A strong closing adds immeasurably to the success of your presentation. The closing serves to (1) signal the end of the presentation; (2) summarize and/or reinforce what has been said; and (3) leave the audience with one last favorable impression of the speaker. Some guidelines for closing a presentation are:
- Tell them that this is the closing. Signal the audience that the presentation is over. Often this is done with a long pause. If necessary to be clear, use closing language (e.g. "In conclusion. . .", "In closing. . ."). Signaling the closing draws the audience's close attention.
- Get to the point. Make your closing clear and short. Don't ramble on. Once you start the closing, never back track to make new points. This frustrates audiences who see the end in sight.
- Make your closing relate back. A closing should connect specifically to what you have said. A common mistake is a stock closing, or a closing selected for its "artistic" quality that has no relationship to the presentation. It sounds discordant and may be seen as forced or insincere. You had a central message to this presentation. Be sure your closing reinforces that message. You should know and have recorded that central message (see The business card technique). You may want to firmly and convincingly state that central message as you wrote it out.
- Tell the audience what you want them to do. In preparing, one of the first decisions you made was what you specifically wanted this audience to do as a result of your presentation (learn new ideas, facts or perspective, be persuaded of your position, be motivated to act, or vote in a certain way, etc.) A purposeful closing has a "call to action"—a refrain that states why you are speaking to this audience and what your presentation asks of them.
- Have a closing plan—but a flexible one. You should prepare a tentative closing as part of your overall preparation. This can assure that your closing is concise, calls the audience to action, and is memorable. But, even a well crafted closing must allow flexibility for unforseen events in the course of your presentation. Your reading of the audience's reaction may cause you to change the emphasis of your closing. You may have made unanticipated points (such as in answer to questions) that you want to incorporate into your closing. Or you may have deleted points from your presentation due to time restraints.
- Make your closing memorable. The closing lines of some presentations leave a lasting impression on an audience. It is usually a happy coincidence of opportunity and artistry. Some techniques that can work are: images that relate back to the introduction quotations, ending with a question, or challenge or telling a short, simple (usually personal) story. Another technique or message reinforcement is to use a closing that relates back to a key point in your opening, such as answering a question asked in the opening or adding an epilogue to a story told in the opening.
- Finish and exit with style. Too many speakers finish weakly. Some disappear without the audience realizing they have gone or their voice trails off to an unintended, weak whisper. Some start leaving the podium before they finish speaking. Some spend too much time gathering their papers or other paraphernalia and may "chatter" apologetically as they do so. End your remarks on a rising inflection. Speak slowly for emphasis. Say "thank you" if you deem it appropriate to the occasion. Finish with style to accentuate your fine presentation. When finished talking, hold the podium for the first few seconds of the applause keeping a strong connection with the audience (e.g. eye contact). Walk with dignity to your seat on or off the stage. If you remain on stage remember that many people in the audience will still be looking at you for some time after your presentation. Act accordingly.