Simon prepares the last section of his science presentation. He wants to draw a clear conclusion by presenting new findings and discussing them with the audience. As in the beginning and middle part, he is accompanied by his mentor Sarah, who can draw on her wealth of experience and provides Simon with valuable information for his performance.
The first impression at the beginning of a presentation can be reinforced or revised in the closing and the follow-up discussion. It is Simon’s second chance to be positively remembered by the audience.
The majority of presentations end in the classic way: contents are summarized once again. Resulting conclusions and a “thank you” follow before the moderator leads over to the discussion.
What message remains?
A meaningful conclusion, depicted in all its facets and presented figuratively, is better remembered than a sequence of abstract and lengthy information. In the main part of his presentation, Simon describes scenarios based on his results. In the last section he can emphasize their importance in practical everyday life and put them up for discussion. For this purpose, short and clearly comprehensible contents are important.
From her own experience Sarah knows how a presentation should not be held: Some speakers speed up the pace at the end of their presentation because they want to add further important content quickly, although there is no time left for it. Other speakers spontaneously bring in new ideas they have not considered in the preparation phase. Still others find no suitable conclusion and meander through the last section without concluding.
The final impression remains – and won’t be a good one in these cases: Quickly and concisely presented contents end up in the nirvana of other hardly average lectures and are just as quickly forgotten, instead of leaving positive marks in the audience’s memory. Spontaneity is better off in brainstorming, and question marks in the audience’s minds do not exactly make the speaker appear in a good light. Even the relieved sigh when leaving the stage remains in the memory. That should not be the message that gets stuck with the audience.
Promoting a culture of debate
A strong ending has a positive impact, stimulates further reflection and possibly even contains an appeal, i.e. a concrete call to action the audience can implement easily. This has a much stronger effect than the infamous “thank-you-slide” displaying flowers and animals, or listing all the people who have contributed to the success of the project.
Simon can shape the end of his lecture with questions as follows:
- What new knowledge do I pass on to my audience?
- What conclusion can I draw from this? (Short and clear sentences!)
- What is my last sentence?
With his presentation, Simon can both share his expertise and move his project forward. The follow-up discussion is ideal to address open questions and exchange ideas. Already in the middle part of the presentation, he raises questions that he would like to discuss later. He also invites people particularly interested in the topic to continue the discussion in the next coffee break. Simon thus demonstrates openness to further professional exchange.
To conclude the preparation Sarah provides the following questions:
- Which open topics would I like to take up in the discussion?
- What comprehension questions can I usually expect?
- Which questions do people like to discuss controversially?
Now Simon is optimally prepared for his presentation and discussion. Another advantage of this approach: In case the audience does not ask any questions, he can ask questions himself, such as “What possible effects do you see in practice?” or “What critical points do you see here?” He may also discuss results that cannot yet be clearly interpreted and, at best, clarify them.
The last sentence always belongs to the speaker! If there is any time left at the end of the discussion, Simon can end his presentation with a short personal anecdote. In any case, thanks to Sarah’s hints, he is optimally prepared for his next presentation. Of course Sarah will also sit in the audience and can later provide Simon with qualified feedback for his presentation.
This post is also available in: German