How to Close a Speech

GuyKawasaki

The last words you utter during a presentation literally form the lasting impression you plant into the minds of your audience. So it’s important that you create a memorable close even though you might be tempted to settle for a few cursory summary points by the time you’ve invested considerable effort into developing an attention-getting opener and strong main body. Consider some of these tips to close your presentation on a strong note:

End with a call to action. What do you want your audience to know, feel and do after listening to you? It’s totally acceptably to plan the suggestion at the end of your talk, which is where a clear call to action comes into play. Literally calling on your audience to take a specific action creates strength and power. Politicians rely on calls to action all the time (“get out there and vote!”), and so do business executives. Calls to action should be easy to remember and compelling. For instance, consider a CEO exhorting a sales staff at a company meeting by saying, “If each of you closes just one sale this week, we’ll beat our numbers.” A call to action can apply to the speaker, too (“I pledge to all employees that I will visit every office this year”).

 Don’t forget about a summary. It may seem obvious to summarize your points at the end of a speech, but many people omit this simple step, greatly increasing the risk that their audience will quickly forget most of what they just heard. The basic Aristotelian “triptych” structure of a speech goes as follows: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them – and then tell them what you told them. Within this basic structure, you can incorporate your own personality, such as adding stories, a little humor or backing up each point with statistics. Summaries work best when you focus on one key takeaway as opposed to summarizing several points (“Remember: our future depends on the mobile consumer”).

Finish with a story. A memorable anecdote is a great way to illustrate your key points and link back to your main message. You bring a new perspective to the content without becoming repetitive. Did you tell a story earlier in your speech? If it’s appropriate to do so, return to the story or make a reference back to it.

Use multi-media. Especially if you’ve been talking a lot, ending your presentation with a brief video that underscores your points can break up the repetition and inspire an audience, depending on the nature of content. Speakers often like to open speeches with videos to make a great first impression, but video can also help you “land” the speech in a memorable way. Just keep it short and relevant to the content of your speech.

Finally, even the most interesting ways to close a speech can grow tiresome when you use them too frequently. If audience members start rolling their eyes as you begin to recite a quote or tell a little story at the end of your speeches, it’s time to mix up the format. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting with different closing tactics to make your speeches fresh and engaging.

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing bduffy@onesmoothstone.com

Image source: TEDx Talks

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