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You Had Me At Goodbye

The other day I watched a speaker at a conference do exactly what she was supposed to do at the opening of her presentation: she started strong. Instead of boring us with the kind of half-baked opening we all hear too often, (Um, hello, great to be here today, can everyone hear me in the back? etc.) she launched right into a genuinely riveting story that previewed the key themes of her presentation and made us eager to hear more.

Problem was, she didn’t end her presentation with quite so much panache. She just sort of finished talking and said “I think that’s about all I needed to cover – any questions?” No big wrap-up, no final crescendo to send us off into the sunset with a renewed sense of purpose.

Two better ways to end with a bang and keep your key points fresh in the minds of the audience:

– A powerful quote. In wrapping up a paean to President Obama’s oratorical skills, former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown once said: “When he speaks, he gives listeners confidence – not in him, but in themselves. It is said that when Cicero spoke, people said ‘That was a great speech.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said ‘let’s march.’”

– A bookend. If you started with a strong story, consider saving the end of the story for the end of the presentation. “So: remember Meredith, that straight-A high school science student I told you about when we started? Just last week she patented a medical device that will save 20,000 lives next year.”

If you respect your audiences by keeping it interesting from beginning to end, you’ll have a better chance of getting them to remember what you said and what you want them to do.

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Corey McCarren

Great post Bill. I absolutely love that PM Brown quote. I really like public speaking (almost to the point of addiction) and trying to convince audiences, so that really hit home. Waiting to finish a great story until the end is an awesome idea and if I’m ever lucky enough to give speeches or debate on a stage again, I’ll make sure to keep that in mind.

Faith Abiodun

Just finished a presentation at a middle school and then I turn to GovLoop to read exactly what I did. How more awesome could that be? Great job, Bill. You’re so on point.