
  4. A clear call to action.  Be specific. Be direct.  Be bold.  What is it you want them to go away and do with what you have given them.  If your request/ instruction begins with version like ‘understand’, ‘be aware of ‘ then you are being too vague.  Use active verbs like tell, do, ask, review, pay attention to, ask, change
  5. Signal questions so that you can control the number, the type and the timing. Eg ” before I finally finish I have time for a couple of questions on what we have just covered…”
  6. Thank people for their attention
  7. Leave them with a final thought.  This could be the call to action again or it could be related to the core message or it could be an echo of something you said as your opening attention grabber.  Either way it is clear, direct, delivered with oomph, no apologises and as much muster as you can. Pow.

As always, let me know your thoughts and questions on this post and if you haven’t already done so sign up here for Speech Bubbles, weekly inspiration for your presentations delivered to your inbox.

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