Sticky Closings: The most common failure in PowerPoint presentations

Every time I talk about presentations, I tie it to the latest research we know about the brain. That's because, for the last ten to twelve years, everything we thought we knew about the brain has been turned upside down (thanks to fMRIs).

One of the most common themes in my presentation tips is that we forget most of what we hear. It was the main theme of the webinar I gave a week ago, and it came up again this past week even as I was on vacation. The truth is that if you want something to be memorable, you have two places to put it: at the emotional high point of the presentation and/or at the end.

These are the spots that people remember the best.

PowerPoint Failure

That's why most set up their PowerPoint presentations incorrectly. They give away one of the most important moments in a presentation—the end—to an audience that can take the message, flow, and momentum anywhere they want. You probably have even witnessed a presentation like that—where the main point is lost under the weight of the discussion spawned by the last question.

So if you want to control your main message (and the corresponding call to action), you need to control the end of your presentation. That's how you manage a sticky closing!

Two Ways to Solve the Question Challenge

One way to solve it is to invite questions throughout your material. This means you have to prepare less material than the time allotted so that there's enough time for you to answer questions that come from whatever material you're presenting. This is effective if you're good on your feet, but a bad idea if you're not.

The other way (and one I use most often) is to invite people to catch me after my presentation to talk further. This gives me a chance to change locations, naturally limits the crowd to those who have serious questions, and even gives me an opportunity to give them my contact info (which I don't do when I'm presenting to a large group).

Emotional Highs & the End

That way, I get total control over when I peak, and how I close—the two parts of a presentation that people are likely to remember anyway.