Guide on the Side – The Two Most Important Parts of Presentations, Part II

Editors Note: Please click here to read Part I of this article.

Marie Wallace has enjoyed a fulfilling career as a librarian, beginning in 1951 in academia with the University of California and transitioning in 1971 into the private law library world until her 1995 retirement from O’Melveny & Myers. She is the 1997 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries’ highest honor, the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Throughout her professional life, Marie has been a guiding force in the Southern California Association of Law Libraries, Practising Law Institute’s programs for law librarians and Teaching Legal Research in Private Law Libraries (TRIPLL).

Today, Marie has commenced on a new path she terms “Life in Progress,” which enables her to pursue a diversity of interests as a master swimmer, law librarian, trainer, storyboarder and designer of wearable art. She continues to be a dynamic speaker and prolific writer on such topics as private law library management, presentations and training. She is a member of Toastmasters Internationaland is active with the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and in continuing education for private law librarians. She devotes her “free” time to various non-profit and civic activities. Always open to new ideas, Marie can be reached at: [email protected].

A dynamic ending is critical to the success of any presentation because the last thing said is what the audience remembers best. It is where you epitomize your main message. Your presentation will die a premature death with a wimp conclusion like: “Well, I see I have run out of time” or “I don’t have anything more to say.”

You can avoid dead endings by following a simple preparation and delivery template. It works for all types of presentations including teaching and training.


Effective endings require preparation and practice. They must be planned. The end of your presentation is not the time to wind down or improvise. Instead it is when you make your final, strategic sprint toward your speech goal. Preparation for the ending starts with the beginning. Who is you audience? What is your objective? Are you trying to inform, persuade, entertain, or inspire? What results do you anticipate?

Start with a robust beginning

Age old wisdom says a good beginning makes a good ending. You can liken the beginning of a speech to the entrance to a building, designed to bring people in. It sets the tone and conveys what to expect inside. The exit is designed to transition people out into a larger, external world. Often the entrance to a building is also the exit but from a different perspective. As with the architecture, the beginning and ending of presentations are flip sides of the same door. Start on a forceful note and a ending follows easily. When you struggle with an ending, it usually indicates a need to revisit your opening. (Guide on the Side – Part I – Beginnings)

Satisfy the objectives of the ending

  • Create a sense of closure
    Similar to how you end conversations
  • Emphasize the main point
    What the audience should do or expect next
  • Make a lasting impact
    Package and deliver your message so it is easy to remember
  • Reconnect emotionally with the audience
    In both the opening and the conclusion, the presenter should convey positive emotions (confidence, eagerness, sincerity, enthusiasm, energy).

    By contrast, the body of the speech is often relatively unemotional, containing hard data and objective analysis.

Conform to the time frame

The ending of a speech should take the same proportion of the allotted time as the opening, that is no more than 5 to 10%. In a 20 minute speech (the length of a typical panel presentation) this translates to 1 to 2 minutes for the ending. Since both the ending and beginning are relatively short, they demand the most attention during the preparation phase. Mark Twain observed that it takes much longer to prepare a short speech than a long one.

Use a simple technique to summarize your main point

  1. Call to action
    “Here are two things you can do now X and Y.”
  2. Refer back to the beginning
    If you asked for a show of hands, posed a question or made a startling statement relate back to the opening issue.
  3. Demonstrate how easy it is to apply your speech topic
    Use a prop, role play or display
    Sometimes it is better to show than to tell.
  4. Use a quotation
    Add a dimension to your ideas with a quote from a celebrity or historical figure.
  5. Ask a rhetorical question
    “If we don’t do this who will?”
  6. Tell a story to illustrate or confirm your main point
    I was naive like Red Riding Hood about Y2K before I discovered that danger is often lurks in familiar settings. You know the details of my story and can avoid my fate by…”
  7. Leave a tip or word of wisdom
    “Let me leave you with this tip. It is better to rent a judge than buy one.”
  8. Repeat your key points
    “When you vote, remember this proposal is A, B and C.

Delivery Tips

  • Memorize your ending
    This enables you to conclude exactly as you prepared and not hazard running over, going off target or losing focus.
  • Time your ending
    You need to know how long the conclusion is so you know when to begin the ending phase of your speech and more importantly so that you stay within your allotted time.
  • Increase your voice volume so you end with a crescendo.
  • Avoid adding new topics to the ending that you forgot in the body.
    There is a tendency for speakers to add details as they end. Resist the temptation. Add-ons annoy audiences. They feel like they are in a landing pattern when suddenly the plane takes off again. As a result, they may not remember either the forgotten detail or your ending.
  • If you are presenting with presentation software, think twice about whether you really need to continue to use technology for your ending. Face-to-face interactions with audiences are most persuasive and powerful. Unless you plan to end with a message that requires an online demonstration, you may inadvertently cancel out the emotional qualities which connect you to the audience and make your final message memorable.

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot Your presentation should “End with a bang and not a whimper.”

Posted in: Guide on the Side, Presentation Skills