The ending of a speech — its conclusion — is its most important element.
A speech’s conclusion is even more important than its opening, because it’s what people remember most.
Ending a speech is, also, challenging.
I struggled for years trying to come up with powerful ways to end my speeches. And I often failed. Usually I just sat down. It was as if I had said everything I wanted to say and I ran out of steam.
Don’t let that happen to you.
5 Most Common Mistakes When Ending a Speech
Mistake #1:Popping the Ending on Your Audience
You gotta warn the audience that you’re coming to a conclusion. Doing so regains their attention (which sometimes wanders, even during a great speech) and prepares them emotionally.
It’s not hard to do. A simple, “In conclusion” or “Finally” or “Let me wrap up by…” will usually do.
Warning: Once you signal your intention to conclude, you have to finish talking relatively quickly.
Mistake #2: Ending with Q&A
You can schedule Q&A toward the end of your talk. That’s often a natural place for it. But don’t use your Q&A as your conclusion. (The last question you answer is usually the weakest. And you don’t want to have your audience leaving on a weak note.)
Conclude after you’ve answered the final question. Take a little more time to drive your main points home and to issue a call to action.
“Thank you for your questions. I hope you can see how [or why]…”
Mistake #3: Introducing New Material
Never, never, never bring up a new idea or add new information in your conclusion. This is the time to summarize your main points and hit them home. Introducing new material at this point will only diffuse or dilute your message.
Mistake #4: Failing to Issue a Call to Action
The purpose of giving a speech is to move people to action. Sure, you give them new information, new ideas to consider. Sure, you entertain them (meaning, you engage their emotions and imaginations). But you do all that because, ultimately, you want to get them to do something.
So don’t be coy or vague. Don’t make people guess. Tell them what you want them to do. Your speech up to this point has told them what you want them to do and why they would want to do it. Now give the one more reason — an emotional reason — to act.
Mistake #5: Letting the Audience Down Emotionally
A compelling speech takes the audience through a range of emotions, both high and low. But you don’t want to end on a low note.
End on a high note, not a downer. Appeal to people’s hopes and dreams, their aspirations, their courage, love, or faith, their community spirit or patriotism. Send them out energized, not depressed.
For more ideas check out In Conclusion: When to End a Speech and How to End a Speech.