You begin your speech with a compelling opening. You cruise confidently into the body. Then you run out of gas as you come to the close of your speech. You finish speaking but your audience isn't finished listening - yet.
They stare at you. You stare at them. The silence is deafening. You fidget. You can hardly breathe. Finally, you blurt out: "Mr. Toastmaster." Or worse yet, you surrender to those two meaningless words: "Thank you." Mercifully, the audience applauds, putting you out of your misery. You can breathe again.
As a Toastmaster, you know there must be a better way to conclude your speech. After all, what the grand finale is to a musician, the conclusion is to a speaker. The ending of the speech is a chance to stir the audience to a standing ovation with a resounding call to action -- or a gentle tug on the heart strings.
That's why leading speakers don't end their speeches with a perfunctory or mundane "Thank you." Of the 217 speeches listed in William Safire's anthology, Lend Me your Ears: Great Speeches in History, only seven conclude with "Thank you."
How can you end your speech as confidently as you opened it? Try these 12 tips:
1. The Title Close. Use the title of your speech as your closing words. Last words linger, crystallizing your thoughts, galvanizing your message and mobilizing your audience. Just as comedians should "leave 'em laughing," speakers should "leave 'em thinking." (Hint: Try writing the ending of your speech first to better construct the title.)
2. The Circular Close. Refer back to your opening anecdote or quote and say: "We have arrived now at the close where we began." Reiterate the message you want your audience to remember. Summarize the main points in the classic: "Tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em; tell 'em, then tell 'em what you just told 'em."
3. The Challenging Close. If you were concluding a speech on the importance of taking action, you could say: "Let's turn from spectators into participants. Let's recall the inspiring words of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt who said: 'Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to remain with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.' We have too much to do to sit on the sidelines. We need you to step out of the gray twilight into the bright sunshine so that we can all see the dawn of a new day."
4. The Invitation Close. If you were concluding a speech on the importance of getting involved in the education process, you could say: "More than 450 years before the birth of Christ, Confucius said: 'What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.' Let's do it together. We've heard what we have to do. We've seen what we need to do. Now is the time to do it and together we can. Do it!"
5. The Quotation Close. Find a famous quotation and use it like a lever to lift the close of your speech. If you were concluding a speech on the importance of embracing change, you could say: "Our tomorrows need new and different solutions today. Recall the insight of President Abraham Lincoln. On the brink of the Civil War, Lincoln looked change directly in the eye and said: 'The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present and future. As our circumstances are anew, we must think anew and act anew.'
And so must we, ladies and gentlemen. We need to look at this old issue in a new way. Not simply for today but to make our tomorrows more rewarding, more fulfilling, more compelling because of the changes we make today. With your help we can think anew, and act anew on the new issues before us today."
6. The Repetitive Close. Find a phrase and structure it in a repetitive format that strikes the cadence of a drummer, building to a climax like this: "And so what we have been saying is that life is an adventure, dare it. A duty, perform it. An opportunity, take it. A journey, complete it. A promise, fulfill it. A puzzle, solve it. A goal, achieve it."
7. The Sing-Song Close. Ask the audience to repeat a phrase a few times in your speech. for example, you might say: "Toastmasters fosters learning." Ask your audience to repeat that phrase on cue. You can end by saying: "We all know that Toastmasters fosters... " (Pause and coax the audience's response with a wave of your hand to complete the phrase.)
8. The Suggestive Close. "Before I take questions, let me conclude with this point...."
9. The Benediction Close. "May God bless and keep you...."
10. The Congratulatory Close. "I salute all of you and everyone in your organization, and I look forward to your continued success...."
11. The Proverbial Close. Find a popular phrase and 1. twist it to fit your message like this: "May the transformational force be with you."
12. The Demonstration Close. Use a prop to signal the close of your speech. For example you could close a book and say: "This concludes this chapter in my life and now I stand firm to write my next chapter." Or don a cap as you conclude your speech and say: "It is time for me to head out and find the road to success."
Use these 12 techniques and you will be well on your way to developing the ultimate close - the personal signature close - that you'll eventually develop so well that you own it, like Barbara Walters who ends each of her 20/20 television programs with: "We're in touch, so you'll be in touch."
With these 12 techniques you will close your speeches more confidently and cogently.
Peter_Jeff is a Toastmaster in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As Toastmasters, we are familiar with the three main elements of a good speech:
These three elements should he sandwiched between two other key elements: an opening and a closing.
OPENING - your first words or actions before the introduction. The opening should be brief, no more than three sentences. The opening's function is to grab the audience's attention so they will want to hear more. It should arouse interest and suggest the speech's theme. Openings can be dramatic - involving props, gestures or simply powerful words. Or make them emotional or rhetorical, using a demonstration, a quotation, a question, even silence, but be sure it relates to your topic.
CLOSING - Your very last comment on your topic following your conclusion. Make the closing brief, no more than three sentences. The closing's function is to accent your purpose and leave the audience with something to remember. The closing is the climax, the whip-cracker, clincher, result-getter. It must tie in with the opening thought. Never leave your audience in doubt. A weak, inconclusive, apologetic closing kills what otherwise could be a great speech. Avoid "thank you." The audience should be thanking you! Let the closing give the "so what?" of the speech. Closings, like openings, can he dramatic, emotional or rhetorical. You may use devices such as humor or a quotation. But, like the opening, the closing must relate to your topic.
Here are some examples of good openings:
Examples of poor openings:
Here are examples of good closings:
Examples of poor closings:
Every speech deserves an ear- and eye-catching opening and a closing that sends the audience reeling.