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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

6 Aids to Memorable Endings

Your closing statement should be brief yet powerful. There are six major devices for concluding your talk. You can use each alone, or combine them with the others. In addition, the devices for openings, transitions, and closings are very similar, and the same device can be used in numerous places.

  1. Summarize your major ideas. Conclusions should contain a summary. Don't make it a total rehash; instead, add some new thoughts or elements and a final statement. A summary is especially effective if the primary purpose of your talk is to give information. By restating your ideas, you may fill in some blanks for listeners who didn't fully grasp or respond to your entire presentation.

  2. Make a direct appeal. You have told the people in your audience what you want them to do, why, and how. Now stir them to action with a ringing declaration or challenge. This can be as simple as saying, in a rousing tone, "Now let's get up and make this work!"

  3. Look ahead. You may want to close with a prediction that holds forth hope and promise of better things to come. So turn your audience's thoughts to the future. If your talk has focused on disastrous corporate events, find some positive alternatives to end with. A talk on reshaping a marketing division could end, "With this new advertising approach, we can avoid the losses facing our industry, and next year we will be able to see black instead of red."

  4. Ask a rhetorical question. This device lets people fill in the answer for themselves, and you can combine it with other methods of closing. During a talk on safety, a rhetorical question might be, "Do you want to be the next statistic?" These questions make your speech a two-way street by actively inviting the audience's mental participation. They allow you to steer the audience's response in your direction. And while many rhetorical questions have evident answers, that very obviousness can give them a vividness and sense of urgency.

  5. Conclude your speech with a quotation. An appropriate quotation can conclude many kinds of talks and provides a graceful ending. Quotations also let you borrow the prestige of a higher source and help to crystallize the audience's thinking.

    Sources for stirring summations are no further away than a good directory of quotations. Voltaire was succinct when he said, "No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking." A seminar on hiring could end on a good note with this bit of wisdom from R. H. Rands: "When you hire people smarter than you are, you prove that you are smarter than they are." John Charles Salak defined failure two ways, with particular pertinence to business, when he said there were two kinds of failures: those who thought and never did and those who did and never thought. Persistence, motivation, generosity, the rewards of hard work—all these universal topics have been addressed by eloquent people, and their words are yours to use to great effect.

  6. Think outside of the box. When I close a program, I often do it with a song, sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy":

    • Energy will keep 'em focused,
      Their attention will stay high.
      If I stay intr'ested, then they will too.
      E-ve-ry woman and guy.
      Be entertaining and engaging,
      Till the end of my address
      Keep my energy as sharp as Tuscan provolone
      My speech will be a big success!

You may not choose to use a song or dance to end your program, but you might try another creative venue. One speaker I know makes his final points while doing a demonstration of Tai Kwan Do! It's exciting, engaging, and helps the audience leave in an upbeat mood.

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