by Peter Watts
Congratulations! You’ve navigated the majority of your presentation. You’ve delivered a clear introduction, and guided your audience through the evidence that backs up your arguments. Now it’s time to wrap-up the show with your conclusion.
The conclusion of your presentation is the section that the audience will remember the most clearly, for the simple reason that it will have been the last thing they heard. It’s also most probably the last thing you will have planned and rehearsed, and for that reason conclusions can often be surprisingly weak. Presenters can often be observed to deliver strong presentations that suddenly come to an abrupt halt! This type of conclusion is known as an “Emergency Stop”, when the presenter, realizing that they have said all they intended to say, flounders for a moment before uttering a simple “Thank you for your time”, and awkwardly leaves the stage.
As an observer it can be amusing to watch the audience at such moments. Many literally jump in their seats, exactly as if they had indeed, been passengers in a plane that has just made a bone shaking landing after an otherwise smooth flight!
Think of the stages involved in an aircraft coming in to land. First of all the passengers are instructed to put on their seat belts and prepare for landing. The crew walks the aisles checking everyone is strapped in and all lose items secured before the captain guides the plane down to a, hopefully, smooth connection with the ground. Finally, as the passengers depart, the last thing they hear is “Thank you for choosing this airline, and we hope to see you again soon.”
If you keep this model in mind, then you will have all the stages necessary for your conclusion:
Prepare for landing
As you start your conclusion, state firmly that this is what you are doing. The conclusion is a vital part of the presentation, so make sure everyone is primed, listening, and has their seat in the upright position.
Land the plane
You want to make sure that the wheels on which your argument rest will connect firmly with the ground. To ensure those wheels are down and locked into position, re-state the key points in your argument, summing them up in the sequence that they were delivered, and linking them back to your key message.
Thank the passengers
It’s essential to thank the audience for their time, and to tell them what you hope will happen next. What is your objective for this presentation? What realistic action do you want the audience to take next? Is it to book a follow-up meeting, or visit a web-site, or to start a business review process? Whatever your goal, state it as a call-to-action as your final words.
Before the audience does depart however, it is very possible that they may have questions for you. The subject of how to handle those questions will comprise our final installment on presentation structure, next week.