“Oh?! [Silence] I guess that’s it. …Err? [ Silence] Any Questions ?”

I was thinking of calling this article: ‘The Blue-screen-of-Death and how to avoid it’. But then I thought that was a bit melodramatic. Now I’m not so sure.

The people who write hit Broadway musicals know a thing or two about the vital importance of ‘strong endings’. That’s why they always save their best tune for the last part of the show..especially the finale. They want their audiences to be leaving the theatre humming that song…the one they can’t get out of their heads. The tune that sells it to the next 500 audiences. Maybe the next 5000 audiences. It is a well known aphorism for success on Broadway: “Leave them singing your song!”

Alas…99% of the business presenters I’ve seen in the past 40 years just haven’t woken up to this fundamental requirement for their own presentation. They plan and design all their slides…..they then use the slides to prompt them through their live presentation (usually in a motionless, no eye-contact, monotone but we’ll let that pass for now). But then …..all of a sudden (and often to their own surprise it seems to me) they press the button once again but instead of another nice pretty slide they get ‘The Blue Screen of Death’ That ominous, featureless, vertical, luminescent, blue rectangular desert that tells them: ‘Yep..that’s all you gave me. You’re on your own now. So…what’s the plan?’

From the audience angle we then witness the rapid collapse of a human being grasping for a lifeline: the body language first..often arms become folded…a bit of lip-biting …some swaying…eyes like a deer caught in the headlights. (Brain clearly racing). Then the Voice-tone cracked and all spoken sentences suddenly constructed as questions:

“Oh?!…well?…err?……… I guess that’s it?….um?.[Silence]….So…err? Any questions?…[Silence]…mmm?….nobody?..[Silence] None at all?……[gritted teeth smile] ..OK well we seem to be about 10 minutes earleee… soooo [Looking desperately at event organiser] should we break for coffee?.. [Pleading] ….OK? Yes …errr?..Thank you!”

Now…let me ask you. If you were in the audience would you be inclined to buy an idea…a product…or a service from the person who has just delivered that ‘finale’. Indeed the presentation delivery prior to that last part might have been a quite bit (or even a lot) above average. But the complete failure by the speaker to plan a decent, strong, powerful, confident, conclusion has just rendered all that effort null and void.

The concluding part of a business presentation is so important for achieving a successful outcome that (although I’m not advocating learning it off-by-heart in advance) if there was one thing you might consider learning off by heart in advance it would be your concluding paragraph.

The concluding part of a presentation is often the only thing that wakes-up an audience . In fact if at any point in your presentation you say the words “So finally in conclusion let me summarise the main points again” you will hear pens pencils and notepads shuffling in the audience as they capture your golden nuggets of wisdom.

And it’s so easy to do it well:

To construct a proper memorable presentation conclusion follow this:-

1) There should be nothing new in the conclusion- just a precis of the important headline things you’ve just been telling them. [ Try and ensure that there are not more than three]

2) Tell them how they (as individuals) will benefit (or avoid a problem) by following your ideas.[ People will follow you only if they see a personal (not corporate) benefit]

3) Tell them what it is you want them to do as a result of this presentation. [Research shows that audiences expect to be asked to do something at the end; don’t disappoint them]

“So in conclusion let me say this. You can now see why continuing with the spigot grafter is a dangerous even suicidal strategy. Why the new electro welder will eliminate those problems in less than six months. You can also see now that while it may seem expensive it will actually save us several million in the next decade. The current worrying cost overruns even on the most pessimistic forecasts will disappear and that will rapidly translate into the sort of profits that will ensure the company’s future, your future, your jobs and your pensions. So I ask that the Executive Committee supports this change and invokes the implementation plan you have already seen and allows the work to begin at the end of Q2. Ladies and Gentlemen that’s all I have to say. What questions do you have?”

Practice delivering this last section in a confident, low-register, un-hurried voice. (Keep Winston Churchill in your head). If you have to learn it off-by-heart then do….but at least make sure that you have said those words several times out-loud before you deliver the presentation. And notice that it is far stronger to say at the end not: ‘Do you have any questions? but instead always say in an authoritative (and very much stronger) manner: “What questions do you have?”

And finally to be really persuasive and memorable and “leave them singing your song”….after you have taken questions simply have the real last word.

You do this by repeating once again (before you leave the stage) your prepared concluding paragraph. You’ll bowl them over!

Like”Oh?! [Silence] I guess that’s it. …Err? [ Silence] Any Questions ?”

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *