Speech Content – Part #5.5
Closing Your Speech
Your LAST WORDS
Will probably be the FIRST WORDS Your Audience will Remember!
It’s OK if your closing has a surprise in it, but not if your closing is the surprise!
Here’s an analogy. You’re on a trip and have been leisurely driving down the road for a while. There’s a large, wide bend in the road and as you drive it and the road starts to straighten out, suddenly, and with no signs to warn you, there’s a dead end!
Don’t do that to your audience. Give them that ‘sign’ that it’s time to close the speech.
Here are some ways to tell them:
“It’s time to bring this presentation to a close.”
“I’m going to close my presentation with a . . .”
“Let me close my talk by . . .”
“My watch says it’s time to close. So, . . .”
People will remember the first and last things they hear from you. We call this “The Law of Primacy and Recency.”
This is why it is mandatory that you have a strong opening and a strong closing. And of the two, more often than not, the closing will be recalled more than any other part of the presentation.
Memorize and practice, practice, practice your opening and closing! Rehearse it so it becomes second nature to you.
Remember, though, it’s the first time this audience will hear it. Don’t lose the enthusiasm and emotion you had when delivering the closing many audiences ago!
Courtroom summations by attorneys will likely be the words most remembered by jurors as they head to deliberating a verdict.
In political debates, the closing statements of the candidates can, and many times do, carry a disproportionate amount of influence to voters than most of what took place in the debates.
For these reasons, your Closing must be strong and compelling. You’re going for a ‘Knock Out!’ It is what the audience will probably remember most, and it’s certainly your last opportunity to make a lasting impression.
You want them saying, “Yes!” and “Wow” and rising to their feet applauding!
Saying, ‘Thank you!’ to an audience is not a closing. It lets them down. They fell cheated. This is especially if your presentation was good. You’ve heard speakers close like that, haven’t you? It’s terrible!
In fact, when your presentation is concluded, the audience, if you’ve done your job correctly, should be ‘thanking you!’
Have you ever been enjoying a movie and all of a sudden, when you weren’t expecting it, there’s an underwhelming ending and the credits start rolling? Your thoughts are that you’ve missed something and possibly wasted your time, right?
Don’t cheat your audience!
Your Closing can take several forms, and should always be relevant to your talk.
For instance, it can be a ’Call to Action’, such as when John F. Kennedy began the closing of his inaugural speech with, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Another way to close is to ’Challenge’ your audience.
If you’ve been speaking on physical fitness and state that the importance of exercise is losing weight and lowering cholesterol, say, “Right here, right now – Everyone who thinks following the ‘5 Steps to a Better You’ program could make major changes in your health and self-esteem – get on your feet – raise your right hand – and repeat after me, ‘I ….’”
Other Closing Techniques:
If you have used Humor during your speech, and if it’s appropriate to the message and audience, using humor to close can work well. People like to feel good, correct? If your presentation leaves them smiling and laughing, that’s a good thing!
If, on the other hand, the message was serious and thought-provoking, a closing that ends with a Quotation or “Pulling-at-the heart-strings” story that succinctly summarizes your message, will be very effective.
Example: “Steve Jobs would not have gone on to continue to lead Apple had it not for the generosity of a family who lost a loved one in an auto accident.
If you haven’t signed an organ donor card, I hope you’ll now consider ‘the gift of life.’”
Another closing technique is to Completely Switch Delivery Styles at the end. A quiet, solemn closing, in contrast to a speech that was high-energy and full of humor, will be the kind of “pattern interrupt” that will make the most impact as you leave the lectern. It wasn’t what they were expecting, and, if done well, will leave the audience thinking about your message.
Example: “We’ve had a lot of fun today talking about ways to conserve energy
and alternative sources of energy. These are subjects many of us, literally, get ‘energized’ just thinking about. And that’s great!
But think, please, as you leave today: What happens if all we do about this subject is get excited about it, talk about it and don’t take action. What happens then?”
Sometimes, Tying the Closing to the Opening can be effective. If it’s a story you ‘haven’t quite finished’ in the body of your speech, now is the time to WOW the audience with the conclusion of that story.
Example: “And that little girl I mentioned at the beginning of my talk; the one who didn’t speak till she was two, and was judged to be ‘un-educable by more than one of her grade school teachers. Well, let me bring you up to date on what the special auditory software program helped her accomplish: Cassandra just delivered the valedictorian speech at Yale!”
Using the Title of your speech in the Closing can have a dramatic effect on the audience.
Example: If title of your presentation was, “What’s Holding You Back?” then
an appropriate ending statement could easily be, “So, let me end my talk the way I began it, and ask the same question, “What’s Holding You Back?”
Stop – look at the audience – and Enjoy the Applause!