Chapter 3: Developing Compelling Presentations
Whatever you do, don't run out of gas before you conclude your talk. Or worse yet, don't blurt out those two meaningless words: "Thank You."
It communicates to your audience that you're really lost for words and didn't think enough of them to develop a compelling close.
To give your close a little more pizzazz, consider any of these techniques:
- Tie-in to the Opening: This type of closing circles back to the opening by referring to something that was said in the beginning of the speech. So if you began with an anecdote, for instance, you might close by telling how the story turned out and hopefully relating that successful outcome to something you said in your speech. "Remember little Jessica, the girl born as a double amputee. She no longer relies on her friends and neighbors to carry her to school every day. Now, she can take the long walk herself with the help of the prosthetic leg that was made possible by contributors like you."
- Summarize Key Points or Bookend Your Speech: As you were developing your speech, you wrote down the key points you wanted to cover. You can summarize those points in the close to remind the audience of those important elements. The 3-part speech outline is a particular approach that enables the speaker to convey important information using three different occasions: 1) the opening is when you tell them what you're going to tell them or provide a preview; 2) the body is where you actually educate the audience on the three essential points; and 3) the Closing is when you tell them what you've already told them.
- Personalize Your Message: If you really want to hit a homerun with your speech, take it to home plate. Let your audience know how you personally relate to the subject matter. That will help them see how the message can apply to them. Have you been in an abusive relationship? Did you lose someone close on 9/11? Did the information that you shared help you overcome a particular challenge? It's not too late to provide your personal insight even if that reveal comes at the closing.
- Challenge Your Audience or Call to Action (CTA): Ask your audience to apply what they heard in the speech to spur them to action. Also, be specific about what you want them to do, whether it's cast their vote for a particular candidate, go to the back of the room to buy a book, or sign-up for the next seminar. Of course, this approach requires that you do some advance thinking about what action you want your audience to take but it's worth the extra effort. You should never leave a captive audience without closing the deal.
- Use Words that Echo or Repeat: Using words that echo or repeat can linger in the minds of your listeners. This approach is great for motivational speeches. "And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."
- Refer to back to the title: Use the provocative title to memorably shape your message and unforgettably close it. By ending with a strong speech title, you'll get your audience to make the connection between the title and the speech and think more fully about the speech they just heard. To come up with a great title for a speech, write the closing first.
- Call and Response: Get the audience to repeat a phrase that you used in your speech. When President Barack Obama ran his campaign trail, he got Americans from coast to coast to call out "Yes, we can!" as a way to get them excited about his message and to remember it.
- Refer to a popular movie or book. You can refer to a book or movie that you believe is particularly meaningful to the audience and use examples or quotes from it to support your claims. This helps you connect with the audience and will get them to listen up as you illustrate the relevance of that book or production.
- Use a quote from a well-known person. As with the opener, the person saying the quote is at least as important as the actual quote you select because you're relying on that person's popularity and credibility to drive your point home.
When it comes to bringing your speech to a close you're the only one who can ensure that you leave your listeners with a lasting impression.
So use any of these suggestions to give your audience a speech they'll never forget.