Planning a Speech Conclusion
How do you plan the conclusion of your speech?
An effective speech opens by gaining the listener’s attention, develops each point, and then has a memorable end. If you don’t know how to end a speech, your key points may get lost.
A strong opening and closing will create a memorable speech. The speech’s conclusion is the last words the audience will hear, and it helps highlight the key message they should remember after the presentation. Many great historical speeches have ended with powerful, stirring words that live on in memory.
For informative, persuasive and motivational speeches, the purpose of a conclusion is to drive home the big picture, review key points, and leave the audience with an enduring impact.
A light entertaining speech may have a different ending and not require a summary of the main points. In this case the speech needs a conclusion leaving a lasting impression of the speech.
- Signals the end of the speech
- Reinforces the residual message
- Provides a sense of closure
- All loose ends should be tied up
- Leaves the audience with a clear message
- The audience should be left with a feeling of completeness
Planning your speech conclusion
- Select the type of conclusion
Some people prepare the conclusion first, although this is a personal choice. Often there is a lot of moving back and forth through the speech during the development stage.
Choose the type of conclusion for your speech based on the purpose of the speech, content and audience. Ask yourself, ‘What is the purpose of this speech?’
Nine conclusion options are presented below.
There is a simple formula for speeches:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them.
- Tell them.
- Then, tell them what you told them.
Your approach to your conclusion is focussed on point three. As you approach the end of your talk, consider saying something like,
- In summary . . .
- Therefore, I conclude
- In conclusion . . .
- Let me briefly restate these main points . . .
Then list your key points, one by one, showing how each one of them links to the other points. This is a linear repetition of what they have previously heard and emphasises that you are coming to the end of your speech.
Finally, link your last one or two sentences to your first sentences in the introduction to create a memorable ending.
- Call to action
A call to action follows a persuasive presentation.
If you expect the audience to take action after they have listened to you, the best way to conclude is with strength and power. Increase your energy and tempo. Show your passion.
Present your call to action
- In a positive way.
- Use strong action words
- Speak with strength and emphasis.
- Create a sense of urgency
- Provoke emotion or enthusiasm
- Drive home the main point
- Clearly and concisely state the action required
Examples of a call to action
- I ask you to sign this petition.
- Please attend this meeting.
- I urge you to donate blood.
- Buy now and get 50% off
- Find your dream home with us
- Donate now to save lives
- Commit to a cleaner ocean, use fewer plastics
Your audience may, or may not, agree with you or are willing to do what you ask. However, they should be perfectly clear to them what you are requesting.
- Quotation, story or anecdote
As you reach the end of your speech, you can say,
Let me leave you a quotation / story / anecdote that illustrates what I have been talking about . . .
- ‘There is no plan B because there is no planet B’ – Unknown
- ‘Be bold, dig deep, back yourself’ – Gail Kelly
Make this ending brief with a moral. Succinctly tell the audience what is the moral. Don’t leave it to them to work out the connection.
Often you can close with a story that illustrates your key points and clearly links to the key message that you are making within your speech.
- Rhetorical question
A Rhetorical question can be effectively persuasive, subtly influencing the type of response the speaker wants to obtain from the audience. It can assist them to agree with you.
The rhetorical question is a question that is asked for effect and doesn’t require an answer. The answer may be provided by the questioner or be obvious. The question may not have an answer.
Examples: Knowing this, how many of you will light up a cigarette tomorrow?
What’s in a name?
Can birds fly?
To emphasise a point or idea: Are you kidding me?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Rhetorical questions with no answers: Who cares?
What’s the meaning of life?
- The rule of three
The use of the rule of three makes the content more memorable for the audience.
Historical examples are:
- ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ Julius Caesar
- ‘Blood, sweat and tears’ General Patton
- ‘It is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning.’ Winston Churchill
- Mind, body, spirit
- Location, location, location
- Stop, look and listen
- 3.6.Use of innuendo
An innuendo is an allusive or oblique remark or hint, typically a suggestive or disparaging one. It indirectly references to something else.
Innuendo can be used in different forms: In everyday life, in nature, or innocent, accidental and sexual innuendo.
- Suggesting sexual connotation
‘Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.’
(Venus and Adonis, William Shakespeare)
- Feigning jealousy to subtly criticise
‘I wish I could just let my kids play games on the iPad all day like you do.’
- Suggesting there’s something more to a seemingly innocent situation.
‘Alison’s been spending a lot of time studying with Alex lately, if you know what I mean.’
Each sentence seems to say one thing while insinuating something different.
- A memorable statement
A memorable statement may be one which has an ambiguous meaning, a play on words, create a laugh, or seemly be opposing in content. It is an attention-getting statement and often links to the opening sentence or a repeat of the opening statement.
Examples: I have worms.
It is never too late to . . .
Why is it called the rush hour when nothing moves?
A motivational speech can be uplifting and encourage the audience to think or do something new or different. Create your own inspirational message or perhaps use a quotation as an appropriate conclusion.
- ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
- ‘Light tomorrow with today’ (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
- Visual image
A presentation can be concluded with a visual image which ties in your take-home message. Leave this slide on when you finish your presentation to give the audience something to look at and think about for the next few minutes. This can increase the memory of the message.
- Plan your closing remarks word for word
To ensure that your conclusion is as powerful as it can be, plan it word for word.
Knowing the purpose of your speech, it is easier to design an appropriate conclusion.
The body of your talk is where you present your ideas and influence the way the audience is to think. The conclusion must leave a lasting memory. Careful preparation to craft the correct and impactful words is worthwhile.
- Make the ending known
Your final words and tone of voice need to indicate clearly to the audience that you have finished your speech. The audience should know that you have concluded.
Winding down dilutes your credibility and influence.
Don’t allow your speech to slowly wind down by saying,
That’s all I have to say, or
Well, that just about covers it. Thank you
There is nothing more uncomfortable than the silence of an audience working out if you have finished or not. The audience should know the end has come and respond immediately.
Key Points for leading up to the conclusion and delivering the conclusion
- If summarising, don’t repeat your main points word for word; rather, paraphrase the key points.
- Don’t introduce any new points, supportive evidence or ideas into your conclusion as it will confuse your audience.
- Don’t end with audience questions or criticisms. If there has been a Q & A session, perhaps acknowledge the Q and A session, and then close with a condensed version of your original speech conclusion. This will reinforce your message so the audience takes the message home and is more likely to remember it.
- If appropriate, consider using trigger phrases such as “in conclusion” or “in summary” to prepare your audience for the end of your speech.
- The introduction and conclusion should be linked, and complement one another, or be the same.
- End on a high note – craft the ending appropriate for the audience, topic and purpose of the speech so the audience will recall it in the weeks and months after its delivery. End with a bang, not a whimper.
Always choose a conclusion which is appropriate to your purpose of the speech, content and audience.