Since I’m a relentlessly pattern-driven person, that’s what this week’s post and video are all about: helping your audience through pattern recognition.
In the latest “What’s Missing From This Message” video, I talk about an important way to do that: with your conclusion.
Your conclusion is your last opportunity to land your message. That means it’s also a great time to recap the concepts and structure of your talk in a way that helps people recognize and retain those messages — it allows you to repeat the “pattern” of your message, in miniature.
The best way to do that? Keep it the same and keep it simple.
Here’s what I mean:
- Keep it the same means don’t introduce any fundamentally new concepts or ideas. This is the time to reinforce, not introduce. You can absolutely frame a concept in a new way, but keep totally new concepts out. Remember, your audience’s brain is searching for the structure of a story in your message. Their brains recognize the “end” of the story when they realize that they got the answer they were promised at the beginning (their Goal). When you introduce something new, their brains are excited to sense a new story starting, but immediately frustrated when those same brains realize that the story doesn’t end. You don’t want your audience to leave frustrated. Keep your audience satisfied by sticking to the story you started.
- Keep it simple means to simplify your message at the end. Yes, part of helping people’s brains recognize the end of the story is giving them a recap of what they’ve just heard, but resist the temptation to give a detailed recap. If anything, focus on the one big shift in thinking or behavior that you’ve made the case for (the Change), what all those details were meant to support. If you get to your conclusion and realize you don’t have that one big Change? Time to go back and find it.
Your talk sets a pattern, your conclusion cements it.
Your talk sets a pattern, your conclusion cements it.Your talk sets a pattern, you conclusion cements it. Click To Tweet
When it comes to ending a presentation, how do you do that as powerfully and as strongly as possible? What could possibly be missing that would make it even stronger? That’s what we’re talking about this week on What’s Missing From This Message. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com, and we’ll be talking about Bill Flynn’s conclusion to his powerful talk.
Let’s take a look at Bill Flynn’s closing of his talk. All right, Bill sent this to me on LinkedIn, which was a great way to do it. Always welcome that way, but you can send your own short-form content here to What’s Missing From This Message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s take a look at what Bill has. I have no idea what the rest of his talk is about, but a close should tell you everything you need to know about what the talk was and how it was structured, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Let’s see what Bill did.
He starts with, “Building a great business is like getting into shape. It’s about input and output. It’s about habit and vision.” Okay, so I like that he’s using a metaphor here. My question would be, has he introduced the metaphor before? Don’t know. That’s fine. It maybe an unusual place to introduce a new metaphor if he hasn’t had that already. Typically, I like to say that the conclusion should have no fundamentally new ideas. It can be a place for you to summarize things in a new way. It can be a way for you to frame things in a new way, but there shouldn’t be any new ideas as tempting as that is because we all want to finish with some big new idea, but if you do that people are like, “Whoa, where did that come from?”
Metaphors, great. New metaphors, maybe. But metaphors are always useful because they help put everything into play and then he starts to talk about that his input-output, habit, and vision, which I’m guessing based on what’s coming was the structure of the talk in the context of that metaphor. Only caution with using an exercise metaphor is that you’re using it, Bill is using it in a way that’s assuming that people wanted to get into great shape. Not everybody does, so it’s just a thing to be aware of that it could be a metaphor that doesn’t actually speak to everybody, but it’s probably not a deal killer here. Just a thing to note.
All right, so what he’s doing then after he announces this, it’s about input and output. It’s about habit and vision he’s going through, and now each of these paragraphs as you can see is focused a little bit more on this. He says, “It’s about input, but not just any input. It’s about the right input, choosing the right calories, doing the right things.” Now reading this, I was like, wait, calories, and all of a sudden I realized we’re back to the great shape metaphor. This may work better spoken out loud but reading, I was a little surprised by it, but I caught on. I don’t really suggest that Bill needs to do anything different. It’s just note that as we often say here on what’s missing from this message, make sure that you’re testing things both out loud and written to make sure that it actually comes off the way you want it to.
Pro-tip on that. Record yourself either just audio or video. It’s not to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s honestly so that your brain can listen to you as somewhat of a third party. Just try that sometimes. Okay, now what he’s telling us is that input is about … he ties it to the metaphor and then he says it’s about diversity and knowledge and experience. Now we have input that has three things. We have a 1A, a 1B and 1C.
He’s also saying it’s also about output. “Output that takes the fullest advantage of strengths and joyful effort. Effort when wisely applied warps time.” Okay, it’s about atmosphere. Now, I have to tell you, I’m a little confused here and so I think what would make this stronger is following the same pattern that he did in the previous paragraph, which is tie it to the metaphor first and keep it tight because the strengths and joyful effort and effort when wisely applied warps time, that effort will wisely applied warps time feels like a new concept to me. It may not have been, but I also wonder is it enough of a big idea to if it has been brought up before, is it strong enough? Is it a big enough idea to bring back here at the risk of adding to what my husband would call too many notes right here at the end?
The atmosphere piece too is interesting to me because it doesn’t feel like it matches with output. We’ve got this effort and an atmosphere and then we’ve got proactive, persistent and productive. I’m going to suspect based on the structure now so far that he’s got four sections to his talk. Each section has these three additional points. Now that we’re at output, which is two, we’ve got 2A, 2B, 2C, which is proactive, persistent, productive. But I’m still curious about where effort and atmosphere comes in because that might mean that there’s five points under output and that that starts to concern me because it’s A) breaking a pattern and B) starting to create what I call competing taxonomies. Meaning you’ve got one structure and you’ve got another structure and now we’ve got a whole bunch of structures working together, and usually if we’ve got a whole bunch of structures working together, they are not working together.
The next piece are part three about creating habits. It’s about discipline, rigor, and accountability so that’s 3A, 3B, 3C. But again, we’ve changed the structure of this paragraph. We haven’t tied it back into the metaphor which would make it stronger if we’re going to keep using it, if Bill’s going to keep using that metaphor. Then I’m not quite sure what the sentence means. It might make more sense in the context of the talk. “Knowing that discipline and rigor and accountability wrapped in the warm embrace of a supportive team lessens the sting of setback and sweetens the taste of success.” Awesome alliteration, Bill. I love that. I wonder if this is the best to wrap up this particular point.
And again, I like what he’s doing because he says, “Hey, when you’ve got these things, you get this benefit.” But now I want to see that same structure in the other pieces because people, particularly at the end of a talk, this is your opportunity to really land your points. And this is one of those places where structure is your friend, and repeated structure is your friend because it helps people’s brains slot in the information well. When they can start to expect the pattern, even subconsciously, it helps their brain connect things better. The fact that we’ve got three different points here so far, input, output and habit, each of them has at least three points underneath it. And yet each of these paragraphs is structured a little bit differently. Might mean that that Bill is losing an opportunity to really reinforce his points as strongly as possible.
All right, so then he goes into vision, which is the fourth piece and he says, “It’s creating a positive vision of the future of finally fitting into those jeans.” Okay, so great. He’s back to the metaphor, live and rippled. Can you be live and rippled? I want to know. “Or hearing it’s your 25th high school reunion that you look exactly the same, actually better.” Great for audiences of a certain age. Make sure that this is not until a certain age. “It’s painting a picture with such clarity and anticipation. You can feel the rising of heartbeats and sense the contemplation of a red threaded future.” Okay. First of all, I’m curious about the red thread in there because I talk about the red thread, so I’m super curious about how he’s putting that in there.
Second, I love that he’s gone back to the metaphor, but the metaphor breaks because he hasn’t told us about the application of vision there, right? It’s not just about finally fitting in the jeans. It’s about imagining that you finally fit in the jeans. It’s about imagining that you go and see your friends and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, you look exactly the same, only better.” As I like to say based on my days as a Weight Watcher leader, you look like a concentrated super-powerful form of you. The thing that I do like that he’s continued to do here is give the payoff. We’ve got now an opportunity I think for him to really establish a really strong pattern, which is repeat the main point, input, output, habits, vision, tie it to the metaphor, explain it through that lens and then give the payoff of your three sub-points in context of that so what in the end, the outcome and the results they would expect.
Now when I was reading this, I was like, where are the three points of this one? And then you’ll see that they actually show up in the next paragraph down. It’s about this mixed cocktail, compassion, courage, and commitment that create extraordinary results, inches lost, strengths gains, goals achieved. I think this last paragraph, even though it’s split into two, is the one that’s closest to, I’d say the model format for his summary of these pieces. And so I would just encourage him because that piece is so strong to go back and perhaps revise the other summaries in that way.
Finally, it’s you, the exceptional leader that focuses on the few things, the input, output, habit, and vision. These vital few things that truly matter. Those that create distance and velocity. The few things that make a difference, a dent in the universe. The vital few things that propel you further and faster.
Okay. First thing I want to point out is that after he’s just gone through four points, each of which have three sub-points. That’s a lot, right? It’s 12. We’ve got 12 points. Plus there was the atmosphere and effort piece, and then he’s just added distance and velocity. It doesn’t feel like a few things. Just work on the word choice there because what you don’t want right at the end of your talk is someone to go, “That wasn’t a few, that was a lot.” And even if you go into input, output, habit, and vision as the summary of that, you might get them to go, “Oh right, it was only four.” But I would rather see you go and take out the sub-points earlier so that they do come away going, “Really it’s just these four things.”
Have faith in the fact that you landed all those sub-points strongly enough that people will remember them. It’s actually more important that they remember those big points that you’re making, input, output, habit, vision as the key points. I liked that he’s giving a great call to action at the end and he’s summarizing that piece. I think he’s done it. He’s got great instincts here about what I call the call to emotion at the end. What else would make this stronger? I think first this simplification of points, and there’s one other thing that I would say on that, which is I would love to know what input, output, habits, and vision all roll up to. Because right now he’s asking me to remember four things. And so what is the big shift that all four things are about? Because in that moment, in that last moment, you want to leave people with this expectation, this feeling that yes, I can do this.
If you can bring all of this back down to one big thing, then that feels a lot more doable for them. The other thing is, can you have that big thing start with one little thing that you’re really specific about? This is a lesson I learned from my coach, colleague, friend, and mentor, Nick Morgan, where you want to give them one first action to take. You can say, all right, let’s think about where we came from today, what problem we’re here to solve, the things that we learned, the big shifts that we’re going to make. The fact that it’s just all about input, output, habits, and vision. And when we do that, not only what will we be able to solve whatever goal Bill had set up, but we’re actually able to do even more. We’re going to be able to make a difference, a dent in the universe.
That’s why one of the first things you can do today is do X, Y, and Z. And when you do that, not only will you propel you further, it’ll probably be faster and get that distance and velocity that you need. Those last two things I think would make this summary even stronger. Make it about one big thing at the end, what all of it comes down to. If it makes sense, find a way to introduce that one clean, crisp, tiny actual thing that they can go do, a question they can ask themselves, a decision they can make, a step they can take. Something they can actually go do, and you could flip the order of that. You can say, “Hey, we talked about all this, these things today and if you do this one little thing, this one tactical step, then you’re on your way to this one big thing that we talked about.” And then you can end with the big dent in the universe language that Bill’s got.
Thank you so much, Bill, for sending your summary to your great talk. Loved looking at it. Love seeing how crisply and cleanly you’re outlining these points for your audience. The big thing that is missing from this message is not the strength of the ideas. It’s really just making sure that we’re following a simple structure repeatedly to help those strong points land. Simplifying how those points fit into one big step and giving people that little step that they can take to get there is really part of that magical formula to make a presentation conclusion as powerful as it can be.
Thanks so much for watching this episode of What’s Missing From This Message. You can send your short-form content to find what’s missing from it to email@example.com. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to like, subscribe and tell a friend. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. Thanks so much.
Like this content? Be the first to get it delivered directly to your inbox every week (along with a lot of other great content, including my #swipefiles). Yes, please send me the Red Thread newsletter, exclusive information, and updates.