Welcome to part three of a four-part series on the best formula for a presentation closing that resonates.
End on a high point. Options for Closing Techniques:
The last thirty seconds of your speech must send people out energized and fulfilled. This means you need to finish with something inspirational that supports your theme.
1 • “The Circular Technique”
As a discipline, it’s always wise to revisit your opening, whether you use this technique or not. In the Circular Technique, the opening and closing generate the same emotion or have corresponding circumstances or situations. For example, I opened my keynote to the American Cemetery Association with the story of my experience when my mother died. Using the circular technique, I led into my close with this:
“At the beginning of my presentation, you heard my experience when my mother died. Let me close with my brother’s experience that he wrote in the liner notes of his CD, Blessing of Tears. ‘Life is what we are given, living is what we do with it . . .’”
My opening showed my perspective, and my closing gave my brother Robert’s perspective.
In the 1990s Mike Powell was a senior scientist at Genentech working on developing an AIDS vaccine. I helped him get ready to speak for the Continental Breakfast Club, a professional women’s organization. My suggestion to him was, “We do not spend time with scientists. Tell us what it is like.” Mike opened with, “Being a scientist is like doing a jigsaw puzzle . . . in a snowstorm . . . at night . . . when you don’t have all the pieces and you don’t have the picture you are trying to create.” Everyone sat forward!
He closed by saying, “At the beginning of my presentation, I told you about the frustrations of being a scientist, so many people ask, “Why would you want to do that?” Mike told them about a particularly information-intensive medical conference he had attended. The final speaker walked from the back of the room to the lectern and said, “I am a 32-year-old wife and mother of two. I have AIDS. Please work fast.” Everyone jumped to their feet applauding.
Mike received a standing ovation for his first speech to a lay audience. His presentation was successful because he had simplified the complexity of his job and made it a human-interest story, both from his point of view and from the patients they were dedicated to helping.
2 • “The Story Close”
A story is always a good way to close a presentation. Be sure that it reinforces your premise and drives your message home.
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