A conclusion may seem like the easiest part of a presentation to prepare. Maybe so easy that you don’t put much thought into it at all. This would be a mistake.
I fact I would suggest that the conclusion is the most important part of your presentation. The conclusion is the last thing that the audience will hear from you. Your audience will forget if some of the body of your presentation was unclear or even a little boring, but this is not the case with your conclusion. If your conclusion is unclear or boring, even if the rest of the presentation was interesting, your audience will leave disappointed.
You should spend a fair amount of time on your conclusion, both in preparing the content and practising the delivery. The secret to having to having a great conclusion is to finish strong. Have some key phrases that you have prepared in advance that not only summarise your key message, but do so in a memorable way. Because the last thing that you want to happen in the conclusion is make a grammar mistake or forget the English word for something.
Some conclusions are so powerful that they are the most memorable part of the speech. In 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was preparing the British people for an escalation of attacks from Nazi Germany when he gave one of his most famous speeches. However, it was the conclusion that was the most powerful, so powerful that the speech was named after the last sentence:
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire lasts for thousands of years, men will say: ‘This was their finest hour.’”
Here are some dos and don’ts to help you end with a strong conclusion.
- Do summarise your key message. What do you want the audience to remember when they leave the room? This should probably be your key message. It should be interwoven throughout the different parts of your presentation, but you should definitely repeat it clearly in your conclusion. You can also include any secondary points that are worth revisiting in your conclusion.
- Do make a call to action. What do you want them to do differently after your presentation? Make this clear to them so they know what action they should take after your presentation.
- Do stay calm. Make eye contact with different areas of the audience, stand with confidence and most importantly smile. Look like you enjoy being there. Because if you look like you enjoyed giving the presentation then there is a greater chance that the audience will enjoy it as well.
- Do step forward. When you begin your conclusion make sure you are in the centre of the stage, so that both sides of the audience can see you. Then take a step closer to the audience to connect more closely with them and emphasise that you are concluding.
- Don’t end by saying thank you. The audience should be thanking you as the speaker for informing them, entertaining them or even inspiring them! This is a very weak conclusion and not very memorable. If you need to thank specific people, do it just before the conclusion or somewhere in your introduction.
- Don’t rush off the stage. No matter how the presentation went (good, bad or somewhere in between) stay on the stage and make eye contact with the audience. Enjoy the applause. Shake hands with the moderator or the person who introduced you. Stay confident!
- Don’t end by asking for questions. This may seem like strange advice, but in fact ending with a question and answer session reduces the impact of your conclusion. You don’t know what questions you will get during the session and can’t control what will be said. Instead, make the question and answer session before your conclusion. Then when time is almost up thank the audience for their questions and begin your conclusion clearly with a phrase such as, ‘In conclusion…’, ‘To sum up….’, or ‘Allow me to close with this…’.