Adapted from "Concluding Your Speech," Toastmasters Better Speaker Series
Do you remember the theme song for the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall”? Adele sings it in that amazing voice of hers, and she starts off with, “This is the end.”
That’s what I’m going to talk about today: The end…of your speech. The end of your speech is like the finish line of a race. Sometimes you’ve run, or talked for so long and so hard that you just want to get across it. You’re tired, and you don’t care what you look like [Run hunched over]. But some people are able to conserve that last bit of energy, and they can cross the finish line looking like this [Hands in the air, smiling]. So, do you think you should end your speech like this [hunched over] or like this [smiling]? [People clap for the latter.]
Yes, and do you know why? Because people remember the last thing they hear and see more than any other part of the speech. So if you want to make a great impression, end your speech positively and forcefully.
Here are three criteria for successfully ending your speech:
1. Achieve a sense of closure. Do this by saying “in conclusion,” or “let me end by saying.” In this way, you’ll signal people that the end is coming, and they’ll pay close attention.
2. Make an impact. People may not remember all that you’ve said, but they’ll remember the last thing you said and how it made them feel, if you have a positive and forceful ending. Feelings are important. It’s great when you can make people feel proud, determined, or inspired.
3. The ending should take 5-10 percent of the time for your whole speech. The same is true for the beginning. When a speech is 7 minutes long, the beginning and the ending should each take between 35-70 seconds.
Now, there are techniques that will create a lasting and vivid impression with your audience. Here are six techniques you can use to give your speech a strong ending. The first is:
1. Use a quotation. I’ll use examples from Shakespeare.
-- A quotation can add authority “To thine own self be true.”
-- Amuse your listeners “Assume virtue, if you have it not.”
-- Or dramatize your speech points “Something wicked this way comes.”
Keep your quote short and directly related to your topic. For example, Andy recently gave a speech about the problems with the Korean education system, and how it needed to be changed. One way he could have ended his speech is with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
2. Tell a short story or an anecdote. It can be inspirational or funny, but
-- You should develop it quickly
-- Make it short
-- Use it to reinforce your message
Personalize it if you can. For example, last year Valerie gave a speech about how unhealthy it was for women to wear high heels. If it were me, I could have ended the speech with: When I was in college, I was crossing a street in high heels when my foot wobbled and fell to the side. I sprained my ankle and it took six months to heel. I never wore spikey high heels again.
3. Call for Action
Clearly explain what action the audience should take. This is a great way to end Competent Communication Speech #9: Persuade with Power. For example, last spring Alix spoke to this club about how fishermen tragically kill 100 million sharks a year for their fins. She could have concluded by saying: Learn more by watching the movie “Sharkwater,” or visiting its website, www.sharkwater.com. Then write to Secretary General of the United Nations and urge the passage of an international ban on shark finning.
4. Ask a Rhetorical Question
The audience will think about an answer, and therefore, think about your speech.
“You may ask ‘Can we afford to do this?’ I ask, ‘Can we afford not to?’”
A rhetorical question related to shark killing would be:
“Do you or anyone else really need to eat sharkfin soup?”
5. Refer to the beginning of your speech. Think of your speech as a book with a front cover, which is the opening, the pages, which are the body of your speech, and then a back cover, which is the closing, that is connected to the opening.
“I began my remarks by reviewing the challenges our company must confront.”
Or, when Chandra spoke about the benefits of fasting one day a week, she might have said, “I told you at the beginning of my speech that I would convince you to consider fasting one day a week. What do you think? Did I convince you?” This reinforces the message.
6. Summarize your main points.
Repetition reinforces your message.
I think you should almost always do this. Then you can add one of the other closing techniques after it. For example, when Jung-hee spoke about how to improve our health, she used the acronym “NEW START.” She told us it stood for Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sun, Temperance, Air, Rest, and Trust in God. And then she told us again at the end of her speech.
Tips for Success
Now, let’s add 3Tips for Successto your 6 Closing Techniques
1. Memorize your conclusion. This enables you to end on a note of confidence, and adds impact to your speech.
2. End on time. You can ruin a good speech by going on and on. The audience will start looking at their watches instead of the speaker. End on time with a dynamic conclusion to create a favorable impression.
3. Refrain from adding new points. Sometimes people forget to say something in the middle of their speech, and tack it on at the end. This confuses people, so don’t do it.
In conclusion, I have just told you about six effective ways to end your speech. They are:
Use a quotation, tell a short story, call for action, ask a rhetorical question, refer to the beginning of your speech, and summarize your main points.
I would like to end with a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”