Have you ever sat through a good movie, only to leave disappointed or confused by a bad ending? Like a movie, a presentation can build up a lot of good will, only to tear it all down in those final few moments. Some endings seem to go on forever, Lord of the Rings style, or leave your audience with more questions than they started with (No Country for Old Men or Inception anyone?) Whether they’re poorly constructed or executed, bad presentation endings leave a bad taste in the mouths of prospects and can undo all your hard work.
Luckily, bad presentation endings – like bad movies – can be avoided.
4 Bad Presentations Endings
Here are four bad presentation endings – movie style – I see presenters making and how to make sure they don’t happen to you. Note, movie SPOILERS ahead!
1. The Never-ending Ending
Example: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
This already long (3 hours and 21 minutes!) movie is followed by a painfully long, drawn out Hobbit’s reunion – in slow-motion no less. Even die-hard LTR fans were stretched to the breaking point.
If your presentation runs 40 or 50 minutes, your audience too will be more than ready for a break. Once audiences realize you are approaching the ending you are on a tight time clock. You have less than three minutes to summarize your main points and wrap it up before restless prospects tune you out and start mentally preparing for their next meeting. Whatever you do, keep the pace up. Don’t turn it into a Hobbit reunion.
2. The So What? Ending
Example: Spider Man 3
Even the director didn’t like the lame final scene featuring Mary Jane and Peter morosely dancing at a club, as if nothing happened. This movie ended not unlike many sales presentations: too many storylines, characters, and plots that are never tied up or fully realized. The audience reaction is often a resounding, “So what?”
The ending of your presentation should provide a satisfying conclusion to the challenge or goal you set out to address. Concisely summarize major points and reinforce the value your prospect can expect to receive. If you have too many points to sum up, you may be trying to accomplish too much in your presentation. Go back and consider what your key message really is and how the rest of your content supports that.
3. The Ambiguous Ending.
Example: No Country for Old Men
After one of cinema’s most terrifying psychos stalks a Texas town, Tommy Lee Jones’ character bolts awake, leaving frustrated viewers to wonder, was it all just a dream? While the movie ending remained true to the book, an abrupt ending generally feels like a cop out and leaves audiences frustrated and confused. It didn’t work for Seinfeld, and it won’t work for your presentation either.
Too often salespeople put all their efforts into flashier parts of their presentation: the opening, the slides, the graphics. The ending becomes more of an after-thought. And unfortunately, this makes your presentation an after-thought to your prospect. If you don’t close with a conclusion that leads logically and naturally to next steps, you have made your job that much harder.
4. The “What’s Next?” Ending
Incredible cast, acclaimed director, yet in the final moments of an already complex film, the screen simply cuts to black. Director Christopher Nolan is likely making a statement on the constraints of reality, but audiences are left to ask a more practical question, like, “What the heck happens next??”
Many presentations also leave prospects high and dry to formulate their own conclusion. They make a strong case, lay the evidence out on the table, and then leave it up to the prospect to take the next step. But this is the first time your prospect has likely been exposed to this. You need to decide what your ending is going to be and clearly communicate what happens next. Otherwise you leave that up to your prospect. And you may not like what they decide.
In a competitive world, even a strong presentation has trouble overcoming a bad ending. You worked hard to create an opening that grabbed your prospect’s attention; now make sure you develop a closing that lives up to that. Avoid a bad movie ending to your presentation by brushing up on the elements of a successful closing here.