You've probably heard that first impressions are both incredibly important and incredibly durable. But the same is actually true of last impressions. Work by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahnemann, for instance, shows that the final moments of an experience have an outsized impact on how we remember it.
Which means that not only do you need to nail the opening of that big speech. You also really need to nail the ending too. Author and TED curator Chris Anderson can help with both.
He's currently doing the promotional rounds for his new book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, leaving tantalizing breadcrumbs of speaking wisdom around the web. I've gathered together a few bits that will help you both begin and end your presentation with a bang.
The right way to kick off your talk
You might think someone who's had a front row seat for so many excellent TED talks would offer complicated or subtle advice for speakers on how to connect with the audience when they walk on stage. But it turns out Anderson's top tip sounds like the simple but powerful advice you might get from your dad -- just look them in the eye.
"Great speakers find a way of making an early connection with their audience. It can be as simple as walking confidently on stage, looking around, making eye contact with two or three people, and smiling," writes Tech Insider's Chris Weller quoting Anderson's book.
Weller goes on to explain that studies show humans (and even monkeys) have an evolved ability to both connect with and judge others through eye contact. Stare at the floor and your audience will have no choice but to feel profoundly disconnected.
End with a bang
And how about those crucial final minutes of your talk? Forget old standbys like 'That's all the time I've got' or 'So, are there any questions?' Writing for Fast Company, Anderson offers a trio of better options. Why not try 'the camera pull-back,' for example? This involves showing the audience "the bigger picture, a broader set of possibilities implied by your work," like neuroscientist David Eagleman did in his TED talk.
There's also the self-explanatory 'call to action' ending (Anderson offers Amy Cuddy's talk on body language as an example), or finally consider making a personal commitment. "It's one thing to call on the audience to act, but sometimes speakers score by making a giant commitment of their own," Anderson says of this third alternative. Be careful though, you have to really mean it or this move just comes off as awkward and unbelievable.
Athlete Diana Nyad committed to swimming from Florida to Cuba on the TED stage, for example, and then returned to the event two years later to report on her completed pledge. Anderson notes that her re-commitment to this staggering challenge "electrified the audience."