“Great is the art of beginning; but greater the art is of ending!” – Longfellow
Longfellow knew a thing or two about poetry, but his idea is equally as valid for our speeches as it was for his poetry.
Setting out with an attention grabbing opening is almost essential; it is needed to get the audience primed to receive our words of wisdom and excited about our topic.
But many – even experienced speakers – have opened with excitement and closed with lethargy! The conclusion should give your audience a sense of closure, and a feeling that the speech is now complete, not merely ended. In addition, it is the last opportunity we have to drive the point home, and to get the listener’s agreement to act on our evidence. So it needs extreme care and attention; but it often doesn’t get it.
An audience likes to feel that sense of rightness that comes with a well rounded speech finished with a clear conclusion. If we have opened correctly, our audience grasped the topic of our speech and had a good idea where we intended to go with it.
We took the time to guide our listeners through our evidence, and linked our main points through active transitions; and now we need to lead our audience home.
We don’t need to verbally hit them over the head, but we can show that we are reaching the end by change of pace, change of body language and change of emphasis.
Some speech trainers suggest that we build our speeches to a climax, just like a symphony orchestra increasing the tension, the volume to reach a crescendo and end on a clash of cymbals.
But some of the most effective speeches, ones that stay in the mind have done exactly the opposite. They have brought us down from the clouds into the real world where the information and emotion generated throughout the speech need to be applied.
Regardless; any conclusion will need to include a recap of the main points and even some of the crucial evidence. This is reinforcing the audience’s understanding of your topic and commitment to any action.
Then, depending on your topic you can end with a controversial statement or remark. Who does not remember Patrick Henry’s famous quotations ‘Give me Liberty or give me death’ – which neatly summed up the thrust of his speech and was equally a call to action for his listeners.
We can also revisit our opening. If we used a quotation or a question at the start of our speech, referring back to it in the closing gives not only a thrill of recognition, but also a sense of completeness. It rounds the speech off and helps us to conclude rather than just stop.
As the conclusion is the last time we will have the opportunity to appeal to our audience, it is best to end with a bang rather than a whimper, and while a quieter ending can be softer and gentler, it still needs to conclude with tension, or it might just be an anticlimax.
The conclusion revisits the arguments, the evidence and the reason this speech was given. It should end with an appeal to your audience that reaches straight into their hearts.
And – almost as important – do not take too long to conclude your speech. Like an arrow, it should shoot straight and true and not deviate into new territory or disappear down second thoughts.
So Sealing the Deal is the aim of the conclusion, and to get this response from your listeners you will need to plan the end of your speech as meticulously as you planned the opening and the body.
The audience is inclined to remember the first and the last thing you say, so you should aim to leave a positive impression on them. That needs work.
As Longfellow said “Great is the art of beginning; but greater the art is of ending!” But the rewards are so worthwhile.
Michele @ Trischel