Nine out of ten business presentations end with either an unimpressive “Thank you” or a feeble “Are there any questions?” Both are ineffective when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your products and services.
After many years of making business presentations, I discovered the most effective close consists of three parts: a question and answer session, an invitation (call to action), and the closing statement, respectively. Here’s how they work:
1. Question and answer session
Most business presentations have a question and answer (Q & A) period at the end of the talk. Unless your presentation is interactive, this is the time your audience may ask questions. The Q & A section of your presentation should mark the beginning of your close, not the end.
How many times have you seen a speaker ask “Are there any questions?” only to look out into an audience of blank stares and what feels like an eternity of silence.
For this section to be successful, you must have audience participation.
To prevent an ocean of blank stares, use one of the following techniques to get your Q & A session rolling. First, have a friend in the audience prepared to ask a question the minute you open the floor to questions. It’s a good idea to know the question ahead of time so you’re ready with an answer; however, it’s not absolutely necessary. Another approach that works great is for you to lead with a question you’re typically asked. Start by saying, A question I’m typically asked is . . .
Both methods will give your audience time to formulate their questions and prevent an awkward silence. Afterward, thank your audience for their questions before moving to your invitation (call to action).
2. Invitation (Call to action)
Even though most of us have often been advised to create a call to action at the end of our sales presentation, many professionals leave out this step when making a presentation to a group. Every presentation we make whether to an individual or a group of people is a sales presentation.
Therefore, we must have a call to action to get the desired results. It’s during this step that you’l tell your audience exactly what you want them to do. Be clear and concise. Also, during this step you’ll want to collect their business cards. The primary purpose for giving a business presentation is to generate new business and so, to be able to contact audience prospects later, you’ll need to know who is present. The best way to find out is to gather everyone’s business card. At first glance, this might not seem like an easy task. But it is.
This is when you give something to get something. Everyone loves free stuff. One approach to collecting attendees business cards is to give away a free book. Select a book that’s appropriate for your presentation. Ask your audience to take out a business card and pass it to the front of the room. Tell your audience you would like to put them on your mailing list for future free articles. If they don’t want to be on your mailing list, ask them to fold their card in half so you’ll know not to add them. Then have someone in the audience draw a winner. This is a simple and fun way to give something to your audience and get their business cards. Better yet, you now have their permission to follow up.
Another technique to gather business cards is to give everyone an article you have written on your subject. Tell them to bring you a business card after the meeting and you will give them a copy of your free article. Other ideas include inviting them to a free seminar, workshop, teleclass, or consulting session. Some speakers pass out forms for their audience to fill out in order to receive something in exchange. Although this might work for some, it may be too much work for others. Whatever your call to action is, keep it fast and easy.
3. Closing Statement.
This is your final word. Decide what thought or feeling you want to leave with your audience and make sure your closing sentence resonates that thought. The most powerful closing sentences are statements of declaration or famous quotes. For example, if you were an executive recruiter talking about the hiring process, your closing statement might be, That is how you hire the right people and keep them! Or you might use a quote such as, Too many people use recruiters the same way a drunk uses a lamp post to lean on, rather than to shed light. Whichever you choose, make sure that it’s appropriate for your presentation and your audience.
Write it out and memorize it so you won’t forget it. This is your last chance to persuade your audience and make a lasting impression. Don’t throw it away by ending with a polite thank you. Instead, make your ending as strong as your beginning. Finish your presentation with power and confidence. Make it positive, exciting, and memorable. Always end with a bang!
As you move from step to step in the closing process, be sure to make smooth transitions. Let your audience know you’re moving to the next step. For instance, at the end of your Q & A session you could simply say, If there are no more questions I would like to invite you to . . .You have smoothly transitioned your audience into the call-to-action portion of your close. This will help your audience follow your presentation and keep their attention. The longer you keep their attention, the better the odds for selling your products and services.
By following this simple three-step strategy, you’ll be able to create a powerful close with an active Q & A session, a motivating call to action, and a captivating closing statement that will generate new business, instantly.
Arvee Robinson, is a Persuasive Speaking Coach, Master Speaker Trainer, International Speaker, and Author. She teaches business owners, service professionals, and entrepreneurs how to use public speaking as a marketing strategy so they can attract more clients, generate unlimited leads and grow their businesses, effortlessly.