George Burns wrote, “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible!” This quotation carries humor that I am sure most of us can relate to. It also carries a truth that applies to public speaking “beyond the pulpit”, particularly to speech endings. The quotation brings back memories from my childhood in small Irish towns.
The Church of Ireland churches I went to with my family were quaint, traditional, had the correct “ancient wood smell” of a church, were cold to the point of being able to see your breath in winter, and the congregation size could be counted on fingers and toes. I also remember the sermons, long sermons, blurs of words that did not mean anything to me, words that were no more that background noise as I squirmed for what seemed like hours on the bare wooden pews. It wasn’t until I heard the four beautiful words that my brain would switch back into the present; the words “thanks be to God” signaled the ending of the sermon.
On the subject of speech endings, have you ever listened to a speech where you were unsure that if it was the ending or not? It sounded a bit like an ending, so you started clapping, a few other people hesitantly also started clapping, and then, to your embarrassment, the speaker continued speaking. The energy was sucked out of the audience as they were now more focused on determining when the real ending was coming rather than the content. When the ending did come, it was so weak that the audience hesitated for a few awkward seconds until they were sure.
It is critical that a speech ending is not haphazardly put together. The ending is as important as a captivating opening or the speech body content that intrigues and captivates.
How Do You Close a Speech Effectively?
1. Make sure that the audience is not left wondering, “Is this the ending?”
2. In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of having a strong well practiced, flowing speech opening. The same applies to the ending. The article is located at the following link…
3. The ending should be smooth and deliberate.
4. In a previous article, I also wrote about mind mapping; this simple visual structural analysis tool can also help determine what your ending should incorporate to wrap up. In the mind map, you might be able to identify two stories that build upon each other, one could be the opening, and the other could tie up the ending. Here is the link…
5. The ending should be concise; do not go on and on and on to where the audience is thinking to themselves, “Ok, we get it, we really get it, its time to stop talking“.
6. Focus the thoughts of your audience.
10 Success Strategies for Speech Endings
1. Summarize some of your points.
2. End with a short story that relates to your speech.
3. Finish with a story or “thread” that relates to your theme or to your opening story
4. Don’t start introducing new information.
5. In speeches such as a motivational speech, it is highly effective to have some kind of “call to action”, challenge, or appeal that the audience members can reasonably implement.
6. Convey a sense of finality. Focus your finale with wording, energy and intonation to identify the ending and trigger applause.
7. Use words such as, “Let me end by saying…”, “In my presentation today, we have covered…”
8. End with a quotation. Some of my favorite quotation sites are: http://www.quoteland.com/ and http://www.quotegarden.com/. It is appropriate to identify who the quotation owner is. You can see me using quotations in my demo video on my web site at www.davehillspeaks.com.
9. Make a dramatic statement or use a shock close.
10. End with humor.
Final Words on Speech Endings
1. Incorporate purposeful movement into your ending. Finish center stage. If making a significant concluding statement, take a few steps towards the audience to help emphasize its importance (this can also help the audience understand that this is going to be the ending).
2. Take your applause. Stand there, make eye contact, and let them congratulate you.
3. Practice, practice, practice, until your ending if flawless.
4. Remember, the ending is considered one of the most important parts of your speech.