You have just given a great presentation that had your audience wrapt the entire time, and it is time to bring it to a close. Just as you want to start your presentation strong, you want to finish strong to really bring home your point and leave your audience with a positive lasting impression. Here are 25 effective ways to end a speech or presentation.
1. Plan Your Closing Remarks Word for Word
You have to be careful about how you end your speech or presentation, so planning your conclusion word for word is the best way to go. Ask yourself what the purpose of this speech is, and your answer should involve the actions that you want to see be taken by your listeners after you finish speaking. Be clear about the end result you prefer to have, and it will become much easier to create a conclusion that will motivate your listeners to take that action. Sometimes planning your close before the rest of your speech is the best strategy.
Depending on what kind of quote you use, it can stay with audience members long after they leave the room. If you are presenting a speech about how to motivate staffs at the workplace, you can share tips and techniques that have worked for you, but a powerful way of getting your message across to the audience is to wrap your message around a simple quote that is relevant to what you discuss.
“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” -Zig Ziglar
3. Call to Action
The primary purpose of most business presentations is to compel the audience to take action. Use the last few minutes of your presentation to reinforce the call to action you seek. Whatever you say in telling the audience what to do, imagine an exclamation point at the end. Pick up your energy and tempo as you get to your conclusion, speak with authority and emphasis, and drive the final point home. Whether they agree or disagree with your message, you should make it perfectly clear to the audience what you are asking for. Examples of strong calls to action include:
“Finish the Fight”
“Start the Adventure”
“Improve the Process”
Speeches have a simple formula. First, you tell people what you are going to tell them. Second, you tell them. Then, you tell them what you have told them. When you reach the end of your speech, say something like “Let me briefly restate my main points”, and you then list your main points one by one. By showing the audience how each point is linked with each other, they will learn to appreciate the structure of your message. Having a summary at the end is effective in getting the audience to understand why all of your points related to each other and mattered.
5. Close With A Story
Especially if it is of personal significance to you, or if it illustrates how the presented content affects other people, telling a compelling story to end your presentation is one of the strongest ways to conclude. When approaching the end of your talk, you can say “Let me tell you a story that shows you what I mean”, then you tell the story that has a moral to it. You tell the audience what the moral is, and you don’t leave it to them to figure it out for themselves.
Having a sense of humor lightens the mood of any speech, especially if your speech ends with laughs. Telling a joke that circles back into your core subject and repeats the main point you are making with a certain detail that makes the audience laugh will have a lasting impression. While it is not as easy as saying “Two bears walk into a bar”, highlighting a funny part of an otherwise serious story establishes common ground between you and the audience, and it won’t take away from the key points you were making in your speech.
7. Repetitive Close
In some cases, repetition can be a negative thing, but when it comes to speeches and presentations it can play a pivotal role in motivating an audience. Find a phrase and structure it in a repetitive format that beats to its own drum, building to a crescendo ending of a motivational speech. As long as your chosen phrase remains consistent to the heart of your message, repeating the phrase brings the message home for your audience.
“Governments cannot legislate it.
Judges cannot adjudicate it.
Lawyers cannot litigate it.
Politicians cannot appropriate it.
Only you can orchestrate it.”
8. Be Poetic
There are many great poems that contain messages that summarize the main points you want to make. Choose a poem that is moving, dramatic, or emotional, and it doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme. Some of the best poems ever made don’t rigidly rhyme word for word. As someone who writes speeches, this is the chance for you to express yourself in a creative way while you also keep the emphasis on the main points of your message. Delivering a powerful close to a speech sometimes involves having a poetic tone and structure, as long as you stay consistent with the core of your message.
9. A Running Clock
PowerPoint has a feature where a timer is often seen in its software. You can use a timer to schedule breaks in between presentations, but you can also implement timers for speeches themselves, putting yourself on the spot as a speaker. In the “Create Your Own Change” talks run by marketing and advertising executive Dietmar Dahmen, a running clock accompanies his last statement. Dahmen normally says “Users rule, so stop waiting and start doing. And you have to do that now because time is running out.”
If you deliver a time-sensitive message and you want to urge your listeners to move quickly, add a background slide with a running timer to put more emphasis on your last statement.
10. Echo Close
Focus on a single word in a quotation and continue to emphasize that word to echo your last statement. For example, if you want to wrap your message around the word “understand”, consider using it at least five times at the end of your speech. This will let the audience know that having a great understanding of the topic you are discussing matters.
“Once we understand what is required of us in advertising, we go forward with that knowledge. Successful advertisers understand that powerful messages sell. If you don’t understand how to sell, you can’t advertise. Understand that we are in this together as a team. Before we can grow our business, we must understand the business.”
11. Make It Clear You Have Concluded
All too often there is the temptation for you to shuffle papers around, fidget with your clothes or microphone, or move forward, backward or sideways. If you do anything else aside from standing still like a tree, then chances are that you won’t make an impact when ending your speech. When you say your final words, they should be made clear. No ambiguity or confusion should be in the minds of your audience. They should know when it is over. When you finish, discipline yourself to stand perfectly still. Select a friendly face in the audience and look straight at that person.
12. Title Close
Your speech should have a provocative title attached to it. Having a title that encapsulates your message memorably will stay in the minds of listeners for some time. Use the title of your speech as your closing words to encourage your audience to think harder about what they have just heard, reinforcing the title of the speech that you referenced earlier. Mentioning the title of your speech at the end allows you to bring everything logically back full circle.
13. Blank the Screen
If you are using slides for your presentation, consider blanking the screen towards the end of it. This will change the mood of the audience in the room and it will force them to put their focus back on you as you deliver your last statement. If you know you are working with an audience that loves to see visuals, blanking the screen will send a message of its own to keep things in perspective. Afterward, you can refer back to the visuals you presented and reveal to the audience the main reasons why you presented them.
14. A Visual Image
Sometimes you will be speaking to an audience that needs to see an image at the end to remember all the key points of what you said. End your presentation with a riveting visual that connects to your last statement. Leave this slide on when you finish, and give your audience enough time after your presentation to look at this image. Remember that famous saying “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and apply that saying to this close. A lasting image reinforces your message.
15. Bookend Close
If you want to give your speech a bookend, then you will have to refer back to your opening anecdote or quote and say something like “Now we have arrived at where we began.” After saying this, reiterate the message that you want your audience to remember. The classic three-part speech outline of “Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them, then tell them what you just told them” will be completed with closings like this. By coming back full circle to what you said in the beginning, the entirety of your message will be remembered more clearly by the audience.
16. Movie or Book Close
Making a reference to a well-known movie or book will allow the audience to view your speech from a different angle. If you want to provide a history lesson to the audience, you can refer back to the 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation” and its last line of “Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever!”, and use this line to relate to your political message. You can also refer to fictional stories like “The Prince and the Pauper” and how its ending can relate to a message about the economy. “That means that as long as you live, you’ll have money to live on. And if anybody’s unkind or cruel to you, they’ve committed an offense against the Crown.”
17. Thanking People or Companies
There are times when it is appropriate for you to thank people publicly for helping you. These times include when you present a research paper and want to thank people involved in the project, presenting data or information obtained from a company or person, or when someone gave you considerable help in building a presentation that was particularly complex to begin with. If you are using PowerPoint to show slides, use its credits feature to spruce up your speech.
18. End with a Statement
One mistake you will often make when you are just beginning your journey in public speaking is that you end your speeches by asking the audience a question. Upward inflection is a question, and this means that you are implying to the audience that there is more coming. Saving questions for the end doesn’t work well. Downward inflection is a statement. When you know for certain that you have a strong ending, you automatically speak with authority, which makes it easier to add impact with your voice and emphasize your message.
19. Let Them Applaud
When you finish your speech, the audience members will want to give start clapping. What they will need from you will be a clear signal that now is the time to begin applauding. Some people will recognize sooner than others that you have finished. In many cases, when it becomes clear that you have stopped talking, the audience members will be silent. They may not know what to do until someone else does something. Within seconds one will start clapping, then another, and then the entire audience will clap. You look at the first person who starts clapping and say “Thank you”, and let the round of applause come.
20. Cartoon or Animation
Sometimes a single visual image that doesn’t change won’t be enough to illustrate your final point to the audience. Depending on what your speech is about, you will find the need to use a relevant cartoon or short animation to convey your message to the masses. For example, if you want to warn people not to fall into any holes that the business world has in store for them, you can play a short clip of a cartoon character walking down a road and then falling into a hole. Have your message relate to becoming more aware of the dangers that can come from unhealthy work environments.
21. Third-Party Close
Leverage the use of a quotation in the context of your message. Use the premise of that quotation to frame your closing. This will serve as a launching pad to lift up your message for the audience to better appreciate. Here is how you can conclude a speech on the importance of embracing change:
“Change plays a significant role in life. Recall the insight of President Abraham Lincoln, staring at a Civil War and fighting the near 100-year long tradition of slavery in the United States, Lincoln addressed change by saying:
‘The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present and future. As our circumstances are new, we must think anew and act anew.’
We need to look at this old issue in a new way, not simply for today but to make our tomorrows more rewarding, more fulfilling, and more compelling because of the change we make today. With your help, we can think anew and act anew on the issue before us today.”
22. Callback Close
If you started your speech with a story, but some activity in it wasn’t fully completed, it would be wise to finish your story and close it around your theme. Here is how to call back to your story:
“Remember that paintbrush that toddler held so gently in his hands? Well, now those same gentle hands are poised skillfully for designing graphics. Today he runs a graphic design company.”
23. Sing Song Close
Ask the audience to repeat a phrase that you used several times in your speech. If your phrase happens to be “We finish the race together”, you repeat that phrase many times over, and just before you finish your speech, you say: “I know that all of you are talented and driven. I know that this race can be long and tiring, but we don’t quit on each other. We (pause) finish the race (pause until the audience responds) together.”
24. Surprise Introduction of a Person
Making an emphatic final statement about your speech sometimes involves the element of surprise. Throughout your speech, you will mention a person you have known well to the audience, and they will start thinking about this person. They will wonder why this person is important to you. At the end of your speech provide a brilliant bridge to your conversations with the audience afterward by introducing that person on stage. Having that person attend your speech and confirm your message will make that person a success story in the eyes of the audience.
25. Rhetorical Question
It is recommended to avoid asking the audience general questions where they expect more to come from your speech. However, asking a single rhetorical question, in a way that challenges the audience, can have an impact. Listeners are generally drawn into thinking about an answer, and they can engage when the question is provocative, or when it touches potentially sensitive areas in our lives. You could say “I’d like to end by asking you the future of grocery stores, will they be completely taken over by automation in the next 20 years?”
How you close your presentation will depend on the content and tone of what you have just presented. Regardless of which strategy you choose to use, closing your speech with one of these strategies will ensure that your presentation finishes strong and resonates with your audience.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.