End on a High Note

We like things wrapped up. We like clean finishes. Who wants to leave any unanswered questions? I do.

Unanswered questions are interesting. Unanswered questions get people talking, specifically asking more questions. When you share your story, though a presentation, video, or otherwise, unanswered questions can be very useful. If your audience thinks they know everything at your conclusion, then they may not feel the need to think any longer.

I recently watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” for the first time. It’s a classic film starring the great Jimmy Stewart as a man appointed as a U.S. Senator for a few months. Long story short, he is good and honest man who takes on the powers of corruption. I won’t spoil the end for you, but I will tell you that as soon as a resolution emerges, the movie is over. There is no epilogue to explain what happened to the characters. There is no sweeping shot of the capitol while we are told what happened next. It just ends. This happened a lot in older films, not as often now.

A more recent example would be “The Matrix” films. At the end of the original movie, Neo flies to the sky, the credits come up, and the soundtrack blares. We all were then left speechless to try to guess at what happened next (heck, we still needed to settle out everything that happened in the movie). It was a great end. I imagined all the possibilities of what could happen. Then we got the sequels. Regardless of whether or not you enjoyed them (I did), I think we can agree that it sought to answer many of the remaining questions. Unfortunately, these detailed sequels were not as interesting as the original; as they expanded the world the characters lived in, but didn’t contain as compelling of a story.

When you tell your story, do just that. Tell the story. Stories end. If you present the results of your project, share the important facts and the key points you want to address. If someone wants to know additional details, let them ask later. In my opinion, it’s much better to end on a high note, leaving people wanting more. If you audience wants more from you, that means they are interested, and are likely to continue thinking about what you had to say. All the better.


Posted on July 12, 2011 .