Will you be remembered well? Will you even be remembered at all? 

According to research by the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, author of “Thinking Fast and Slow”, the answer to these questions are a result of two key moments.

  • How people felt at the best (or worst) moment, known as ‘The Peak
  • How people felt in the final moments, or ‘The End’.

In Kahneman’s experiment, participants were asked to undergo three ‘cold-hand trials’. The first lasted 60 seconds with the water at 13 degrees, which was painfully cold, but not intolerable. The second lasted 90 seconds. The first 60 seconds was identical to the first trial, however after 60 seconds the temperature was increased by 2 degrees, slightly reducing the pain for an final 30 seconds. The participants were then given the option to repeat the first or second experience for the third trial. “This is a seemingly easy question: both trials featured 60 seconds of identical pain, and the second trial added another 30 seconds of slightly reduced pain. So this is kind of like asking ‘would you rather be slapped in the face for 60 seconds or 90’, nevertheless, 69% chose the longer trial”. (via The Power of Moments, Chip & Dan Heath)

‘The Peak-End Rule’ suggests that when people assess an experience they tend to forget or ignore its length and instead focus on the the peak experience (best and worst) along with how it ended. We then use these moments to summarise an experience and remind ourselves later of how that experience felt.

What ‘The Peak-End Rule’ teaches us about delivering a memorable presentation is that we need to think intentionally about how we engage in these key moments:

Moment #1 – The Peak

Creating a peak moment requires deep clarity around your key message.

Great communication is less about ‘saying something’ and more about having something ‘valuable to say’

Imagine leading a group of people on a hiking trail up towards the summit. Everything you do, every step you take is about moving people closer towards that ultimate goal. I think about presenting your ‘big idea’ or ‘message’ like scaling that final cliff face to reveal the breathtaking view from a mountain top. It’s made all the energy and effort of the climb worthwhile. It’s the resolution to the tension in the room, the solution to a problem we have all been facing.

Have you taken the time to get clear on what your key message is? What’s the big idea? ‘The Peak’  is that unifying “ah-huh” moment when everybody in the room lands on the same page. Do you know what that page is? 

Moment #2 – The End

Creating a strong ending requires intentional planning.

Even a great presentation can leave negative impression if a leader hasn’t taken the time to think through how they will finish strong. 

In my work helping clients to capture and communicate their thoughts, I ask them to answer three key questions when landing a presentation: 

  1. What Then? This is about Confirmation. There should be no doubt in your audiences mind about what your key message is.
  2. What If? This is about Aspiration. A future focused question. What would it look like if your audience applied your big idea. What would it mean for them? What would it mean for us?
  3. What Next? This is about Application. What is the next thing a person can do to apply your big idea? What can a person walk away and apply? 

Many people take time to practice how they will start a presentation, but I would also suggest you take time to practice how you finish. Know how long you need to close strong or you may risk running out of time and losing the opportunity. 

Something to think about:

  • What are some of the peak/end moments you remember from past presentations?
  • What made them so memorable?
  • How could you be more intentional with these moments in your next presentation or speech?