The 2 most important parts of your Speech:
Your Opening and Your Closing.
For keys on opening your speech, check out my previous post, Master Your Opening.
Let's talk about your closing here. Your last words linger, so make them count. Many a great speech has been ruined by a mediocre end. This makes no sense. To put effort into your whole speech, getting your stories just right, statistics on point, audience interaction A+, then pay no attention to how you end the speech – is a mistake. If nothing else, start with solidifying (and I would suggest memorizing) your opening and closing. The audience will forgive some slip ups and imperfection in your speech, and they will forget anything they didn't like if they like and feel your ending.
Consider these 3 strategies when closing your talk. Of course there are many ways to close a speech. The key is to pay attention to what you want to achieve, and to be deliberate when you deliver the end of your talk.
Crowd Capture Closing (CCC) #1 – The Call to Action
As an adult, I pretend to be grown up and mature. We all do. Sometimes we fake it pretty well but sometimes the child in us comes out. On occasion we may act immature (enter road rage drivers and basically everyone who is married). And we all like being given direction in our lives. We say we don't, but we all want someone to lead the way and tell us what to do. That's why we have CEOs, Prime Ministers, and Presidents.
As a speaker, boldly go forward and tell your audience what to do with your message. Take the abstract concept that you present and give them specific instructions for its implementation. Give them the one next step to take in their lives. They will appreciate you for it.
Tip for CCC#1 – Think of the next tangible step your audience should take after hearing your story and its message. Ask yourself “What should my listener do tomorrow with what I've said?”. Then tell them to do it.
Crowd Capture Closing (CCC) #2 – The Creative Question
The quality of the life you'll lead is directly related to the quality of questions that you ask yourself. “What should I do with my life?”, “Is this person the right one for me?”, “Should I work out today?” Questions make you think. Thinking gives you your next proper action steps. Make your audience think by asking them a question as your final words. Think of a question that is thought provoking and challenging. (As an option, you can even get them to write down the answer to your question.)
Tip for CCC#2 – After you ask your question, let at least 5 full seconds of silence fill the room before you walk off stage. Stand still and let your last words linger while they think. Try it and feel the power of thought in the room!
Crowd Capture Closing (CCC) #3 – The Congruent Quote
I mention congruent here for a reason. The worst thing that you can do is to throw out a quote during your speech just because you like it. Make sure that the quote that you use fits your talk, and sums it up nicely. In addition, try to add in where you found or heard the quote (bonus points for page numbers) as it adds credibility to your quote citation.
Tip for CCC#3 – Try to use lesser known quotes by lesser known authors. For example, I may quote Winston Churchill, Oprah, or Tony Robbins in my speeches, but I get much more response when I quote from a book that I've read by someone who is lesser known, or give a quote that is not readily available through a quick Google search.
Use any of these 3 “Crowd Capture Closing” strategies to end your story with power and impact. People will forgive mistakes, but remember: Your Last Words Linger.
Keep Speaking, Sharing and Serving
Kwesi Sekou Millington
Speaker, Mentor, Coach
Kwesi Millington helps speakers, presenters and youth to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.