An Ending To Remember

by Stephen Boyd | June 30, 2006

Speakers have a hard time ending a presentation. You have heard a speaker say, "In conclusion..." and five minutes later the speaker is still concluding. Others simply trail off at the end and sit down. Then there is the polite ending where the speaker thanks the audience and the several people who have made it possible for him or her to speak. You can simply summarize and sit down.

None of these endings is memorable. Because what you say last people remember best, you want to end with a flourish. You want people to go away talking about your speech and the ending can make that happen. Here are some suggestions to make that possible.

If you are delivering a persuasive speech, your ending should be a move-to-action step. Your last piece of the presentation should fill in the blank, "What I want you to do as a result of my presentation is...."" In addition, that step should be specific, positive, and seen as easily accomplished. "What I want you to do as a result of this presentation is to call this number... and sign up for the United Way Walk-a-Thon a week from Saturday at the convention center at 9:00. You'll have fun and make a contribution to your favorite charity." Any ambiguity in your ending will often be enough to discourage the listener from following through with the action.

If, however, you have an informative presentation where your purpose is to help the audience understand, your ending should tie lose ends together and give the listener something to think about in assimilating the information you have provided. This can be a two-part ending. Your first part is simply a summary of the presentation. "In this presentation, I have given you three benefits of volunteering to work with United Way. Those ways are...."

Your second part and the last thing you say is an exit line. This is a thought-provoking or memorable statement that reinforces the content of the presentation. This might be a quotation from a famous person or a literary quotation which says in powerful language what you want to say. For example, your ending for a presentation on volunteerism might be from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Don't deliver a powerful presentation and end with a fizzle. Use that power in your message to provide the energy to end with a bang, using a concrete move-to-action step or a memorable exit line.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at http://www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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