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!”