Close with Impact
I was quite surprised at a friend’s wedding that he and the bride performed a dance routine for their first dance. He didn’t seem the dancing type. He’s a CEO with a pretty conservative organization. When I asked, he told me he got the nerve to do it because his dance instructor said
“Focus on the beginning and end.
Get those right and all the mistakes in between won’t matter.”
Turns out this is good advice for more than dance routines. It’s just as true for your presentation.
The importance of the beginning and the end is based in science – since 1925 we’ve known about the primacy and latency effects. Even then it was not a new discovery. Ebbinghaus published the first studies on this phenomenon in the 1880s. In summary,
We remember best that which comes first,
second best that which comes last, and
least that which comes just past the middle.
Your audience will most likely remember the beginning and end of your presentation. And yet, those are the two big areas neglected in presentations.
How can we close our presentations so that our goals are met? So that your audience remembers you and your message, and takes the action you’re hoping for?
There are tons of techniques for closing. We’ll discuss just one here:
A Provocative Question
A truly provocative question will challenge traditions, customs, habits, and ideologies.
The most probing questions might generate embarrassment, anger, and resentment.
On the more positive side,
will foster empathy, fresh understanding of a problem,
and commitment to action.
Here’s an example that of provocative questions done with effect.
Entrepreneur and CEO Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? Here he is describing it in a TED Talk
He ends with a series of life questions, with the most provocative one at the very end: “And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?”
I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane –and please don’t –but imagine, and how would you change?
What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here forever?
How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them?
And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?
The Scariest Provocative Question
If you’re feeling very brave, and for some reason it seems to require bravery, us this provocative question:
“What do you think?”
And then be quiet.
The quiet is the scary part. End your whole presentation this way; or end segments of it as you present various points and benefits.
Silence is powerful. Even more powerful is what’s happening inside your audience’s head. This scary provocative question plus silence might be just the combination to pull out those valuable thoughts.
Question for You, Reader
Have you ever:
- Asked a provocative question? How did it go?
- Asked the audience what they think; and then let them answer? How did that go?
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