By Robert Weis
Many speakers do a great job with the introduction and the major points of their speech, only to falter with the all-important close.
Let’s consider three elements. The classic close, what not to do and a couple of variations you can try.
The Classic Close
This follows logically from the introduction, theme, major points and summary—to a call for action.
This may be an ask to:
• Try something new;
• Avoid something (such as an unsecured source of information); or
• Simply reflect from time-to-time on the theme of your talk.
What Not To Do
Seasoned teacher of speech-writing typically say NOT to end your talk with a meekly milquetoast “thank you.” The point is that the audience should feel like thanking YOU.
They will, if you do your job well.
If you can’t help yourself, perhaps you could ask the audience to join you in thanking the event organizers.
It’s much better to trust you can carry the day. If you do your homework, your audience will indeed want to thank you.
Like anything in the art of writing and speaking, there can be many variations in how to end a speech.
If time allows, after the summary, you could get into an addendum, including several action points that follow from the logic of the speech. For one client, I advocated including five action points in his closing statement.
It’s critical to keep in mind why you were invited and the point of view of your audience. Your close should fit their receptiveness to your overall message. And don’t make it too complicated.
Taking The Lead
Communication professionals talk about “messaging” as if it’s divorced from the communication fit we’re trying to develop here—adapting to the perspective of your audience.
One of my professors called messaging “communication as a brick,” something tossed at the audience, instead of a process of engagement.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t challenge the audience or push to convince them that your views are “right.” Yet, you DO have to engage them early on so that they’ll believe there’s merit in the new path you’re taking them on and will follow you.
In general, strive to arrange things so your ending is a simple, one-sentence, clear and strong statement of your call to action.
Robert J. Weis, PhD, is the principal of Weis Communications, an issues research, outreach planning and leadership communications firm located in Seattle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.