I recently reviewed an article about how to end a presentation. Presumably, the author was discussing a rather typical presentation format. As an example, a one-hour presentation would typically consist of a 45 minute discussion, with an opening, the body, and a closing; followed by approximately 10 minutes of a question and answer session.
The author explained that the presenter should end the Q&A with something like, “That was a great presentation. Are there any other question?” After hearing no others, he continues with, “Well, I think that’s about it. I want to thank you once again for allowing me to speak to you today. If you have any further questions or want additional information, please feel free to contact me at [frank@SpotlightPresenter.com] or by phone [at 714-408-9287]“ Note: the contact information in brackets is mine.
The author is correct in his premise to add an ending to the Q&A session because many presenters may not. However, I see some difficulties in his approach.
- The presenter should not ask, “Are there any other question?” One possible reason presenters do not provide an ending is because they are asked one last question which takes the presenter beyond his/her allotted time. The presenter should be watching his/her time and say something like, “We have time for one last [add quick, short, if necessary] question.” Or, the presenter could say, “I see that we have no more time for questions.” and then he could continue with his/her ending.
- I see two concerns with “Well, I think that’s about it.” First, what does that phrase really mean and why say it in the first place? Just get rid of it and begin with , “I want to thank you…”
And the second thought, you should refrain from saying phrases like, “I think.” Merely say, “Well, that’s about it,” but again, simply don’t say it at all because it doesn’t add any value to a presentation.
- The rest of the ending is okay, i.e. “I want to thank you once again for allowing me to speak to you today. If you have any further questions…”
However, this leads to my belief that a presenter should end with the conclusion and not with a Q&A session or an “ending.” In my book, 31 Tips to Becoming an Effective Presenter,” I explain when to ask for questions and why. As I note in the book, “After a few questions and answers, your excitement from the powerful conclusion wanes and you’re left without taking any action.”
Wouldn’t you want to end your presentation with a “call to action;” otherwise, why give a presentation unless you have a specific message? I also understand that some presentations are purely informational; yet, would you rather leave the audience uplifted with your message rather than leaving them with negative thoughts?
Having a Q&A session after your conclusion may drag you away from your message and your call to action for your audience. For example, consider the following scenario. A hospital administrator gives a 45 minute presentation on the latest findings on a miraculous cure for breast cancer. He had three main points, 1) Why the research was initiated, 2) Key benefits of the research, and 3), the results and anticipated outcome of the research. His conclusion ends with a call to action, i.e., “We now have a procedure to save 99.5% of the lives struck down with breast cancer. We must implement this procedure in every hospital in the U.S.; however, I need your assistance to promote this procedure to your administrators and those in other hospitals.” “Your hospital has had budgetary issues in the past. How do you plan to carry out your procedure?” This question may lead to other budgetary questions, which could result in the audience leaving with their own budget issues and forgetting about the marvelous procedure to treat breast cancer and your call to action.
Then what should you do? In my book, I give two recommendations. One way is to ask for questions before beginning your conclusion. Leave about five minutes for your conclusion and with the answer to the last question, lead the audience back to your message. For example, even if the last question was about the budget, you may answer the question by saying something like, “Yes, budgeting for this procedure will be difficult, yet remember the number of lives we will save. Ladies and gentlemen,…” Then finish with your conclusion.
If you want to thank anyone, do it near the beginning of your presentation. More on that later.