Several years ago I registered to run a marathon in Kansas City. God only knows what I was thinking. For those unfamiliar with the distance of a marathon, it is exactly twenty-six miles, three-hundred-eighty-five yards. I made the decision to register about four months before the race. Prior to this, I had never been a long-distance runner. Sure, I had run as much as the next person, but never in a race as long as a marathon. At the time, none of my friends ran marathons, so I trained alone. Instead of being wise and reading up on the subject or speaking with other seasoned marathoners, I decided to figure the whole thing out on my own. This was not a wise decision.
My self-imposed training program consisted of running four to five days a week. By the time the marathon arrived, I was able to run up to twelve miles. My theory was that, on “game day,” my adrenalin would carry me the rest of the way. Well, it made sense to me at the time.
The Kansas City Marathon is relatively flat, so I was confident I could tough it out. I was so wrong. On the day of the marathon, I actually ran just over eighteen miles before I hit “the wall.” From that point forward, I walked and ran intermittently in order to complete the race. By the time I crossed the finish line, five hours and four minutes had elapsed, not exactly an Olympic pace. Although I did cross the finish line, I knew I had not finished strong. To this day, whenever I think of that marathon I do not focus on my valiant effort or the eighteen miles I ran so well. No, whenever I think of that marathon, I think of how poorly I finished.
A poor finish can ruin a good race, and the same is true when it comes to presentations. A poor conclusion can spoil an otherwise good talk. On the other hand, a well-crafted conclusion solidifies a presentation and leads to a powerful and purposeful finish.
The conclusion is the final part of your talk. Even though it is last, it is by no means least in importance. In fact, the contrary may be true because the conclusion is the culmination of all that has gone before it. You might say it is the climax of your presentation.
A well-crafted conclusion contains three components: (1) a concise review; (2) a specific request; and (3) a tangible reward. When joined together, these three components not only create a powerful conclusion, but also increase the likelihood that the speaker’s desired outcome will be realized.