Speech Writing Tips: Seven Ways to Conclude a Speech for Maximum Impact

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:

  • summary
  • humorous
  • wrap up
  • direct appeal
  • thesis
  • reference
  • inspirational.

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.

Tips from a Speech Writer | Writing a Powerful Speech Opening to Connect with Your Audience

It’s often said that an effective speech opening is vital for connecting with your listeners. Besides making a good first impression, a good beginning to your speech helps you win the trust and attention of your listeners.

The speech opening is where you have the best chance to build a bridge of understanding between you and your audience. But how do you connect with a new audience when delivering a speech?

In The Lost Art of  the Great Speech, Richard Dowis describes what he calls reference opening to establish common ground between the speaker and the audience. When using a reference opening, the speaker usually makes reference to the speech, the group, the event or something related to one of these.

Some of the possible references you can use are the date, the location, the weather, the organisation you are delivering your speech to, a historical event, a current event, the topic, and the speech title.

Dowis shows how one executive speaking at a forum sponsored by the JC Penney Company, a US department store chain, used a reference opening in his speech.

I’m honoured to have been invited to represent the credit-reporting industry in this discussion of consumer credit. At the outset, I want to commend the JC Penney organisation for its sponsorship of this forum. I can recall many years ago reading about the late JC Penney. He was a dynamic man whose success in building one of the great retail enterprises of all time is testimony to the enormous potential of a free economic system. Mr Penney was also a man whose concern for people and society was apparent throughout his long and productive life.

Another example of a reference opening is found in 50 High Impact Speeches and Remarks by Michael Kador. He shows how Michael Askew, Vice Chairman of United Parcel Service, used a reference opening when he spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Air & Waste Management Association.

It is truly an honour to be addressing an organisation that has done so much to further our understanding of the environment. And you’ve done so in a way that promotes working cooperation among businesses, governments and communities.

What I find most impressive is that you’ve been doing this for 92 years. You don’t stick around 92 years unless you’re doing something right. We’re very aware of that at UPS.

In fact, the Air & Waste Management Association and UPS probably have more in common than you might think. For starters, we each were both founded way back in 1907 at a time when most environmental philosophies governing business and society were fledgling, at best.

This opening highlights what the speaker’s company has in common with the organisation he is addressing. It was a fortunate coincidence that both were founded in the same year, but you can usually find some point that connects you, or your organisation, to the audience.

As mentioned, location can be the basis for a reference opening. The following example from Dowis shows how an executive based in Atlanta used a location reference to connect with his audience in Chicago.

It’s good to be here in the company of such distinguished men and women in the great city of Chicago. Back in Atlanta, we refer to Chicago as the ‘other city the works.’ Chicago and Atlanta do have a great deal in common, quite apart from being the economic and cultural capitals of their respective regions of the country. Atlanta was burned in 1864 by a Yankee general named Sherman; Chicago was burned in 1871 by Mrs O’Leary’s cow.

Dowis also shows how to use literary references in a speech opening to connect with the speech topic. An executive of a forest products company used a literary reference when speaking to the company’s shareholders.

Dr Pangloss, a character in Voltaire’s Candide, was fond of the statement: “All’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Well, in the field of for-sale residential construction, in finance, and in many other areas for which I have responsibility, we are close to, if not in, the best of all possible worlds.

If you’re having trouble finding a reference opening to help you connect with your audience, you can always try using the date of your presentation as a reference. Sites such as Today-In-History ( list important events, births and deaths that occurred on each day of the year. You might be able to find an event that is relevant to your speech topic or audience in some way.

The options for creating an effective reference opening are as boundless as your imagination and creativity. Writing an effective reference opening requires thought, planning and research. The effort spent, however, will help you get your messages across to receptive and attentive audiences.