Speech Ending Help (page 3)
Introduction to Concluding Your Speech
To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.
—Benjamin Franklin, 1706–1790
What you say in your conclusion will become the most memorable part of your speech to the audience, so make it short and make it good!
Now that you have the body of your speech in good working order, you are ready to write the conclusion. When you created your outline, you made a sort of road map that enabled you to know where you were going and how you would get there. Now that you've finished detailing the route on your speech journey, you are ready to tell your audience where you arrived and how you got there.
Many speakers, however, tend to treat their conclusions as if they were self-evident. After all, they reason, I've spent 30 minutes explaining my topic—surely they get it by now! But the sad fact is that the audience might not get it, even after you've covered your topic in depth. They might understand all the points you've made and enjoyed your illustrations and examples, but they might not have stopped to consider what your topic means to them personally.
This is the "punch" of a good conclusion: It enables your audience to summarize your major points and apply them to their own experience. The body of your speech might have shown the audience how to paint miniature figures, but it's the conclusion that will help them understand how that knowledge applies to their own hobby. You might have outlined many good reasons to prefer toothpaste A over B, but it will be the conclusion that urges the audience to switch brands.
The conclusion is the compressed information that the audience will take home with them. If you're a computer user, you are probably familiar with .zip files, which contain compressed documents. The .zip file takes many large documents and squeezes them into their smallest size, gathers them all together, and encapsulates them into one small file. That is the role of the conclusion: It takes many large points, compresses them into several small snippets, explains how to use them, and sends them home with the audience.
Elements of a Good Conlcusion
The conclusion of your speech is aptly named, because it does two things: It concludes the speech, bringing it to a close; and it draws conclusions about your topic. To do this, a good conclusion will be brief, and it will:
- Restate your original thesis
- Summarize your major points
- Provide closure
- Call the audience to action
Restate Your Thesis
If you are giving a persuasive speech, your thesis will be the opinion you intend to prove. The thesis of an informative or demonstrative speech will be the knowledge or skill you intend to impart to your audience. As you open your conclusion, you will want to remind your audience of the reason why you were speaking to them in the first place.
The reason that this is important is not that the audience is unintelligent. No public speaker should ever fall prey to that line of thinking! The reason for reiterating your thesis is that it gets the audience to take a step back from focusing on the details of your speech and helps them to start looking at the big picture.
Summarize Your Major Points
You divided the body of your speech into several major points, and you went into each point in detail. Those points are critical to the success of your speech—they are the evidence that proves your thesis, the highways that you used to reach your destination, and the flesh and muscle that brought your skeleton to life!
It is important, therefore, to reiterate those points so that the audience can see the big picture of how they got to that destination. The important thing to understand, however, is that you are merely encapsulating those points—you are not repeating them in detail. Just a few words on each point will suffice.
The closing of your speech accomplishes two important things: It summarizes the big picture of where you arrived and how you got there, and it lets the audience know that the speech has concluded. Remember what we said earlier: A conclusion both concludes and draws conclusions.
You let your audience know that your speech is ending—but only when it really is! Nothing will frustrate your listeners more than hearing you say, "In conclusion… ," only to have you drone on for another ten minutes. Remember that your audience will begin to think about other things when your speech ends, so you don't want to lose their attention before you're done.
Helping them to draw conclusions about your topic is important, because it finishes the larger picture you've been trying to paint in their minds. It reminds them that the things you've been discussing have some implications for their own lives, and this reminder leads you naturally into the last aspect of your conclusion.
Call the Audience to Action
Neither you nor the audience have gathered together just to kill time. You have all come to the lecture in order to learn something—and knowledge without practical application is useless. Your conclusion, therefore, should tell the audience how your speech applies to their own lives.
A demonstrative speech is useful to your audience only if they take that skill and start using it themselves. A persuasive speech has not fully convinced the audience until they deliberately act upon their newly acquired opinion. An informative speech that spews out facts and figures is of no value if the audience doesn't know how to use that information.
You have chosen to speak on a topic about which you're very knowledgeable, so ask yourself these questions: Why have I become knowledgeable about this topic? How do I use this knowledge in my daily life? What has been the value of this knowledge to me? When you figure out these answers, you have the information for your conclusion.
Tips, Examples, and Practice Concluding a Speech
Finally, remember that your conclusion is a summary; it is not an exposition. You have expounded upon your topic in depth in the body of your speech; you are merely reiterating those points at the end.
Do not try to introduce new information into your conclusion. If you think of something that you omitted while writing your conclusion, go back to the body and add it in there—or omit it altogether. Remember that your audience may stop listening when they sense that the speech is almost over, and any new information will be wasted. Think of your own classroom experiences: When the bell rang in high school, the students stopped listening to the teacher. The same thing will happen when you conclude your speech.
Concluding Our Examples
Let's return to the speech examples that we used earlier—the comparison of toothpastes A and B, and the skill of painting miniature figures. Here are examples of how we might conclude each of those speeches:
As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, all toothpastes are not created equal! Toothpaste A is not the same as toothpaste B in the matter of effectiveness, for we have clearly demonstrated that A fights cavities far beyond the capabilities of B. The two brands are not on equal footing when it comes to personal appearance, either—after all, who wants green teeth when a bright smile is so readily available in a tube of toothpaste A? And the two brands are certainly not equal in price—and in this area alone, toothpaste B far surpasses A, costing nearly twice as much at any local pharmacy. In these ways, we can clearly see that toothpaste A is better than toothpaste B.
What remains is entirely up to you. Will you continue to use an inferior product that costs more? Or will you see the light of good sense and switch to toothpaste A? The choice is clear: Buy toothpaste A!
We have covered a number of important aspects of miniature painting today, all of which will help you to improve your techniques and get more pleasure from painting. The major things to remember before starting your next project are these: Select the right paint for the job, use your paintbrush to its maximum capabilities, and understand the demands and drawbacks of the figure's basic material.
When you keep these important elements in mind, you will decrease the frustrations and increase the rewards of this captivating hobby. But remember this above all else: You can't learn a skill unless you practice, and the best time to practice is today! Take these tips home with you and get started right away—you'll be glad you did.
Speech Ending Practice
Use this questionnaire together with the body of your speech to outline your conclusion:
- Thesis: What did I hope to prove? What goal was I aiming at?
- Main points: What pieces of evidence did I use, or what steps did I take to reach my conclusion? (Summarize the points in one sentence each.)
- Closure: What did I accomplish in this speech? What conclusion can I draw? What skill have I taught, or what opinion have I proven?
- Action: What practical application does this information offer? How do I use it in my own life? Why will it matter to my audience?
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