Stick the Landing (Three Questions You Should Answer Before You Close)

Have you ever worked so hard and been so close to achieving something, only to miss out at the last moment?

It’s a horrible feeling. 

Spare a thought for Japanese snowboarder Reira Iwabuchi who, earlier this year, missed out on becoming the youngest ever female Japanese medalist at the Winter Olympics. 

“At 16 years and two months, Iwabuchi would have rewritten the record set by figure skater Mao Asada at 19 years, five months at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics had she made it to the podium.

After the first two runs, Iwabuchi was 10 points behind third place and fellow 16-year-old Zoi Sadowski Synnott of New Zealand, who fell on her third run to give Iwabuchi a shot at the podium.

But Iwabuchi botched her landing, throwing Sadowski Synnott a lifeline. Iwabuchi finished with 147.50 points after a 79.75 in the first run and 67.75 in the second.” The Japan Times.

As I read Reira’s story, I thought about how much work she would have put in to prepare for the games, the physical toll it would have taken on her body and every obstacle she would have needed to overcome along the way. To miss a medal because she wasn’t able to stick the landing, would have been devastating.

That being said, fourth at an Olympics is excellent and something to be incredibly proud of, but like every great athlete, she was striving for her place in the top three. 

Over the years I have watched a lot of presentations, keynotes and talks. What I have noticed about great communicators is that they know how to stick the landing. They don’t just know how to open and deliver a great presentation, they know how to end well. 

By contrast it is glaringly obvious when a person hasn’t put any thought into how they will end. 

It usually looks something like:

  • An abrupt ending (that’s the end)
  • An abuse of time (will this ever end?)
  • An awkward transition (was that the end?)

We often rehearse, critique and analyse how we will start. But it’s also crucial to think through how we will end.

Here are three questions you should answer at the end of your presentation that will help you stick the landing: 

1. What then?

This provides confirmation

After all is said and done, what then, is the “big idea” behind this? What is the “one thing” you want people to walk away with? Boil everything you have spoken about down into one sentence. I think about this as the answer people will give when someone asks “what did they talk about?”. Make sure you confirm with people what message you are trying to communicate before you finish. 

2. What if? 

This provides aspiration 

What would it look like if the people you spoke to actually did what you were asking them to do? How would their life be better? How would their business or organisation be better? Then, what would it look like if everyone did it? How would ‘their world’ and ‘the world’ be a better place? We should paint a picture that gives people a sense of aspiration. 

3. What next? 

This provides application 

What’s the practical next step from here? How can people walk away and take immediate action? Giving people multiple strategies on how they can apply the topic of your presentation is great, but ask people to choose something to take action on now. Leaving people inspired is great, but helping people change is better.  

Put all the practice and preparation into crafting a great presentation that you can, just don’t forget to stick the landing.