How To Make Presentations Endings More Memorable
Last week we examined the importance of presentation beginnings. Audiences are likely to remember their very first impression of your PowerPoint, especially during long presentations. Unfortunately, you can’t just end the presentation right after you’ve started, so how can you ensure the end is effective as well? After all, you want to leave the audience with a good impression and therefore need to make presentation endings more memorable.
You can set up for great endings when you intersperse distractor activities throughout a long presentation. For example, if you are selling a product, you can break up a PowerPoint presentation with a few demos or a Q & A, and then return to slides. Each media transition resets the formal “beginning and end.” You will have multiple beginnings and endings. In this situation, ensure that both the beginning and the end of the last segment are strong because they are most likely to be recalled (particularly the end, after you use the words “In conclusion”).
Enable audiences to make faster decisions.
Ultimately, why are beginnings and endings important? They matter when you want to leave an audience with a good impression or enable them to make a decision quickly (which should be pretty much the scope of any presentation).
Imagine you have a performance review with your boss. You have a long list of great accomplishments and one failed project, all in the past few months. How do you present this list so the boss retains a favorable impression of you? Do you start with what you did wrong or with what you did right?
In social judgment situations, people tend to remember beginnings better. In the process of accumulating information about you, your boss is likely to make a spontaneous judgment early on, and may disregard later information. If you start with the misdeed first and want to minimize the negative effect, you must subtly remind him about his accountability for performance reviews (e.g., “I am impressed by how well you conduct these reviews because I realize the accountability you hold”). This way, the boss is more inclined to listen to all pieces of information and make a judgment at the end.
You can also request an impression judgment after exposure to each bit of information (e.g., “How does this successful/failed element impact my performance?”), instead of presenting them all at once and waiting for a final verdict. This way, each piece of information has an equal chance of being evaluated, instead of the negative element anchoring all the other components. Leaving the misdeed for the end works only if the presentation is fairly long and your misdeed is not major.
Ultimately, recall is impacted by inconsistency or a deviation from the pattern. An audience will remember the ending more if it is highly inconsistent with the rest of the presentation. This is because distinctiveness can only be judged relative to the number of items you have shown an audience. The movie Inception was released in 2010. I bet after four years, you remember the end of the movie a lot more than you remember the beginning.
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