PowerPoint Presentation Structure (Part Three)

Your close - the orchestrated last huzzah for your presentation sales message - must include the call to action. This action should seem natural and come as no real surprise to your audience. Your persuasive work should have already been done by the time you’re due to conclude (as posts one and two in this series explain).

Ideally, your voice ought to be the last one the audience hears. And it ought to be delivering the call-to-action. That has, after all, been the point of turning up.


What about audience questions?

In the diagram you'll notice that the classic Q&A session occurs prior to the call to action. This is an important part of the structure model and something that is often overlooked. Typically, a business speaker will finish their presentation and then ask "Does anyone have any questions?" which is exactly the wrong thing to do. And here’s why:

Closing with questions hands control of the presentation to the audience – never a good thing. Engaging an audience is not the same as relinquishing control to them. Your presentation should be your show; make sure you own the slot.

If questions rule your close, there is a good chance that the last voice the audience hears is not yours, but that of a third party. Who knows what they might say? And, as the audience is more likely to remember the last thing they heard, that shouldn’t be a risk you’re willing to take.

Your presentation sales message, the purpose and point of the whole event is to proactively deliver the call to action in order to provoke a response, create a reaction, seal a deal… Don’t squander the opportunity for a clean finish by opening the floor up for debate at the final hour.

If you're going to entertain questions, you need to do so in a controlled manner and you need to ‘turn them off’ before you deliver the call to action. Announce to the audience that there will be a dedicated time for handling questions “ …but if anybody has any burning issues they'd like to raise please feel free to do so as we go along.” That way, you give the audience a chance to raise questions on a point-by-point basis rather than allowing members the time to build a case against your key messages. You don’t want to create a window of opportunity for someone to drop a bombshell at the end of your slot.

When you get a question time, announce it like this, “I do have some concluding remarks ladies and gentlemen, but now would be a good time to deal with your remaining questions.” This gives the audience ‘permission’ to interact, while letting them know that you haven't finished yet.

Signal the end of the Q&A by saying “…and so in conclusion ladies and gentlemen…” From that point you have about 30 to 40 seconds to deliver your call-to-action and finish. Any longer and the audience won't be there; mentally or physically, they will have already left.

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