The end of your speech is arguably even more important than the opening.
Conclusions are the speaker’s opportunity to influence what their audience remembers about you and your business. It also reaffirms your authority as someone worth hearing.
So, how can you end your speech with a bang, not a whimper?
I believe your conclusion should signal the end; it is not just a final sentence. As a general rule it should be about 10-15% of your speech. As soon as you start to summarise/review your main ideas, the audience understands that the speech is coming to an end.
There are a host of ways to end your presentation with a bang. They all strive to help you achieve impact, memorability, engagement and commitment. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Creating impact
As speakers, you want to influence your audiences. To do so you need to crystallise your message and activate your audience.
- Reinforce your overall purpose
Make sure the purpose of your speech is reinforced and crystal clear in the ending – in terms of both content and style of delivery. If you say something inspiring your body language must mirror this
- Use delivery to emphasise importance
Be clear in articulating your key message. Harness your vocal variety, tone of voice, passion and enthusiasm – SAMENESS is the biggest enemy of the speaker
- Summarise using key questions
“Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em”. Also consider using rhetorical questions based on your core premise; the key messages will be the answers to those questions
- End with a powerful quote
Use a powerful and relevant quotation from an historic figure, business icon, etc. that resonates with your audience
- A final strong statement
Make your final sentence the takeaway that encapsulates the overall theme, your main message and any call to action. Ensure it is a statement that underlines your authority and belief in your message.
2. Achieving memorability
As speakers, you want audiences to remember what you say, to share your pearls of wisdom and have a real impact on them:
- Top speakers use anchor phrases to help them be memorable, repeatable and quotable. For Martin Luther King it was “I have a dream”. If your concluding remarks do not align with your anchor phrase, then they have no business in your conclusion, nor, indeed, in your speech!
- Cause conversation through controversy, humour, and/or great stories. Leave them thinking
- Rhythm and repetition can help to build memorability and impact, especially with an injection of appropriate humour
- Bring the speech full circle by using ‘callbacks’ to your opening remarks or stories. This creates memorability and provides the audience with triggers to recall your main message
- Use a relevant prop or image during your speech – one that will serve as a trigger. If you use it at the end of your speech your key message will be reinforced and will stick in people’s minds.
3. Building engagement and commitment
This is key to encouraging your audience to take action:
- When you speak, you lock into the ideas, information and beliefs that your audience members already have in their mind. And the conclusions are the reaffirmation of those thoughts and ideas. What’s in it for the listener and what you want them to do
- Use personal stories and anecdotes to engage powerfully with your audience, while using a ‘callback’ to create familiarity and a warm connection with your listeners
- Invite your audience to take up or consider any call to action you make. Tone of voice is crucial
- Take the words of an historic figure or other relevant person and invite the audience to do as they have done
- Referencing a publication or a quotation that resonates with your audience will create a connection with you and your call to action
- Show them your call to action as a solution to an issue, problem or challenge. Highlight the benefits to them and show them your commitment and enthusiasm.
Yes, the opening of your speech is important. Yes, holding your audience’s attention is essential. And, ultimately it’s the ending that they will really remember. It’s the ending that will determine whether they take action or go back to ‘business as usual’. So don’t waste those last few minutes – make them work for you long after you have left the room.
By Lyn Roseaman, Toastmasters International