Tuesday, April 17, 2007

PowerPoint Tip - Finish Strong, Not Long

You have heard it said many times that the most important parts of your presentation are the start and the end. Presenters spend time thinking about how to introduce their topic and engage the audience. Certainly important to do. But too many times presenters end their presentation weakly, leaving a poor impression that sinks their presentation despite what they had said earlier.

The most common ways to end a presentation are also the worst possible ways to do so. I see way too many presentations finish with a slide that says "Questions?" or "Thank You!" in big bold type in the center of the slide. This is the worst way to end your presentation, especially if you are doing a persuasive or sales presentation. Why? By saying "Thank You", all you have done is thank them for sitting through your presentation, where do you go from there? If you end with "Questions?", you have just invited the audience to question what you have told them. It suggests that they should have questions about your message and maybe you have questions about it too because you are not sure it is a solid argument.

So how should you end a presentation? Not the way one of my clients suggested a few months ago. They wanted to introduce a new analogy on the last slide with maybe some music. All this would have taken a few minutes to do and have been very risky. Never introduce new information on the last slide. The end of your presentation is for summarizing, not potentially confusing the audience with new stuff.

The strongest close to a presentation is with a recap of the points you have made and an invitation to discuss the next steps. Assume they understood and followed your logical arguments (you did prepare a proper structure first, right?). Assume they are ready to take the next steps. So lay out what those steps are and be ready to discuss them. The title of the last slide should be "Discussion of Next Steps". This way, you are moving the discussion forward and making the most of the time the audience has invested with you.

A strong close is even more important when presenting to executives. They don't have time to waste and you better not be the one wasting it. Data based presentations are the toughest for executives, so if you have one coming up, check out my e-book "Presenting Data to Executives". It covers the keys to success when you are in front of the top folks in your organization. Go to http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/presentdata.htm to get your copy.


Blogger Lisa Braithwaite said...

Great points, Dave! Presentations that end with "thank you" or "that's it" are a snooze.

I'd like to add that questions should never be the end of the presentation.

A speaker should have a strong (and brief) closing prepared for AFTER the questions, so that people don't just drift away after Q&A, or worse, get sidetracked by an off-topic question and leave with THAT in their heads instead of your message.

8:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home