End every presentation with a call to action

In my last blog I talked about the importance of making a powerful first impression when you present to an audience.

But endings are just as important as beginnings, and the professionals I coach seem to find them just as challenging.

Typically, they get to the end of their slide deck, summarise the data (although not invariably) and then end with a slide that reads ‘Thank you – any questions?’

The crucial step most, if not all, ignore is the ‘call to action’ – the compelling statement that tells your listeners how you want them to change their behaviour and/or their attitudes in the light of what you have said.

What marketing professionals understand

All marketing professionals understand the importance of the call to action (known in the trade jargon as the CTA) in providing consumers with strong reasons for making an immediate purchase

Marketing materials typically include such imperatives as: ‘Call now’, ‘Visit a store today’ or ‘Order before midnight’.

Most of the presenters I work with aren’t engaged in selling a physical product. But I would argue that they are – or should be – selling an idea.

There are people out there who believe that the main purpose of a presentation is to impart information. To them I say quite simply – you are wrong!

Listening is hard work

If your goal is to provide information – particularly of a detailed and complex nature – a presentation is a highly unsuitable vehicle. Science tells us that listening is hard work, that we have short attention spans, that our minds wander for much of the time and that our working memories are severely limited   All this suggests that information is best absorbed from written documents that we can study in our own time and at our own pace.

A presentation, on the other hand, is ideally suited to inspiring and influencing audiences so that they are persuaded to do, think, or feel differently.

That’s why all presentations need a well-defined and clearly articulated objective – a statement of how you are looking to influence people – at the start, and an equally powerful call to action at the end.

The call to action: examples

Here are some examples of CTA phrases you might find useful when closing a presentation:

  • [for business pitches] ‘If you are looking for experience, enthusiasm and a unique creative approach to your project, we are the agency for you.’
  • [for funding approaches] ‘Award us this grant and we guarantee to transform the prospects of the people whose interests we serve.’
  • [for health professionals] ‘When you see a patient with this set of symptoms, keep in mind the possibility that they may have this rare condition and refer them for the appropriate diagnostic tests.’
  • [For regulators] ‘Approve this drug for reimbursement and patients with this disease stand to gain an additional six months of quality life.’
  • [for public safety] ‘If you see or smell smoke in a public place, here’s what you need to do…’

The danger of finishing your presentation without a call to action is that your audience is left thinking ‘So what?’ Because when it comes to persuasion you can’t rely on the facts to speak for themselves.

How Clearsay can help

Clearsay Communications works with business and thought leaders around the world to develop their spoken communication skills for use in presentations, media interviews, meetings and negotiations. Visit our Home Page to explore what we could do for you.