It is always interesting to hear the answers to the question “what is the most important part of a presentation/speech?” when we raise it in our sessions. The most common answers are centred around; well the centre of the presentation. I.e. the core content.
Whilst that is a completely understandable response; and it is of course vital that you get the core content and message correct; don’t forget that if you don’t get the audience’s attention to the core content, it is wasted; and if you don’t leave them wanting more, feeling motivated, informed, or won over as they exit the room, then the heights you took them too has been lost. It is due to this that in, our opinion, the book ends are the most important. The start and finish are going to get the focus and conclusion that you need.
The most common start to a presentation is the reiteration of who they are and what the presentation will be about, even though we already know that from the invite and huge screen behind them reminding us about that as we arrive into the room. If you try other ways of getting the audience to sit forward and hang on your next words, you will find that your core message is better listened to, let alone absorbed. Examples we cover in the coaching sessions include amazing (relevant) facts, thought-provoking questions, interaction inciting questions, relevant humorous opening (if appropriate) and adult version of “once upon a time”.
Chris Dawes also admits that he himself used to fall into the trap of the most common close to a presentation, speech, or meeting; and that is to finish with questions and answers…
“It is a natural reaction to get to the end of your scripted content, breathe a sigh of relief that it is over, and hand over to the audience to ask questions that either hasn't been covered in the content or have been inspired by your thought provoking content. However, I have learnt over time that this means I am finishing when their interest etc. is already ebbing away; at an even faster rate for those who are not asking questions. Even thanking them for their time once all of the questions are covered is not going to take them back up again!”
This means that it is vital to get them back up there again, and we instil a vital habit in everyone; “Say last what you want to be remembered most!”. Therefore, you really need to follow up after the Q&A session with something like a recap of the key point(s), a call to action (CTA) if appropriate, and/or a powerful closing statement. This is what the audience will have fresh in their mind as they leave your company.
We cover so many areas of the content that are vital, including verbal and physical communication, a “Tell-Show-Tell” approach to sharing your information, and interaction (or dealing with the lack of potentially) as examples. But it is fair to say that the start and finish of your presentation, speech, interview, or meeting etc. can make or break the whole feel and results of your time in the limelight, so it is vital to spend at least as much time on these bookends as the rest!