BITESIZE: HOW TO END WELL – CREATING A STRONG CONCLUSION FOR YOUR PROGRAMMES

It’s time for another bitesize episode – a short and snappy episode that will give you a quick win or something to think about in less than 10 mins.

Today I’m talking about why endings are important and sharing with you a 3 part framework for planning your strong conclusion.

If the introduction is setting the scene for what’s to come, then the conclusion is most definitely when you wrap everything up, tie up any loose ends and leave your participants wanting more. 

The way you end your programme or guided tour is super-important. Great guides, educators and facilitators know that how you end things shapes people’s memories of the experience. 

Find out how to go out with a bang, rather than a whimper in Episode 57!

 

INTRODUCTION

You may remember Episode 44 where I talked about the importance of a good introduction and shared the 4 elements to a great introduction that will create connections, build trust and rapport. I said that the opening minutes of any programme are crucial. 

Well, it may not surprise you to learn that the way you end your programme is also super-important. Great guides, educators and facilitators know that how you end things shapes the memories of the experience. 

And today I’m going to be sharing with you a framework that you can use to create a strong close to your programmes. But before that, why are endings important? 

WHY ARE ENDINGS IMPORTANT?

Well, the last 5 or so minutes of a programme are just as important as the first 5 or so minutes.

And, like your introduction, conclusions shouldn’t be skipped.

Even if you run out of time.

Your programme or tour should always have a structure – an introduction, main body and conclusion. The main body is when you visit a series of objects, artworks or ‘stops’.

The number and timing is up to you although I always recommend less is more. This structure is what makes your programme a cohesive whole and some planning and preparation of both your introduction and conclusion will make you feel so much more confident and prepared for whatever happens on the day.

If the introduction is setting the scene for what’s to come, then the conclusion is most definitely when you wrap everything up, tie up any loose ends and leave your participants wanting more.

Priya Parker has a great chapter on endings in her wonderful book The Art of Gathering where she talks about how you graciously close and end on a high. In this chapter she mentions something improv teacher Dave Sawyer once said to her:

‘“You can tell the difference between a good actor and a bad actor not by how they enter the stage…but by how they exit”

Good actors will enter dramatically, say their lines and when they’re done, assuming their job has finished, they scuttle off the stage.

GREAT actors spend as much time thinking about the exiting as they do the entering of the stage. You don’t want to be someone who scuttles off stage.

Priya sums it up beautifully when she says

“You…have hopefully created a temporary alternative world in your gathering, and it is your job to help your guests close that world, decide what of the experience they want to carry with them, and reenter all that from which they came”.

HOW TO END WELL

So we know that ending well and concluding strongly is important but how can we do it so that we leave our participants, guests and visitors with positive memories and a feeling of closure.

Here is my 3 step quick guide to ending well based on Priya Parker’s anatomy of a closing: the last call, looking inward and turning outward

#1 THE LAST CALL – SIGNAL THE ENDING

This is similar to ‘last orders at the bar’. You want to signal that your programme or tour is coming to an end.

You want to prepare your participants for re-entry to the world beyond your programme. Therefore it’s important to signal that you are coming to the end before you get there.

At your last stop you might want to signal that this will be the last stop of the programme. Or you may want to signal that this is the last discussion, or that you’re taking a last question for today’s programme.

It’s a soft close if you will before the actual end. It’s the signal for your winding down. It’s basically a primer to allow participants to think about the end being in sight.

When you go to a concert, the band will choose their last song carefully to leave you on a high and wanting an encore. This last song signals that the end of the concert is nigh, but if you play your cards right, you’ll get a few bonus songs to finish with – that’s how you want your participants to feel too.

Obviously you’re not a rockstar on a stage but you get my drift. You want to signal the end of the programme so that your participants are ready for it and then you want to go out with a bang when you do your conclusion.

So moving on to the actual conclusion.

But first a TIP 💡: Find a good space to do this – you might want to think carefully about where you stand so that you have your participants attention.
It may be at your last stop or last artwork or somewhere different.

But, don’t whatever you do, do it by the cloakroom as this sends a signal to your participants that the programme is already over and they switch off for the conclusion part, eager to grab their coats and move on.

So we’re at the conclusion now. And it’s divided into two parts. First looking inward.

#2 LOOKING INWARD

The looking inward part of your conclusion is when you and your participants reflect on the experience you’ve just had.

You might want to do a summary or a quick review of what you’ve done together, what you’ve experienced, the highlights of what you’ve seen, maybe even repeat back some of the words of the participants that were said.

You want to reflect on the experience & connect the group one last time. Basically: What just happened here and why does it matter?

I like to do a summary of where we’ve been or what we’ve discussed, I like to remind people (if true) that they didn’t know each other at the outset, or that they’ve spent 15 amount of minutes with an artwork or learned how to use See Think Wonder to analyse an object.

I then ask them to reflect back on the experience. Here are some suggestions:

  • A quick 321 – 3 new things I’ve learned, 2 things they are going to remember forever, and 1 question I have.
  • I used to think…Now I think…’ which is a good reflective thinking routine for this purpose.
  • Or say one word about how they are feeling now (you could do this at the start and then compare with the words they choose at the end)
  • or composing a Headline with a partner to sum up the experience

#3 TURNING OUTWARD

The last part of the conclusion is the turning outwards. This is when you’re asking participants to think about what they’d like to take with them – their exit ticket. 

You could use an exit ticket question (what’s one thing that you’re going to take away with you today?) Or a statement for them to complete “I was surprised by..’ or ‘ the most powerful thing was…’. I used to ask school kids what’s the one thing that they are going to talk about this evening when they get home..

A word of warning about your conclusions. DON’T END WITH LOGISTICS.

Don’t make this the last thing you say to your guests. Make it the second to last thing if you have to share some logistical information, housekeeping or even thanking your group.

Remember the actor analogy, I mentioned earlier? You don’t want to scuttle off stage after muttering a few practicalities about where participants can grab their coats.

Closings are so important for the formation of memories and you want that memory to be about something they’ve seen, discussed or discovered, not. Think about how you can end to create those lasting memories. 

SLOW LOOKING CLUB

And don’t forget my FREE new Facebook group The Slow Looking Club created especially for podcast listeners. It’s a place for conversation and discussion about engaging with art, objects and life slowly. I’ll share resources, ideas and tips for anyone interested in looking at art – whether it’s for your personal enjoyment or your practice as a cultural educator. And we’ll have regular slow looking moments together too!

THE SLOW LOOKING CLUB