Why is a presentation's ending so important?

Your presentation’s ending will likely be the most memorable part for your audience, no matter how excellent the rest of your presentation is. Therefore, knowing how to wrap up a talk effectively is crucial to leaving a lasting, positive impression. 

With the proper ending, you'll accomplish a multitude of beneficial things, including:

Driving home your point

The end of a presentation is your final chance to emphasize your key points. Instead of merely repeating what you've said, rephrase your ideas in a new, intriguing way to provide fresh insights. This technique reinforces your main points and adds novelty, maintaining your audience's interest and engagement until the end.

Inspiring action

A successful conclusion should summarize your talk and motivate your audience to think or act differently. It can be a call to action, a quote, a question, an inspiration, or even a challenge that stirs emotions and provokes thought. For example, if discussing environmental footprint, challenge your audience to make one eco-friendly change in their daily routine. This feeling of being personally invested makes them more likely to act on your message.

Connecting with the audience emotionally 

Your conclusion affects your audience's emotions and attitudes, offering a last chance to establish a positive connection. Maya Angelou said, “People won't remember what you said or did, but how you made them feel.” An inspiring or thought-provoking statement at the end can motivate and engage your audience, improving their overall perception of you and your message. The "serial position effect" suggests that people remember the beginning and end of an event more clearly, making a strong conclusion vital for a memorable presentation.

Leaving a favorable impression

An effective conclusion demonstrates your command of the topic, showcasing your knowledge and ability to communicate it persuasively. This positive final impression solidifies the audience's confidence in your expertise, which can enhance your credibility, leading to better engagement in future interactions and opportunities within your field.

Providing closure

The end of your presentation brings everything together, providing context, meaning, and closure for your audience. It sums up your arguments, ties up loose ends, and creates a sense of completion. A well-crafted ending gives coherence and unity to your presentation, offering your audience satisfaction and a clear understanding of your message.

12 ways to end your presentation

While the best approach may vary depending on the subject matter, the following twelve methods are general best practices to familiarize yourself with:

1. Reiterate key points and core message

Recap your presentation's key points and central message concisely and powerfully to help your audience remember the core message. Repetition is a powerful technique for reinforcing concepts. But refrain from rehashing without adding further value. Instead, tie your main points together or connect them to the larger context or real-world applications. You can use a relatable instance or a compelling anecdote to emphasize your central idea and make it more memorable. In your final summary, aim to refresh your audience's memory, not bore them with repetition.

2. Include a strong call-to-action (CTA)

Encourage your audience to take action related to your presentation's content. That might mean trying out a product, applying a specific technique, or learning more about your topic. This interaction helps make your presentation more engaging and impactful and clarifies what to do next.

3. Use industry tools for assistance

Tools like PowerPoint, Google Slides, or other presentation software create visually compelling slides that support your narrative and help drive the key points home. You can also use interactive tools like Mentimeter, Poll Everywhere, or Evenium ConnexMe to connect with your audience in real-time, gauging their understanding and your impact throughout the presentation. You might be able to use these insights to customize your conclusion to directly address your audiences’ thoughts, questions, or concerns, making it more personalized and impactful. However, modifying the end of a presentation to incorporate a live audience’s feedback may be best left to very experienced public speakers. For most presenters, sticking to a well-prepared and polished conclusion ensures a more cohesive, impactful end to your presentation.

4. Place your Q&A before the conclusion

Ending with a question-and-answer session can diminish the impact of your presentation. A Q&A often involves improvisation and might divert from your main message, leaving the audience with a less cohesive final impression. Instead, schedule the Q&A just before your conclusion. You can address questions and steer the presentation back to your polished ending. By finishing with a strong, rehearsed message or a compelling call to action, you reinforce your key points and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

5. End with a memorable quote

You can use an existing quote if you’re struggling to find the inspiration to create a strong closing statement. A pertinent, powerful quote can leave a lasting impression, especially if it embodies the central message of your presentation. Try to pull from accomplished or notable people in a field related to your presentation's topic. For example, if you've been discussing having an innovation mindset, you could close with a quote by Steve Jobs: "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." This quote should similarly capture your presentation's essence and give your audience a memorable soundbite. 

6. Close with a story

A well-told story can tie together your main points and keep your audience invested until the end. The power of a story lies in its ability to engage the listener's emotions, making the information more memorable. A relevant story (personal, fictional, or anecdotal about a known person) can help to highlight your primary message. Remember to keep the story brief to avoid rambling or confusing the audience, as well as engaging and consistent with the tone of your presentation.

7. Mirror your opening statement

This strategy provides a sense of closure and symmetry to your presentation. In other words, you introduced an idea at the beginning of your presentation, and now you close the loop with your ending. If you start with a question, end by answering it. If you began with a problem, close with the resolution. This mirroring links your ideas together and provides a sense of completeness. It can also help the audience retain more information throughout the presentation, as linking the beginning and end of your presentation makes them more closely consider how you got from point A to point B.

8. Elicit a response

Encourage your audience to reflect on and react to your presentation—through a question, a challenge, a quick reflective exercise, or even an invitation to participate in an activity or discussion. The point is to keep them engaged with the material for as long as possible to help them commit things to memory and respond to your presentation's purpose.

9. Hand out materials

Distributing physical or digital handouts, such as brochures or links to further resources, can extend the impact of your presentation. Ideally, the materials should include a summary of your talk, a step-by-step guide for implementing any proposed strategies, or supplementary reading on your topic. Consider including contact information or a brief bio so attendees can connect with you after the presentation.

10. Acknowledge contributors

If relevant, recognize the work of other team members or reference sources. Doing so shows humility and authenticity and gives everyone credit for making the presentation what it is. In addition, it shows that you’ve done your research, which increases your presentation's value.

11. Showcase memorable statistics

Highlight important figures or data to emphasize the importance of your message. In most cases, this will mean restating certain information you covered throughout the body of the presentation.

For example, imagine starting your presentation by asking, "Did you know that 90% of the world's data has been created in the last two years?" 

In this scenario, you could emphasize your main point and demonstrate the significance of what the audience has learned by stating, "By applying the data management strategies we've talked about today, companies can cut their data processing costs by up to 40%, resulting in substantial savings and improved efficiency."

12. Provide a thought-provoking prompt

A question or statement that challenges existing beliefs can trigger reflection and keep your audience thinking about your message long after the presentation ends. For instance, if your presentation is about the urgency of tackling climate change, you could end with a compelling question like, "What will be the cost if we don't act now?"

Alternatively, if your topic is the advancement of technology, you could leave your audience with a thought-provoking statement like, "Technology is only as good or as evil as the intent behind its use." Regardless of your topic, be sure to craft a prompt that encourages introspection, challenges the status quo, and aligns with the core message of your presentation.

Considerations before crafting your conclusion

Understanding the role of a powerful conclusion is crucial, but bringing one to life requires a different skill set. Achieving our discussed goals becomes challenging without the ability to skillfully manage various ideas and objectives simultaneously.

To craft a conclusion that leaves a lasting impression, thoughtfully weigh these factors before diving in:

Understanding your audience

Understanding your audience's demographics is incredibly important when crafting your presentation's conclusion—this includes age, education level, profession, and possibly even cultural background. 

For example, if you're presenting to a group of seasoned industry professionals, use more technical language and detailed data. 

Conversely, if you're presenting to high school students, use more straightforward language and include more visuals to aid understanding. Try to consider any potential language barriers within your audience and plan your conclusion so that as many people as possible can understand it.

The general purpose of your presentation

Knowing the general purpose of your presentation helps you decide the tone of your conclusion. If the purpose is to inform, your conclusion should powerfully summarize and reinforce the crux of the information. If the purpose is to persuade, your conclusion should include a compelling call to action or a persuasive summary that drives home your main argument. 

On the other hand, if your presentation should entertain, the conclusion can be light-hearted, leaving your audience with a smile. If your goal is to inspire, your conclusion should draw on powerful quotes, real-life examples, or future projections that spark inspiration and motivate your audience toward a certain goal or change.

The specific purpose of your presentation

Beyond the general purpose, what are your specific objectives? For instance, if you want your audience to adopt the new software you've just presented, your objective could be getting at least 50% of them to download a free trial by the end of the week. 

Knowing this specific objective will inform the kind of call-to-action you include in your conclusion. You could briefly demonstrate how simple the software is to install and use, or you could share a promotional code to access premium features during their trial period.

Your thesis statement

Recall the central argument or message you imparted during your presentation, otherwise known as your thesis. Your conclusion should reflect on your thesis, strengthening it and leaving no room for doubt about its validity. 

For instance, if your presentation's thesis is about the significant role of sustainability in business, your conclusion should reinforce this by summarizing the key arguments you made throughout your presentation, offering compelling evidence or insights that underscore the importance of sustainability, and perhaps even suggesting innovative ways businesses could incorporate more sustainable practices in their operations.

Famous examples of ending a presentation

For some real-life inspiration, look at how some famous people ended their presentations:

Sheryl Sandberg

In her 2010 TED Talk, Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders, Sandberg’s closing statement challenges women to take an active role in their professional environments: "So my final piece of advice for women who want to be leaders in their companies, their industries, their fields, their governments: believe in yourself, keep your hand up, sit at the table."

Elon Musk

When Musk launched Tesla's Powerwall, he concluded by painting a vivid picture of a world powered by sustainable energy. He stated, "The sun doesn't shine at night, so we need something to store the energy from the sun so you can use it at night. The solution is in two parts. Part one is the solar roof, and part two is the Powerwall." Doing so stirred the audience's imagination and gauged their support for such a vision while hopefully drawing further support for green energy technology.

Barack Obama

In his 2008 presidential victory speech, President Obama ended by reiterating the slogan of his campaign—"Yes, we can,"—inspiring hope and action among his audience while reinforcing himself as a force for change in politics. He said, "This is our time to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."

Brené Brown

In her popular TED Talk about vulnerability, Brown says, "Let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee." It ignited a powerful emotional connection while challenging them to change their lives after they left the presentation.

Malala Yousafzai

In her speech to the United Nations, Malala Yousafzai passionately advocated for education for all children, especially girls: She said, "Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first." It left a lasting impression of her passion and determination, making the audience think about how they could contribute to this future.

Key phrases to end a presentation

You can use specific phrases to make your conclusion more effective, such as:

  • "In conclusion/To sum up/In summary"
  • "Let's make a difference by..."
  • "Imagine how things could be if we..."
  • "I would like to leave you with this thought..."

Remember, it's not just about the words but how you deliver them. Say these phrases with conviction, sincerity, and enthusiasm to connect with your audience.

The last card

A presentation's ending is crucial as it's the most memorable part for the audience. A strong conclusion reinforces key points, inspires action, connects emotionally, leaves a positive impression, and provides closure.

Effective techniques include reiterating key points, using a strong call-to-action, ending with a memorable quote or story, mirroring the opening statement, and eliciting a response.

Additionally, understanding your audience, the presentation's purpose and your thesis statement is essential for crafting a powerful conclusion.

Famous examples of impactful presentation endings include those by Sheryl Sandberg, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Brené Brown, and Malala Yousafzai.

Top presenters rely on Pip Decks' Storyteller Tactics cards to skillfully craft presentations that inspire, persuade, and exude confidence. Learn more.

FAQs

What’s the worst way to end a presentation?

Knowing what to avoid at the end of your presentation is crucial. 

Abrupt endings can leave your audience hanging and may give the impression of being unprepared or rushed. 

Introducing new information during the conclusion is also a common mistake. Use this time to summarize and reinforce your main points, not to present new ideas. 

As previously discussed, ending with a Q&A session can dilute your closing impact and is best saved for just before your final remarks. 

Overloading your final slide with too much information can confuse your audience and detract from your main points. 

It's also important not to forget a clear call to action, which guides your audience on what to do next based on your presentation. 

Finally, ignoring the audience during your conclusion is a missed opportunity to connect more deeply and leave a lasting impression.

What do I put on a conclusion slide?

Here are seven common elements to consider including on a conclusion slide:

  1. Key takeaways: Summarize the essential points you want your audience to remember.
  2. A closing statement: Capture the main ideas in your presentation.
  3. Call-to-action: Tell your audience what you'd like them to do next.
  4. Contact information: Let your audience know how to reach you for further discussions or questions.
  5. Visuals: Use impactful images or charts that reflect the message of your presentation.
  6. Next steps: If relevant, tell them what will happen next.
  7. Inspirational quote: This could be your audience's final push or motivation.

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