5 Closing a Speech: End with Power and Let Them Know It is Time to Clap

Lynn Meade

Audience clapping

Open Your Speech With a Bang
Close It With a Slam-Dunk
Westside Toastmasters


Tell them what you are going to say, say it, tell them what you have said. This speech pattern is useful in most types of speeches because it helps the speaker to remember your key points. As you build your closing, make sure you restate the thesis. A good rule of thumb is to write it in such a way that if the audience were asked to restate the main points, their answer would match closely with your thesis.

 

EXAMPLE
Watch as Stella Young gives her thesis and then restates her thesis at the end of the speech as she wraps up.
The thesis of the talk in the introduction:
We’ve been sold the lie that disability is a Bad Thing, capital B, capital T. It’s a bad thing, and to live with a disability makes you exceptional. It’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t make you exceptional.
Restates the thesis of the talk at the closing:
Disability doesn’t make you exceptional but questioning what you think you know about it does.

Stella Young, I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtPGrLoU5Uk

 

This next example is from a student’s speech. It is easy to pull out one sentence that clearly summarizes the main points of her speech. Following her summary, she winds the speech down into a thoughtful conclusion and ends with three powerful words.

Now is the time to separate the war on drugs from the war on addiction. Today you’ve heard the problems, impacts, and solutions of criminalizing addictions. Bruce Callis is 50 years old now. And he is still struggling with his addiction. while you all are sitting out there listening to this, I’m living with it. Bruce Callis is my father and for my entire life, I have watched our misguided system destroy him. The irony here is that we live in a society where we are told to recycle. We recycle paper, aluminum, and electronics. But why don’t we ever consider recycling them most precision think on Earth–the human life.
Student Tunnette Powell, Winner of the 2012 Interstate Oratorical Association Contest.


Closing Phrases

After you restate your thesis, you should carefully deliver your closing phrases.  Your closing should provide a resolution to your speech and/or it should challenge the audience. Frantically Speaking writer Hrideep Barot suggests  “a conclusion is like tying a bow or ribbon to a box of your key ideas that your audience will be taking along with them.”

A speech closing is not just about the words you say, but it is also the way you say it. Change the pace near the end of your speech. Let your tone alone should signal the end is near. It is about deliberate voice control, don’t let your voice weakly away.

In the next section, I will cover these ways to end your speech:

End with powerful words
End with a quote
End with a graphic
End with parallel construction
End on a positive note
End with a challenge
End with a question
End with inspiration
End with well-wishing
End with humor
End with a call to action
End with a feeling of resolve
End with a prop

The best way to teach you about advanced closings is to show not tell. For this section, I will briefly explain each type of closing and then provide a video. Each video is queued so you can play the video and watch the closing statement.  I included a transcript under each video if you want to follow along.  It will be most beneficial for you to watch the clip and not just read the text. By watching, you will have a chance to hear the subtle changes in the speaker’s voice as they deliver their closing statements.

End with Powerful Words

As you design your closing, look at the last three to five words and examine them to see if they are strong words. Oftentimes, you can rearrange a sentence to end with a powerful word. (I have the video cued to play just the closing)

Watch this clip for how BJ Miller ends with a powerful thought and a powerful word. 

Parts of me died early on, and that’s something we can all say one way or another. I got to redesign my life around this fact, and I tell you it has been a liberation to realize you can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left, like that snowball lasting for a perfect moment, all the while melting away. If we love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live well — not in spite of death, but because of it. Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination.

BJ Miller, What Really Matters at the End of Life

End by Circling Back to the Opening

Another type of ending is to circle back to what you said in the beginning. You can revisit a quote, share the end to an illustration that was begun in the beginning, or you can put away a prop you got out in the beginning.

Watch this clip for how Zubing Zhang
begins and ends with the same quote to circle back around to the main idea. 

She starts by telling a story of bungee jumping off the world’s highest platform and how she saw a sign with a quote that says, “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” After telling her own story about pushing her emotional limits, she circles back around at the end by saying, “As the words said high on the bungee platform, “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”

Yubing Zhang, Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone. 

 

End With Quote

 

If you end your speech with a quote, attend to the following.

  1. Always say the author of the quote before the quote for example, “I want to leave you with a leadership quote ‘What you do has far greater impact than what you say,’ Steven Covey.” The problem with this ending is that “Stephen Covey” are the last two words of the speech and that is boring. Consider instead this ending. “I think Robin Sharma said it best ‘Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration.'” In this arrangement, the last three words are powerful–influence and inspiration.
  2. Provided context for the quote before or after. Make sure the quote is meaningful and not just an easy way to end.

Watch this clip for how Sir Ken Robinson ends with a quote. Notice how he says the author and then the quote.

Also, notice how he then ties his speech to the quote with a final few sentences and ends with the powerful word–“revolution” and how he uses a strong vocal emphasis as he says his last word. (I have the video cued to play just the closing)

 

There’s a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin. “There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don’t get it, or don’t want to do anything about it; there are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it; and there are people who move, people who make things happen.” And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that’s, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that’s what we need.

Sir Ken Robinson, How to Escape Education’s Death Valley. 

End with a Graphic

You might want to use a visual to make your final point. Bringing in a picture, graphic, or object, reengages the audience to pay attention to your final ideas.

Watch this clip for how Barry Schartz uses the magic words “so to conclude” and then he creatively uses a picture of a fishbowl to narrow in on his point.
Notice how his final word is spoken with urgency as he says “disaster.” (I have the video cued to play just the closing)

 

 So, to conclude. (He shows a picture of fish in a fishbowl) He says, “You can be anything you want to be — no limits.” You’re supposed to read this cartoon and, being a sophisticated person, say, “Ah! What does this fish know? Nothing is possible in this fishbowl.” Impoverished imagination, a myopic view of the world –that’s the way I read it at first. The more I thought about it, however, the more I came to the view that this fish knows something. Because the truth of the matter is, if you shatter the fishbowl so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom. You have paralysis. If you shatter this fishbowl so that everything is possible, you decrease satisfaction. You increase paralysis, and you decrease satisfaction. Everybody needs a fishbowl. This one is almost certainly too limited –perhaps even for the fish, certainly for us. But the absence of some metaphorical fishbowl is a recipe for misery and, I suspect, disaster.

Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice

End with Parallel Construction

Parallel construction is a series of repeated phrases. It can be a powerful tool to use in a persuasive speech as it creates a feeling of importance.

Watch this clip for how Malala Yousafzai ends with a series of parallel statements to build momentum.
Notice how her pace perfectly matches her words and you feel her strength when she ends with “education first.” (I have the video cued to play just the closing)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice, and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism, and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.
Education is the only solution. Education First.

 

Malala Yousafzai,  United Nations Youth Assembly

 

End on a Positive Note

 

Audiences are constantly evaluating a speaker to determine their attitude and motivation. As you consider your speech closing, ask yourself what type of impression do you want to leave?  Do you want to leave them with depression or hope? Sadness or promise? Most of the time, audiences will receive messages that end positively better than speeches that end negatively.

In this speech sample, Hans Rosling showed the audience some hard statistics and he even pointed fingers at the audience as part of the problem. To help them hear his main point, he wisely ends on a positive note.

Watch this clip for how Hans Rosling
ends this thought-provoking talk on a positive note.
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

 

Now, when thinking about where all this leaves us, I have just one little humble advice for you, besides everything else, look at the data. Look at the facts about the world and you will see where we are today and how we can move forwards with all these billions on our wonderful planet. The challenge of extreme poverty has been greatly reduced and it’s for the first time in history within our power to end it for good. The challenge of population growth is, in fact, already being solved, the number of children has stopped growing.  And for the challenge for climate change, we can still avoid the worst, but that requires the richest, as soon as possible, find a way to use their set their use of resources and energy at a level that, step by step, can be shared by 10 billion or 11 billion by the end of this century. I’ve never called myself an optimist, but I do say I’m a possibilist and I also say the world is much better than many of you think.

Hans Rosling, Facts about the Population.

End with a Challenge

Leave the audience with a doable personal challenge. Help them mentally make sense of all the information that you shared by helping them know how to file it away and how to use it.

Watch this clip for how Melissa Butler
ends with a challenge.
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

So, I challenge each of you, when you go home today, look at yourself in the mirror, see all of you, look at all of your greatness that you embody, accept it, and love it. And finally, when you leave the house tomorrow, try to extend that same love and acceptance to someone who doesn’t look like you.

Melissa Butler, Why You Think You’re Ugly. 

Watch this clip as
Darren LaCroix literally falls face down
to anchor the point that when we fall, we “fall forward.”
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

Darren LaCroix talks about taking risks and falling down and getting back up, he literally and purposefully falls down during his speech and ends this way:

What’s your next step… take it. I didn’t want to look back at my life and say you know I never did try that comedy thing, but I died debt-free. All of us are headed toward that goal we are going to teach a point where we get stuck and our feet are like in cement and we can’t move but we’re so afraid of that ouch but we forget that if we lean forward and take a risk–(He falls face down) and we fall on our face. When we get up, notice, you still made progress. So please, with me, go ahead and fall. But fall forward.

Darren LaCroiz, Winning Speech delivered at National Speech Association

 

End with a Question

Asking a question at the end is one way to reengage the audience. It helps them think about what your topic might mean for them.

Watch this clip for how David Eagleman
reminds us about why his topic is important
and then ends with a question.
Notice how he pauses before his final question and
how he changes the pace of his speech for the final sentence.
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

 

So I think there’s really no end to the possibilities on the horizon for human expansion. Just imagine an astronaut being able to feel the overall health of the International Space Station, or, for that matter, having you feel the invisible states of your own health, like your blood sugar and the state of your microbiome, or having 360-degree vision or seeing in infrared or ultraviolet. So the key is this: As we move into the future, we’re going to increasingly be able to choose our own peripheral devices. We no longer have to wait for Mother Nature’s sensory gifts on her timescales, but instead, like any good parent, she’s given us the tools that we need to go out and define our own trajectory. So the question now is, how do you want to go out and experience your universe?

David Eagleman, Can We Create New Senses for Humans? 

 

End with Inspiration

“Inspiring your audience
is all about helping them
see their own vision, not yours.”

Anonymous

 

You may want to end your speech with inspiring and encouraging words. Pick words that resonate with most of your audience and deliver them in such a way that your audience feels your lift in emotion.

Watch this clip for how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ends with an inspiring final note and a powerful last
few words “regain a kind of paradise”
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

 

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

The American writer Alice Walker wrote this about her Southern relatives who had moved to the North. She introduced them to a book about the Southern life that they had left behind. “They sat around, reading the book themselves, listening to me read the book, and a kind of paradise was regained.” 

I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single-story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.

 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,  The Danger of a Single Story 

 

 

Watch this clip for how Dan Pink
ends with an inspiring final note.
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

Let me wrap up. There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.

And here’s the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between what science  knows and what business does, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe —we can change the world. I rest my case.

Dan Pink, The Puzzle of Motivation

End with Well Wishing

There are several types of closings where the speaker wished the audience well.

The Benediction Close: May God bless and keep you….
The Presidential Close: God bless you and may God bless the USA
The Congratulatory Close: I congratulate you on your accomplishment and wish you continued success. 

End with Humor

You can end on a fun lighthearted note. It is important to always run your humor by a variety of people to make sure you are funny, and your humor is appropriate.

Watch this clip for how Andrew Dunham uses humor throughout his speech and ends with a funny one-liner.
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

I wish you all the best as we begin this journey on our paths and I sincerely hope and pray that your time and success have proven to be as memorable and spiritually rewarding as mine. If not, there’s always summer school.

Andrew Dunham, Valedictorian Comes Out As Autistic During Speech

 

End with a Call to Action

If you are delivering a persuasive speech, let the audience know exactly what you want them to do.

End with a Feeling of Resolve

Paul Harvey made famous the line “And now you know…the rest of the story.” Your closing should allow us to know the rest of the story or to know how a situation was resolved.

Watch this clip for how Lucy Hone
ends this tough but inspiring talk with a feeling of resolve
(I have the video cued to play just the closing)

https://youtu.be/9-5SMpg7Q0k?t=913

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you think there’s no way I’m coming back from this, I urge you to lean into these strategies and think again. I won’t pretend that thinking this way is easy and it doesn’t remove all the pain. But if I’ve learned anything over the last five years, it is that thinking this way really does help. More than anything it has shown me that it is possible to live and grieve at the same time. And for that I will be always grateful.

Lucy Hone, The Three Secrets of Resilient People

End with a Prop

Nancy Duarte says you should give your audience, SOMETHING THEY  will ALWAYS REMEMBER–S.T.A.R. One way to do that is with an action or statement that will have the audience talking about it for a long time. President Obama did it with a mic drop.

 

 

Memorize Your Conclusion

Know your ending so well you can say it without looking at your notes. The audience is deciding what they think about you and your topic so end strong by having a plan, sticking with your plan, using strong eye contact, and a clear strong voice.

End on Time

Audiences stop listening when the time is up. If you go over, they will start checking their watches, looking at the door, or just mentally check out.

 

“Thank You to the Team”

There is a time to thank the organizers and those who helped you but it is not at the end of your speech. Your focus should be on your audience and what they need and what they need to hear is your idea.  Send a thank you letter to the team if you want them to feel your appreciation.

“I’m Sorry”

“Sorry again for the technology issue,” “I apologize for going over time, ” “I regret I have no answer to this.” These are all negative phrases.  Keep to your topic that is what they need to hear and stay focused.

“I’ll Close with this Video”

No, you should close with talking about the big idea.

Maximizing the Primacy Recency Effect

If I were to read you a list of thirty things on my grocery list and then asked you to list all that you can remember, chances are you would remember the first times on the list and the last items on the list ( and any ones you found interesting from the middle). When people engage in listening, they tend to remember the first and last things they hear, it is called the primacy-recency effect. This is just one more reason that your introduction and conclusion should be so well planned out. It is those first words and last words that the audience is going to remember. 

The primacy recency effect influences, not only what people pay attention to in a speech, but also which speech we pay the most attention to in a series of speeches. For example, if there is a lineup of six speakers, the first and last speakers tend to get the most attention.

As a speaker, you can use this information to your advantage by volunteering to go first or last. If you are giving a long presentation, you can break it up by allowing the audience to move around or talk to a neighbor. When you come back from break, you have re-engaged that primacy effect and moved them back to a high state of attention.

 

Do You Have Everything You Need for a Strong Closing?

  • Have I signaled my speech is coming to an end with my words or my voice?
  • Have I restated my main points?
  • If I am persuading my audience, do they know what I want them to do or think?
  • Have I written the last three to five words in such a way that I end with powerful words?
  • Have I memorized my closing?

Getting Off the Platform is Part of Your Closing

Plan on making a strong exit. Whether you are stepping off a stage or simply going to your seat, you should consider that the audience is watching you.

I have had students who finished their speech and then walked over to the trashcan and in a large, exaggerated movement, they threw their notecards in the trash. In our minds, we threw their message away with those cards. I’ve seen speakers, sit in their chairs and then announce, “I can’t believe my hands were shaking so much.” I’ve sat there and thought, “I didn’t notice.” I then realized that the comments they made influenced my perception of them and my perception of their topic.

You said your last word and the audience is applauding, now what? Look at your audience and smile and nod in appreciation before walking off the stage. If you will be answering questions, wait until after the applause stops to begin your question and answering period.

When practicing your speech, it is a good idea to start from your chair, walk up to a spot and then give your speech, and then walk back to your chair and sit down. Your “speech” impression begins and ends from your chair.

 

Key Takeaways

Remember This!

  • A speech closing should include a review of the main points and a purposeful closing sentence.
  • Persuasive speech endings should tell the audience specifically what they should do or think about.
  • The recency effect suggests that people remember the most recent things they have heard which is one reason the closing is so important.
  • Chance the pace of your speech and the tone of your voice to signal the end of the speech.

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References

Adichie, C.N. (2009). The danger of a single story. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg Standard YouTube License.

Anderson, C. (2016). TED talks: The official TED guide to public speaking. Mariner Books.

Barot, H.  Fifteen powerful speech ending lines (and tips to create your own). Frantically Speaking. https://franticallyspeaking.com/15-powerful-speech-ending-lines-and-tips-to-create-your-own/

Boroditsky, L. (2017). How language shapes the way we think. https://www.ted.com/talks/lera_boroditsky_how_language_shapes_the_way_we_think  Standard Youtube License. 

Butler, M. (2018). Why you think you’re ugly. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imCBztvKgus  Standard YouTube License. 

Dunham. A. (2019). Valedictorian comes out as autistic during speech. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtPGrLoU5Uk  Standard Youtube License. 

Eagleman, D. (2015). Can we create new senses for humans?[Video]. YouTube https://youtu.be/4c1lqFXHvqI  Standard YouTube License. 

Hone, L. (2019).  The three secrets of resilient people. [Video]. YouTube https://youtu.be/NWH8N-BvhAw  Standard YouTube License. 

Jeff, P. (2009). Ten ways to end your speech with a bang. http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/10-ways-to-end-your-speech

Jobs, S. (2005). You’ve got to find what you love. https://news.stanford.edu/2005/06/14/jobs-061505/

Khanna, P. (2016). Let the head of TED show you how to end your speech with power. https://www.fastcompany.com/3059459/let-the-head-of-ted-show-you-how-to-end-your-speech-with-p

Karia, A. (2013). How to open and close a TED talk (or any other speech or presentation). https://akashkaria.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/HowtoOpenandCloseaTEDTalk.pdf

LaCroix, D. (2001). World champion of public speaking. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUDCzbmLV-0  Standard YouTube License. 

Mandela, N. (2011). Speech from the dock in the Rivonia trial.[Video]. YouTube https://www.nelsonmandela.org/news/entry/i-am-prepared-to-die  Standard YouTube License. 

Mandela, N. (1994). Presidential Inaugural Speech. [Video]. YouTube https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/nelsonmandelainauguralspeech.htm  Standard YouTube License. 

Miller, B.J. (2015). What really matters at the end of life. [Video]. YouTube https://www.ted.com/talks/bj_miller_what_really_matters_at_the_end_of_life?language=en  Standard YouTube License. 

Moth. (2021). Storytelling tips and tricks: How to tell a successful story. https://themoth.org/share-your-story/storytelling-tips-tricks 

Obama, B. (2016). White House correspondents dinner. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxFkEj7KPC0  Standard YouTube License. 

Pink, D. (2009). The puzzle of motivation. [Video]. YouTube https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_the_puzzle_of_motivation  Standard YouTube License. 

Rothwell, D. (2014). Practically Speaking. Oxford University Press.Robinson, K. (2013). How to escape education’s death valley. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc  Standard YouTube License. 

Rosling, H. (2014). Don’t Panic-Hans Rosling showing the facts about population.[Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E  Standard YouTube License. 

Schwartz, B. (2005). The paradox of choice. [Video]. YouTube https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choice  Standard YouTube License. 

Toastmasters International. (2016). Concluding your Speech. https://www.toastmasters.org/Resources/Concluding-Your-Speech

Young, S. (2014). I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtPGrLoU5Uk  Standard YouTube License. 

Yousafzai, M. (2013). Malala Yousafzai addresses United Nations Youth Assembly. [Video]. YouTube https://youtu.be/3rNhZu3ttIU  Standard YouTube License. 

Zhang, Y. (2015). Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. [Video]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmN4xOGkxGo  Standard YouTube License. 

 

Picture of President Obama dropping a microphone.
President Obama ended his speech with two words-Obama Out and then did a mic drop at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Image from giphy.com

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Advanced Public Speaking (BETA) by Lynn Meade is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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