Monday, June 9, 2014

How to End a Speech

Should You End a Speech by Asking for Questions?

I cringe every time I hear a speaker end with an unimpressive “Thank you” or “Are there any questions?” I think many speakers say these things because they’ve finished speaking and then suddenly realize that their audience hasn’t realized they’re done! So, in desperation, they blurt out one of these phrases, hopeful that those words will clue them in.

Unfortunately, that’s the worst possible way to end a talk! It just sort of fizzles out, instead of ending with a clear bang!
  • Need to know how to end a persuasive speech?
  • More on effective openings and closings (end of a speech)?

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that some of you are saying, but Lisa, what’s wrong with asking if there are any questions? To be clear, it’s not the phrase that I object to, it’s when and how the phrase is used. If it is used as the ONLY signal that the talk had ended, then that’s a problem.

End a Speech with a Strong Summary

All good presenters use rhetorical signals to indicate that a presentation has come to an end. The first and most obvious signal is the conclusion. When the speaker reviews the main ideas in summary form, of course, this is an indication that the presentation is coming to an end.

However, to be an effective signal, the conclusion needs to be proportional to the entire talk--about 10-15% of the entire talk. So if your talk is 15 minutes, then your conclusion should be about 2 minutes. For a 40-minute talk it should be about 4 minutes.

If the conclusion is missing or is too short, which are very common mistakes, then the conclusion is not effective. Always include enough time to fully summarize your main points.