Start Strong with Your Ending in Mind

“By your entrances and exits shall ye be known.”

– William Shakespeare

When you deliver a presentation – or make a sales call – the two most important segments are:

Grab the audience's attention with a strong opening.

Make your closing statement memorable and actionable.

It's really that easy.  However, most presenters flub both segments.  Why?  Perhaps it is stage fright that causes them to stumble at the start.  They have not taken the time to “mingle” with the audience ahead of time – which helps a speaker to relax and relate to their audience.  Or they put too much faith in their ability to “just wing it” or worse, “tell a little joke.”  Never attempt either of these beginnings!  It is the rare – and gifted, and practiced – professional comedian who can deliver a good joke with exquisite timing and a perfect sense of the audience.  You are not that comedian.  Don't start your presentation with a joke.  You can't afford to “just wing it.”  You can't afford to blow your opportunity to make a strong first impression.

You could start off with:  an interesting statistic, a current (and pertinent) event, a (relevant) story, a question, a quotation or even … a dramatic pause.  These techniques will work – if you put the effort into crafting their content and delivery.  Even if your delivery is less than perfect it is preferable to “It's great to be here in Cleveland tonight,  How are you?”  You never know how many people in the audience hate being in Cleveland – or wherever – that night, so don't start out this way!

Start out with a purpose!  Start with the end in mind!

“A speech without a purpose is like a journey without a destination.” – Ralph C. Smedley

What is the purpose of your presentation?  If you can't (succinctly) answer that question … then don't make the presentation!  If you don't know your purpose, how do you expect your audience to know it?  What do you want your audience to do?  To think?  To feel?  You have to tell them.  They have to get it.  They have to want it.

But first … you must  know the purpose of your presentation – right from the start!

You can end your presentations with some of the same techniques I suggested you use when you start to speak:

1) An interesting statistic. – that relates to your topic and captures the attention of your audience.

2) A current (pertinent) event – these could relate directly to your speech or the conference.

3) A (relevant) story – that will reinforce your message.

4) A question – in this case, a rhetorical question would be effective.

5) A quotation – that relates to your message and is memorable.  Also memorize-able!

6) A dramatic pause…

But don't … ever… end with “Well, my time is up, so I guess that that is all I have to say.”

Learn to be know – practice your entrances and exits.  It worked for Shakespeare.  It will work for you.  And you will get more work – or sales, or gain more influence.  Simply because you have learned how to start – with your ending in mind!




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