End with a Bang!

The ending of your presentation should be its pinnacle, not its abyss. Everything that you have done so far should lead up to a crescendo. I recommend that you never end a presentation with a dry restatement of the agenda. Never say, “Let’s summarize what we’ve covered.” Go back to why attendees are here in the first place.

If the presentation was meant to address a problem or a yearning, do not simply remind them of that fact. Get them to feel it. Creating a feeling rather than describing it is one of the most basic differences between writing and poetry. Standard communication tells you that it is snowing, but poetry compels you to feel the coldness and wetness of the snow. It evokes the emotion of what it was like when you were a child, saw the pure white blanket, and felt that thrilling sense of not having to go to school. Go back to your introduction, conjure up the hopes and dreams that participants had at the beginning of the presentation, and help them imagine what it will feel like when they realize those dreams.

Focus on enabling attendees to answer the following questions:

Why did they come there? What was their goal?
What will they do tomorrow, in a week, and in a month to attain that goal?
What was their experience like?
What type of support can they expect from you, or from others?
What will success be like for them personally? 
How will they continue what they have started today?

Two Great Unfounded Fears

Most presenters have two unfounded fears: (1) that they will finish their presentation early, and (2) that they will not have enough time to share all the information that they wanted to cover. Since most of us are well versed in the subject matter of our virtual presentation, we feel that we have a great deal of knowledge and would like to share as much of it as we can with our attendees. Often, we overestimate the amount of knowledge that suits our goals and attendees’ patience. Whenever possible, slim down your virtual presentation so that you can end on time. Most of us have complained when presentations ran over, but I do not think that anybody has ever complained when one ended early. We are typically overjoyed that we have a few moments in which to send an e-mail or make a call before our next meeting. Finally, it is far better to leave your audience hungry for more than overwhelmed than bored with having received too much. Let the attendees crave a bit more, so that they will explore on their own, attend your more advanced presentation, or look forward to a follow-up call.

Receiving Feedback
One of the best ways to improve your virtual presentation is to solicit feedback on how well it went. As I’ve mentioned before, there are several ways to do this, such as asking attendees to complete a comment form or a survey. You may also feel that if they do not complete the form while they are in the presentation, they never will. You are probably right! My recommendation is that you think very hard about what type of information you really need and keep your questions to a bare minimum. Reasonable requests are:

How likely are you to use the skills covered in this presentation within the next week?
Are you interested in knowing more about how our event management services can make planning your next event more convenient?
How comfortable do you feel with your knowledge of our new health plan? 
Are there any areas that you still find unclear?
Would you like to stay in touch? How (e-mail or phone) and when?

Be very specific, and do not ask for information that you are not sure you will use. Regardless of how much time you give them, participants will probably spend less than a minute providing you with information, so choose what you request wisely. You can always send a more detailed questionnaire in a day or two.

Never End a Presentation with a Question-and-Answer Session
You need to end your presentation with an inspirational finale and a call to action. Nothing is more deflating than then a question-and-answer session. Try doing these throughout your session or early in your ending. I know that this sounds counterintuitive, but trust me: it works.

Be Helpful
Display your e-mail or Web address for at least 30 seconds toward the end of your presentation. This will convince attendees that you really do want them to contact you if they have any questions. Be sure to respond to any questions in 24 hours or less.

Disconnect Please
Ask all attendees to disconnect from the session, and make sure that they do so. Be very sure of this before you make any comments that you may regret later. People have lost good careers for not being careful about making sure that all attendees gave disconnected before making “questionable” remarks.

This is an except from “Virtual Presentations that Work”, published by McGraw-Hill Professional, and available from Amazon.com and other fine booksellers.