Think of your favorite book, movie or TV show. Can you remember how it started? Maybe, maybe not. Can you remember how it ended? Of course!
Whenever you give a speech, at a high school or college graduation, at a business meeting or a civic association, you want your audience to remember the ENDING of your speech more than anything else.
Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream‘ speech, contains one of the most moving and inspirational endings in the history of rhetoric. The haunting refrain that runs throughout the entire speech moved millions who heard it back then, and it still resonates today.
Here are seven super ways to end your speech that will leave your audiences wide awake and ready to follow your lead:
1. Do not leave the ending of your speech up to improvisation
Maybe you’re good at thinking on your feet, and don’t like the idea of being constrained by written words for your closing remarks. But in the famous words of Agent Gibbs on TV’s NCIS, “Suck it up, probie.” Unless you’re a professional stand up comedian, you need the words on paper to keep you focused, articulate, and professional-sounding. One of the first rules of Toastmasters International, an organization that trains its members in the art of speech making, is to BE PREPARED before you even start your speech. In other words: begin with the end in mind.
2. Always close with a CTA
Editor Andrew Dlugan advises, “Make your call to action clear and direct; make your request something the audience can act upon immediately; make it easy and convenient enough so anyone can do it; make sure the audience knows exactly how it will benefit them; and don’t issue the challenge to your audience, but to the individuals in the audience- you don’t want the crowd to do anything, but you want each individual in it to do something… look at them directly and state forcefully ‘I challenge you today to . . ..’”
3. Summarize at the end
Anything from a meandering wasp to an uncomfortable seat can distract your audience so that they miss key elements of your speech. Repetition of your main points near the end of your talk is appreciated by audiences, and will recharge their memory and prepare them for your subsequent call to action.
4. Use a story at the end of your speech
In an article in The New Yorker about the science of storytelling, writer Adam Gopnik says, “Stories are the currency of life.” People don’t remember how many drowned on the Titanic; they only remember how they felt when they saw the story or heard the story for the first time. But make sure you use a story that will excite people- not a bedtime story that you would tell a child!
5. Include something interesting/educational
Few things are more deathly dull than giving a high school graduation speech- or listening to one! Such speeches are usually a tepid brew of platitudes and bromides that would make a cyclone lie down and snooze. So use some interesting factoids, such as the ones present in this Shutterfly infographic about graduation ceremonies around the world, to spice things up and build interest as you approach the end of your speech. Rummage through the internet for weird and intriguing items you can include in your speech to keep your audience wondering and chuckling right to the end.
6. Make ‘em laugh
“Always leave ‘em with a laugh” is the old vaudeville saying, and it still works today. A bit of self-deprecating humor is always appreciated, and happily remembered, by your audience as you wind down. For example:
“I know I’m a great speaker, because as soon as I sit down people start telling me it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
“My speeches are like the horns on a steer- one point here and one point there, and in between just a lot of bull.”
Adding humor to your speech can bring it alive; as speechwriter Robert Orben noted, “One laugh is worth a thousand words.”
7. Less is more
If your speech is scheduled for the last ten minutes of a business meeting, talk to them for nine minutes, and then ask if there are any questions. If you’re doing an hour-long seminar, you can make the crowd love you, and, in fact, you might even get a standing ovation, if you only take 50 minutes. Statistics show that adult attention spans have been steadily decreasing during the past 15 years. Unless you have the charisma of Jerry Seinfeld, the sex appeal of Jennifer Lopez, and the money of Bill Gates, you are going to have to work hard at making the audience like you and pay attention to you for much longer than a few minutes at a time. As Shakespeare wrote: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Featured photo credit: allanfernancato via pixabay.com