Six Don’ts for the End of Your Presentations

Seth Godin had a nice post today on “Sorry, we’re out of time.” But there’s more to it than that:

Even strong speakers can undercut a whole presentation with multiple endings, or a few
seconds of wobbly indecision at the end. Those last few seconds  amount to the last important picture people remember of you. Watch your body language.

Not even Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty…” line can bail you out if you act nervous, disgusted, insincere or hurried. For example:

1. Don’t step back. If anything, take a half-step toward your listeners at the end. Don’t step back verbally, either, by softening your request to “I surely hope something…” or worse, “There seems to be a need…” Keep saying “we” and “you” to the end.

2. Don’t look away. Some people harken back to the last visual-aid, as if for reinforcement. Some people look aside, unwilling to confront listeners head-on at the last words, the murmured “thank
you,” or the instant of silence that follows. Stay with them.

3. Don’t move on the last word. Hold still for a half-beat after the “you” in “thank you.” You don’t want to look anxious to get out of there. If anything, you want to let people know you’ve enjoyed
being with them and are sorry you have to go. Don’t rush off.

4. Don’t raise your hands. In our seminars, we recommend “clean and firm endings” to actually show people you’re finished. You must “let them go” visually. If you keep your hands up at waist level, you look as if you have something more to say. You’re still “holding them.” (You can see this same phenomenon in one-on-one seated conversations: the person whose hands are up still “holds the floor” and the listener will not begin talking until the hands themselves are finished.) In speaking, think of yourself as the gracious host or hostess as you drop your hands with an appreciative “thank you.” That image prompts you to be warm and natural.

5. Don’t rush to collect your papers. Or visual aids, or displays. Stop and chat with people if the meeting is breaking up, then begin to tidy up in a calm, unhurried manner. Otherwise you might be contradicting your calm, confident demeanor as a presenter.

6. Never blackball yourself
with a critical grimace, a shake of the head, eyes rolled upward, a disgusted little sigh. So what if you’re displeased with yourself? Don’t insult your audience by letting
them know you were awful; they probably thought you were pretty good.Remember the audience only gets what you give them. One lip curl in those last three seconds can wreck 30 minutes of credibility.

So as the @Jack, the founder of Twitter says: “Close with precision!”

13 comments on “Six Don’ts for the End of Your Presentations

  1. Bert,
    How would you recommend ending an online presentation like a webinar or conference call? Some of your 6 apply, but not all as relevant when your audience can not see your body language.

  2. Thanks for the useful post.
    Here’s a “Do” to end a presentation from my experience.
    I end my presentation with an anecdote about a Zen monk giving a 100$ bill for a 5$ tea and waiting for the change in a snack bar. He waits for fifteen minutes and summons the waiter and yells ” Hey, where’s the change ?”. And the waiter replies reverentially
    ” Master, don’t you know that change must come from within ?”
    I usually get uproarious laughter and then I tell them we had a lot of fun and learnt a lot but if you don’t decide internalise atleast one learning, this program will not be of any use to you.
    I continue to receive feedback that this was a memorable ending. Trainers, motivational speakers, please try this out and let me know if it worked for you !
    cheers
    CK

  3. Bert,
    Great article. Before I started AD-Village, I worked at Slideshare.net which is a presentation sharing community. It’s so crucial to end well because that’s how people often remember you. In the last 10 seconds, they also decide whether or not to speak to you after the speech.
    Great connecting thanks to Salvation Army SF!

  4. Sorry Mr. Decker for posting my question in this thread. Is your book “The Art of Communication” is out of print? I can’t get a new copy to buy on Amazon.com or anywhere. Pls how can I get a new copy?.

  5. I used to be so bad about finishing (or not finishing) a speech that you’d only know I was done because I sat down. I like all your points. The one that I hadn’t heard of before is #4, not raising my hands. I’ll have to pay attention to see if I do that.

  6. Great suggestions Bert, I think most people do a lot of the bad things you mention because they don’t like to present and are just happy to be done…but as you say in your last post to not let the audience know you were disappointed, you also don’t want to let them know how badly you want to be done with it! Excellent points!
    Travis Dahle

  7. Good stuff. A friend also told me that it’s okay to let people applaud. Look them in the eye, take a half bow, smile and allow the audience to say thank you.

  8. Excellent advice in my organization we have regular presentation training and practice sessions and I look forward to including the value of the ending your presentation well.