The last thing you want in public speaking is to leave your audience abruptly hanging without the knowledge that you have concluded. In my previous article, I discussed the need for signaling the end of your talk. The 2nd criterion, however, involves reinforcing your central idea.
The most common closings are:
1. Briefly Summarizing Your Development.
If you have a few subtopics, then you could end your speech or presentation by briefly listing those subtopics which all serve to reinforce your main topic. While the most common means to conclude, the summary is a safe method even if it is the least interesting and the least compelling. However, many speakers on the public speaking end in this fashion and they are quite successful.
2. Referencing Your Opening.
If you have a dynamic beginning, by all means use it in your closing. One of the benefits of referring back to your opening is that it gives unity to your message, psychologically. One of the ways I open my presentation on voice improvement is by asking the audience a question about the sound of their speaking voice. By asking that same question in my closing, I reinforce the central idea – the fact that most people do not like hearing themselves on recording equipment and that everyone has a better voice inside which they are unaware of. My final question gives them pause for thought as well as signaling the end.
3. Using a Quotation.
In researching your topic, should you discover a very good quote relevant to your speech, consider using it as your closing statement. In doing so, be sure to give credit to the writer. [Incidentally, quotes are wonderful to use throughout your presentation because they lend credibility to you, the speaker. They show that you are well-researched and know what you are talking about.]
4. Making a Dramatic Statement.
Being able to give a dramatic closing is the most novel method of the four. It takes a great deal of originality on your part but it is well worth the effort because it gives your audience a dynamic and vital ending with a lasting impression.
When devising your concluding thoughts, don’t whimper out. Go out with a bang if at possible. Practice your material so that you know in advance exactly how you will end. While I do not advocate memorization in public speaking, I strongly urge aspiring speakers to memorize their opening 3 or 4 lines. By the same token, having your conclusion in memory might be a good idea as well. Don’t leave your final words to chance.