A lot of people think the hardest part of composing a speech is figuring out where to start—until they get to the end, that is. It’s common for speakers to run out of steam delivering main points; the closing lines become an afterthought. Instead of building up to a mic-drop moment, the speech conclusion is a letdown—forgettable and rushed.
Don’t let your thoughtfully written speech fizzle out in its closing lines. The conclusion is your last opportunity to tie up loose ends, make a lasting impression, or move the audience to act. A weak speech conclusion can be as bad as a movie with a terrible ending—it kills the energy you’ve worked so hard to build and leaves the audience disappointed and confused.
To make sure your speech conclusion accomplishes everything it should (and avoids common pitfalls), follow the Conclusion Checklist in this post.
Does your speech conclusion provide a review?
Repetition isn’t redundant in speeches—it’s mandatory. Your audience doesn’t have a way to revisit what you’ve said unless you give them one. Whether your speech is a simple narrative or a complicated policy proposal, you need to find a way to summarize your main ideas, key takeaways, or lessons learned in your conclusion. Do so in a way that doesn’t repeat verbatim what you’ve already said, but that uses parallel structure (giving information in the same order you did before) or incorporates key phrases and details. This helps the audience summarize and remember the information you’ve deemed most important.
Does it signal closure?
There aren’t many feelings more awkward than having to tell your audience, “Well, uh… that’s it,” while they silently wait for your speech to end. A well-written speech conclusion starts to signal closure before the close actually happens. There are a few different cues you can provide your audience to let them know they’ve reached the finish line.
That review you’ve included does more than help the audience remember your main points. Summaries, themes, and connections to the thesis also signal that the speech has come full circle.
A textbook (or blog post) organizes a reader’s thoughts with headings, paragraphs, and punctuation. Just like these cues tell a reader where they are and where they’re heading, signposts in a speech can help an audience know what to expect. Phrases like finally, in summary, lastly, or thank you signal that a speech is coming to an end. Visual aids can give similar signals with outlines, timelines, or images. Lastly (see what I did there?), speakers can use physical delivery signal closure; returning to the podium, changing vocal pace and volume, or making gestures larger or smaller can communicate finality to the audience.
Calls to Action
There is an unspoken understanding between speaker and audience that calls to action (share, sign up, volunteer, join, vote, consider, teach, change) come at the end of a speech. Challenging the audience to use what you’ve said to change their thinking or behavior is a good way to summarize, bring closure, and empower listeners.
Revisiting the Introduction
This is my favorite way to signal closure in a speech. If you started a story, asked a question, or gave an example in your introduction, your conclusion can finish that story, answer that question, or emphasize that example. Here’s a short speech that does that well.
Does it connect all the pieces?
Your conclusion isn’t the place to bring up new information; the speech’s essential arguments and evidence should be on the table before your conclusion begins. You’ve set the table with the information your audience needs, and now you can help them organize it by creating grand connections. Tell the audience how you answered the question in your thesis. Link the personal story you shared to the statistic you cited. Bring the audience back to the scene you set in your introduction. (Here’s a great example) Drawing purposeful connections helps move your listeners from their focus on your individual points to the larger purpose of your speech.
Is it memorable?
A lot of speeches are interesting in the moment, but ten minutes later the audience has moved on to thinking about dinner or traffic or the latest news story. Great speeches have staying power. Not everyone can pull off a mic drop or an “Obama out,” but everyone can be thoughtful in crafting a close that is thought-provoking, strong, funny, novel, empowering, or beautiful. Avoid forgettable clichés and overused phrases. “Let’s go out and BE the change,” or “So next time you find yourself in (fill-in-the-blank) situation…” aren’t memorable. You don’t want weak phrases like these to be the last impression you leave on your audience. And speaking of being memorable, your closing line is a good one for you to memorize, too. You want it to come across to your audience just the way you wrote it.
Be intentional about the final emotion, thought, and energy you’d like to leave with your audience. The words you close your speech with, just like those you opened with, will be the ones that stay with your audience the longest. When your audience thinks (or doesn’t think) about your speech in the future, they’ll associate it with the way they felt at the end.
In conclusion, let’s go out and BE the change by writing better conclusions. So, next time you find yourself needing to write a conclusion…
I’m totally kidding. I guess endings really are tough to write.
Well, uh… that’s it.