We’ve all heard conclusions like that. Maybe you’ve even done it yourself. I call it the “aborted conclusion.” Maybe that phrase, “aborted conclusion,” makes you feel uncomfortable because of the usual connotations of the word, “aborted.” Good. If you terminate your speech without a proper, complete conclusion, you have taken the life out of what might have been a unique, memorable experience for your audience.
Remember what you say last is most likely to be remembered best, so it is worth spending some time on your conclusion. In fact, I suggest writing out your conclusion before you write the introduction. Your conclusion should be the foundation that your speech rests upon.
A complete conclusion has 3 parts:
1. A transition—Signal that you are closing.
You can use very obvious signals (which are better than nothing), such as:
In conclusion . . .
To sum up . . .
In closing . . .
Another way to transition is to simply pause, letting your final point sink in. This is my preferred transition. It doesn’t work in written communication very well, but it can be quite effective in a speech.
2. A summary—Summarize your main points. Repetition is important for recall.
3. A memorable closing statement—a call-to-action (for persuasive presentations), a quote, a very short story, bookending (tying back to the beginning) or encouragement/inspiration—related to the key message of your speech. This is also a great time to use a call-back (referring back to a humorous bit).
Here’s an example from a speech that I gave at a Toastmasters demo meeting:
Last point: Tone of voice is important in communication, but body language is even more important.
Transition: Long pause
Summary: In order to be effective communicators, we not only have to pay attention to our words, but we also have to think about our voice and our body language, too! Effective communication combines the three V’s—Visual, Vocal and Verbal for maximum effect.
Toastmasters is a great place to develop these skills!
Closing statement (which, in this case referenced an opening story):You may not change the world with your words, but you can change YOUR world. Change your world with Toastmasters!
If you offer a Q&A session, end the session with a second memorable closing statement. Don’t just end by answering the last question. Your ending is too important to leave it hanging on a question. Leave time for a final statement to wrap things up.
What about saying “thank you” at the end of a speech? There are conflicting opinions on this, so I’ll just give you my take. It depends on the situation. For a Toastmaster speech, the custom is to not say “Thank you.” You typically end a Toastmaster speech with, “Mr. (or Madam) Toastmaster.” For almost all other business speeches, especially sales presentations, ending with “thank you” is usual and customary. You could insert your “thank you” just before your final words, too, as in “Thank you for your attention. I hope you will use these tools of success to build a more prosperous life!”
The tools of success to build a strong conclusion are: transition, summary, closing. Craft them with care and leave your audience with a message that lingers.