An edited and revised book on public speaking for introverts based on the articles from this site
Lets Start At The End
When i write a story, I always like to start at the ending. Starting by deciding where you will finish means that, for the rest of your writing, you have a direction in mind. You know where you are going. You know if you are going off track and have to reign yourself back. So right now, lets come up with the conclusion.
We want to achieve three things from the conclusion:
1. We want to inspire people. We want people to leave your presentation thinking that they have a chance of making a difference by doing the things you say. If people aren’t inspired to give your ideas a go, then all you’ve done is shower them with some facts which, gradually, over time, they will learn to ignore.
2. We want to tell people exactly what to do next. This is the call to action. We do it because people are dumb. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. but if you don’t actually spell out to people how they can put your ideas into motion, quite often they won’t be prepared to think of ways of applying them for themselves. So you have to give them one example of something you want them to do.
3. We want to satisfy people. Have you ever watched a film which finishes and you’re left thinking ‘but that plot point never came up again’ or ‘Will they get back together, its unclear’. You leave the cinema feeling as if something is missing. And when you look back on the film, you don’t tend to regard it as a fulfilling experience – you’re more inclined to dismiss it. The same is true of any story – even the story you’re going to be telling in your presentation.
To pick your conclusion you need to look back at your message. Your message and your conclusion are tightly related, but they are not always the same thing. Lets say you have been asked to give a speech entitled “What Our Local Cats Home Does For the Community”, it is quite possible, depending on who you are, and who you know your audience are, you might settle on any one of many possible messages – for example, here are three
Message 1: “I’m good at presentations – I should speak at the next international conference”
Message 2: “I led a complicated project which was hugely successful”
Message 3: “I want you to sign up to give our charity 10 pounds a month”
Now lets take the subject, and the message, and try to come up with a conclusion.
For Message 1, the conclusion happens when the crowd give you a standing ovation. When the audience respond to your story. When they have been thoroughly entertained. The conclusion needs to be a twist – something which surprises and delights the audience. Something with a bit of showmanship. Thinking of a cats home, my first though would be that, if you had earlier in the story described rescuing a badly treated cat – shown pictures of a flea ridden cat on deaths door – perhaps even described how your home kept on looking after the cat, even though it looked certain it was going to die, then a big ending would be to arrange to have someone bring the, now healthy, cat onto the stage. This is unexpected, adorably cute, and satisfyingly ties up a story which the audience might have otherwise expected to be unfinished or unhappy with a very happy ending. That the cat is healthy (along with the other good deeds you have discussed) is inspiring. Moreover, it makes you look so much better than the previous presented with 50 powerpoint slides and no adorable kitten. This is. Your call to action here isn’t in the presentation – its in the conversation you have with your boss (or whoever decides who speaks at the international conference) when you ask them if they enjoyed your presentation – and if they did, if they think there might be more opportunities for you to talk elsewhere?
For Message 2, you will have been describing a particular project in a lot of detail. A project that had a conclusion which you were intimately involved in. So as you tell your story, you want to insure it features you, there, at the very end, enjoying the success. If the end can be right there, on the stage, in front of everybody (“The current figure – which I took from our computer this morning – is that we have inoculated 239 cats – thats 20% more inoculations than we set out to achieve. But we can do more – we’ve understood the problems and overcome them, and now we know how to go back and do this better”) Then emphasize all the complications that you overcame again. The call to action is for people to believe you led this to success – ending on success achieves this. The success story provides satisfaction, and again, the good work is inspiring, but not so much as the knowledge that it can be done better and simpler.
Message 3 is simpler. Message three has a straight forward call to action. But even in message three, notice that the subject “What we do in the community” is not the same as the call to action “Give us your money”. So I would look at your story as being a sob story – a story of all the things that could be done – if only we had the money. When you start from here, your conclusion can be big and strong “There are all of these things we could do, if only we had some money. We do have some money – we have a number of generous donors – and we’ve managed to use it to home 900 cats, and to treat another 800 unwell cats. But there is so much more that, right now we are unable to do. We are making a difference to the cats in your community, but we need your help. 10 pounds a month with save 12 cats a year. So I’m offering you the change to help us now. Bill and Mary will be wandering around the room to sign you up to help save a cat – no wait – twelve cat’s lives.” The call to action is obvious. The fact we are achieving so much on so little is inspiring. And the fact we are overcoming many of our problems, and that you can be a part of a happier ending is satisfying.
You’ll see that, in coming to the conclusion, we have already had to figure out the first steps of how we will reach it. So far, we haven’t added much detail, and there is a lot of scope to change our plan. Only our ending is firm.