As an educator, we are accustomed to getting up in front of a room full of people and are usually comfortable talking for hours. So why do we get nervous and create a different mindset for a speech or presentation? Even if it’s the tenth time we’ve presented on a certain topic, this is most likely going to happened on some level or another. We change our behaviors and confidence level depending on who the audience is.
The part I have really wanted to focus on lately are closing remarks. How many times have you heard a speaker make their final statement, look around, and then awkwardly end with “so, um, yeah. Thanks!”? I consider this the death ending for a presentation. You do not want to leave the room with that being the last impression you give the audience. Being animated and knowledgable about the content is how you should be remembered.
Preparing for your closing remarks should be just as important as the content of the presentation, and being mindful that you may encounter multiple scenarios will show that you’re confident and well-versed. While instructing a class or workshop, I have never ended a lesson with the type of insecure phrasing I mentioned above. I’ll ask the group if there are any questions, let them know I’m available to discuss the topic further, and finish with a proper salutation. But yet, when I’m standing up at the podium with a microphone in hand, I catch myself wanting to blurt out some flaky catch-phrase to identify the end of my presentation. How do we avoid letting different environmental triggers cloud our thinking process?
When working with students on presentation preparedness, I suggest they consider, and practice, multiple possible outcomes. For instance, ask yourself how will I close after a few questions have been asked and I’m ready to wrap-up the conversation? Or on the other hand, how will I close if I ask the audience if there are any questions, and am only met with silence? That’s when we are tempted to fall into the “so, um, yeah” trap. And lastly, I practice what to say if I am either short on time, or need to waste a few minutes.
Never end a presentation or speech again with the empty feeling of lacking closure. Know your stuff, be prepared, and own it.