Although the beginning of a speech is important for setting the stage and getting the audience’s attention, the conclusion is their final impression of you and your message. It can be tempting to neglect the conclusion after you’ve spent hours on writing the opening and body, but a weak ending can lessen the effectiveness of your entire speech.
In The Lost Art of a Great Speech, Richard Dowis describes seven ways to effectively conclude a speech. Understanding these will give you more options the next time you’re struggling to write a speech ending.
Dowis defines the types of speech conclusions as:
- wrap up
- direct appeal
Let’s take a brief look at each of these.
With a summary closing you simply summarise the points that you detailed in the body of the speech. This can be effective because it reinforces what you have said. So if you cover three main points in your speech, you can write a few sentences on each point for the ending.
A humorous closing can work well when you find a quotation or anecdote that relates to your speech topic. Humour that is not relevant to the topic, either for the opening or conclusion, will often detract from a speech. If you can’t think of anything funny, there are many websites with quotations and anecdotes on almost any topic. Just search for them.
With a wrap up closing, also called a bookends closing, you repeat or mention an opening element to create a complete loop. This could be a fact, anecdote or quotation that you opened the speech with. Listeners will recognise this repetition as a verbal cue. As soon as you mention it, they will realise that your speech is coming to an end.
When using a direct appeal closing you ask the audience to take specific action. At a graduation ceremony, for example, a speaker might ask the new graduates to take a particular action or change their outlook as they begin their careers.
With a thesis closing you restate the main idea of your speech. This type of conclusion is effective when you’re attempting to persuade your audience on one important point.
When using a reference closing you mention the group you are speaking to, the location, date, a quotation or other point that connects you with your audience. If you’re speaking to a community service group, for example, you can research the organisation and mention their history, philosophy or achievements to reinforce the connection between you and the audience.
With an inspirational closing you use an inspirational quotation, poem or anecdote to end the speech. There are many reference websites where you can search for inspirational quotations, poems and stories by subject or author.
For instance, if you were speaking about goal achievement and wanted to inspire your audience, you might quote Thoreau, who said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life that he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
It’s important to note that you can combine elements from the different types of conclusions when crafting your speech ending. For example, you can inspire your listeners with a quotation or story, and then make a call to action.
Writing an effective speech conclusion is important. But the ending can be the most difficult part. After completing the opening and body of the speech, it’s easy to run out of ideas and get stuck. Knowing the seven options available when ending a speech will help you overcome these challenges to create effective speeches with maximum impact.