By Lou Quinto, Executive Coach and Speaker
I’ve sat through literally hundreds of presentations. I know what you’re thinking: nobody should have to endure hundreds of business presentations in one lifetime. Alas, I have. Through all of them, I’ve observed that most presenters miss a great opportunity to ensure that the last impression or message with which their audience leaves is theirs. Instead, most presenters make the mistake by ending their presentation with the phrase, “Are there any questions?”
If I may, let me scream …. “WRONG!”
Let me offer some advice: NEVER end a presentation with questions. If you do, you’re leaving too much to chance. You’re allowing someone in your audience with an alternative or opposite point of view to hijack your presentation by challenging your position during what you assumed would be a harmless “Q&A session.”
I’ve seen great sales presentations die painful deaths during a question and answer session. Time after time, I have seen salespeople deliver convincing sales presentations. The buying signals are there. People in the audience are nodding their heads in agreement. They’re smiling and whispering to people next to them. Seeing this, the salesperson brings the presentation to a moving crescendo with a well-prepared conclusion that includes why the prospective client can’t live without the product or service he or she is selling. Then, while basking in all of the positive signs that indicate the sale is within reach, the salesperson does the unthinkable… by asking, “Are there any questions?”
Instantly, one or two people in the audience who have serious objections – or who favor the competition – see the opportunity and pounce with negative comments disguised as questions. The salesperson is now back-peddling with unrehearsed and unprepared answers. Suddenly, the other people, who just minutes earlier were prepared to make the deal, are scratching their heads and thinking maybe this isn’t the perfect answer to satisfy their need. Suddenly, the salesperson is looking in his or her rear-view mirror at the great sales opportunity that got away.
How can this be prevented in the future?
Actually, it’s easy… Call for questions BEFORE you make the concluding remarks you spent time preparing. This way, the last thing that your audience hears is what YOU want them to remember.
It is a simple and proven technique that professional speakers employ. Before concluding, simply ask, “Now, BEFORE I conclude, are there any questions?”
At that point, take questions. Then, when there are no more questions, say, “OK, if there are no more questions, let me conclude by reminding you….” Then, launch into your well-prepared, well-rehearsed, deal-solidifying, concise conclusion that reviews your product’s finer points and its strategic competitive advantage.
It’s a proven fact that people tend to remember the last thing they hear. Take advantage of this knowledge. “Rethink” your next presentation and wrap it up with a well-prepared (and well-practiced) memorable conclusion. By doing this, you are helping to ensure that your audience will remember YOUR message and not the message of someone who may want to see you fail.
This technique works well, not only in a sales presentation but in any presentation where your goal is to leave an important and convincing message. So at your next presentation try this technique. It will help to distinguish you as a polished veteran presenter, thus adding to your credibility and increasing your chance to succeed!
BLOGGER’S NOTE: From time to time I will post a blog that is off the critical thinking topic. But I promise you it will be related to your personal and professional development.
Lou Quinto has been working with companies and their associates internationally for over the past 25 years primarily in the area of critical thinking and communication skills. He is a Master Coach and Keynote Speaker for Action Management Associates in Plano, TX and a Senior Consultant on the Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness team for Executive Development Associates in Oklahoma City, OK. You can read more of his insights on his blog Metacognition or you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Originally from New Jersey, today Lou resides in Indianapolis, IN.