You finish your talk and the presenter takes back the microphone.
“Any questions for the speaker?” Awkward silence . . . “Anyone at all? Oh, you, sir, with your hand raised,” the host says with a newfound blast of enthusiasm akin to a fisherman who has just hooked a big fish.
“I just yawned.”
“Oh, sorry . . . anyone else? No? Nobody? Eh . . . right . . . okay then.”
The presenter slips away awkwardly amid confused, sporadic applause. This is how their video clip will end. True viral YouTube gold, crowd alive with energy and inspiration and multiple speakers’ bureaus beating a path to your door. Not quite. All too often speakers go out on a flat note because of this scenario.
When you are expected to do a questions-and- answers session at the end of your talk, always save a summary slide to close with, ideally with three main takeaways. This allows you to control the ending.
Why three main takeaways? By necessity, we have become proficient at pattern recognition. Three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern. This combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content.
As you approach the end of your talk, say, “Okay I am going to take a few questions before I make my conclusion.”
This lets the audience know that you are not quite finished, keeps the Q&A shorter, and allows you to finish in a way that the audience knows it’s over. When they know it’s over they will applaud in unison.
In leaving them with your main takeaways as a summary, you are also more likely to be remembered. Strong clapping in unison at the end will also mean better video.
Make sure to soak up any applause, stop talking, and enjoy the moment. As Jerry told George in the classic 1998 Seinfeld episode, “The Burning”: “Showmanship, George. When you hit that high note, you say goodnight and walk off.”
This is one of many tips taken from the book Do You Talk Funny? 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker, based on a year spent interviewing hundreds of comedians.