The single best way to end your presentation

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Often following your instincts leads to the best results. In presentations, not so much.

Every presentation has a high point. After you reach this high point, you should also start to plan your exit. It’s so counter-intuitive. You’ve finally achieved your goal. You finally have the audience’s attention and what do you do? You leave the stage.

But not so quick! You’ve done most of your job, but your duties are not complete. You owe your audience a good, graceful and effective ending.

How do you achieve that? What is the key to ending a great presentation? Well, I’m here to tell you just that.​

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Tandem Flying by Ben Stanfield on Flickr

What you need to provide is a summary, but I prefer to call it a bird’s eye view. On one hand you should summarize the whole presentation with a really short overview. On the other hand you should take your audience flying above the terrain that you covered during your talk.

Flying gives clarity: you dominate the landscape. Flying is exhilarating: like a god, you look at the earth from above. Flying is magic: you defy the tyranny of gravity.

Take your audience with you on this exciting flight. Show them an overview of what you covered and help them connect the dots of your talk.

It is crucial not to overstay your welcome on stage, but you shouldn’t leave too abruptly either. Don’t rush into the Q&A secretly hoping there are none.

You are easing your audience out of your presentation, back into their own personal world. Your job is more delicate than it was at the beginning, as you need to help your audience capitalize on your presentation, go back to their schedule and their life, but in a changed form. They have learned, experienced, and been transformed by your presentation.​

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A summary is not the only thing you can provide your audience at the end of a presentation. There’s more. We’ll discuss it in the next email. Providing a summary in this stage is grand. You know what is less so? To provide such a summary at the beginning of your presentation and call it an “agenda.” If we are faced with a summary at the beginning of a talk, that list of concepts and topics will not help us at all. At the end of a presentation we know exactly what you mean when you highlight the main concepts.

Until then I will follow my own advice and try to be brief. You should too. A summary is not a time to indulge. You should not take your audience on a long haul flight that bores them, rather a quick flyover that excites them.

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