Have you ever noticed how we ask, “Where do I start?” but rarely ask, “How do I end?” I’m not talking about life, of course, just to be clear. I’m talking about communicating. It’s especially tricky when we’re in the spotlight. Making a presentation, giving a speech, or even sometimes an update in a meeting. All these situations present the challenge for how to wrap it up effectively.
The most common way to efficiently wrap up your talk is by summarizing the key points you want your audience to remember. (That’s also a great place to start.) Now is not the time to introduce new material. The conclusion of your presentation should be that—the natural conclusion. Not something that will open a new can of worms for your audience.
Beyond summarizing the key points, you can summarize the next steps. If there was an action plan created as part of the presentation, reminding people of what comes next can be important as well as motivating. Be sure to say who will do what by when.
I’m not a fan of leaving Q&A till the end. It’s a personal preference. I’d rather engage the audience throughout the presentation and answer any questions they have as we go. If I’ve gotten them talking during the presentation, they’re much more likely to let me know if they have a question at the end. Adding a specific time on designated for Q&A can cause a lot of discomfort for the speaker and for the audience. You’re more likely to get manufactured or forced questions. Go for true engagement before the ending instead.
Knowing when and how to wrap up a presentation becomes much clearer when you do the preparation ahead of time. That allows you to plan your key points, plan the examples and illustrations of those key points, plan for engagement, and get out. If you must ask for questions, do so before your final wrap up. Ask what else you might need to explain or cover. Ask what they think of it all. And then wrap it up with a simple summary. Practice the ending as much as you practice the beginning. You got this.