What do you do at the end of your speech?
When judging speech contests, it’s a recognized phenomenon that the first and last speakers are the ones that get the most brain space in the judge’s mind. It’s the same with our speeches. People remember the opening and the conclusion. We hope they will remember our call to action. This is why it is critical to put effort into the end of your speech.
This is my worst skill. I struggle over conclusions. Despite my insistence on this podcast to write your ending first, I still fail to nail the landing more than I succeed.
Today on the podcast, we’ll talk about the end of a speech: how to build to a great conclusion – as soon as you know what that is.
Are you looking for a way to change the world? To make an impact on the people and situations around you? Then you need public speaking and leadership skills. That means you need Toastmasters. Every week, you can spend an hour learning the techniques and finding your voice and have fun while you do it. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.
The End of My Speech: Crash and Burn?
Last week, I gave a speech from the Visionary Communications path from Level 5: Develop Your Vision.
The irony dripped from this speech. The purpose of that project is to develop a vision and long-term goals to achieve a specific change in your life or your business or organization.
I have issues with this idea. Frankly, I think we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels talking about vision statements and mission statements and goal setting – and wear ourselves out, drowning whatever motivation we had in the swamp of building expectations and plans. Ok, so that’s my take. I know that I’m not in agreement with the rest of the world, but hey, I do me.
If you have a problem with a speech project, it’s hard to do it. And this is why this project sat on my to-do list for so long. It’s been 5 months since I finished all the other projects for this path.
Irony in My Speech
And frankly, although I say I don’t like visions, missions, and goals, essentially, that was what the whole “create a storytelling path” was. As I said, lots of irony here.
I created a presentation to go along with my speech – I had the perfect graphics, including pictures of the references I used to put this path together.
But when I started the presentation – all of the graphics disappeared. They were there before and they’re back – but for the 10 minutes of this presentation, they were not to be seen. Which means I skipped to slide 4 where my text was visible.
That noise you hear? That’s me banging my head on my desktop. I didn’t want to take time to reboot or reload, so I went with it. I had the notes under the black slides, so I did the best I could to remember what the images were supposed to prompt me to talk about.
Then we got to the end of the speech. Another blank slide.
The End of My Speech Slide Deck is Blank!
I took a deep breath and completely forgot what it was that I wanted to say as a conclusion to this speech. I’m sure that it was something witty about the irony of giving a speech about how I fail to appreciate the power of developing visions and missions and goals when that was I had just spent the last year doing.
Instead, I said something else about how we need to take the Toastmasters Pathways projects and make them work for us, regardless of the project’s goals. I’ve got 3 Distinguished Toastmasters awards, including one in Pathways. No other path interested me, but storytelling does, so creating a path that meets my needs and challenges me is a lot more important than filling the letter of the law.
Then I remember we have a guest: Marta. Marta is brand-new to Toastmasters and is preparing her first ice breaker speech and here I am, telling her to ignore it if it doesn’t work for her.
I thought I was droning on and I was a bit worried. But I wrapped it up, finally, and waited for Mo, my evaluator, to nail me on rambling on my conclusion.
Evaluation at the end of the speech?
Instead, I got compliments on it.
My take-aways from this:
- I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take away that if I feel like I’m rambling at the end of the speech that I am doing better.
- I have learned my lesson that I need to check a third time to be sure my presentation is going to play properly before the meeting starts.
- The call to action needs to be specific, personal to the members of the audience (not general) and put some persuasion – logos, pathos, and ethos – into it.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at your conclusions.
Your call to action must be crafted, not thrown on at the end of your speech.
I have said many times that you need to know where you’re going in a speech to make sure you get there. That’s why you start at the end, and after you write the rest of the speech, you come back and refine it.
Let’s get specific: use the persuasive techniques at the end of your speech in that call to action to move your audience into action. Appeal to their character, whether it’s their competitive spirit or their inner call to excellence. Lay out the rationale for why this action needs to be done and when. Capture their hearts with emotional benefits of doing what you ask.
It works. But you work to do it. I don’t believe this trio comes naturally to most people. We have to think about it.
Consice or rambling at the end of your speech?
That’s why I felt like I was rambling. I didn’t have it as concise as I normally do. I spelled out my call to action in my appeal to my audience’s self-interest. I downplayed the structure of the path in exchange for their goals and reason for joining Toastmasters. I said that this method of using the Pathways program will be the best way for them to grow. I offered to help.
Ethos. Logos. Pathos. Accidentally, I hit all three.
Often, I put those in the middle of my speech, not at the end.
Put the middle in the middle.
In scriptwriting, it’s called laying the track or laying the pipe. It’s prepping the audience before the ending that what ultimately happens is reasonable, fair, and appeals to us emotionally. We want the villain to fail, we want the hero to succeed.
You have to know what that ending is first. By identifying your call to action, your middle is built to support that.
In my speech, I spent some time talking about the way that I changed up the elective in Level 5 for this path to be more about storytelling. There were several project choices in Level 5, but none that I felt truly fit in with storytelling.
So I merged “Ethical Leadership” and “Moderate a Panel Discussion” into a story slam. Story slams are contests between storytellers. Our club had its January open house turned into a story slam. Each story told by the speaker was about an ethical question they faced in their lives.
The members loved this meeting. We had a few guests – we need better marketing – but every time it comes up in conversation, the people who attended say how much they enjoyed it.
I could have ended the speech with that. “We had fun, let’s do it again sometime.”
Nope. That belongs in the middle of the speech because it lays the pipe for the final conclusion: change the path to suit your needs. Call it foreshadowing. Call it warming up the audience for the big finale. Call it whatever you want, but put it in the middle.
Sum It Up?
Should the end of your speech just sum it all up?
The school of thought of “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, Tell them what you’re telling them, and tell them what you told them” means that in your conclusion, you’re telling your audience the same thing three times.
Do you like being told the same thing three times?
I don’t love that.
Then there’s the summation.
How is this not repetition?
It’s not a repeat if, at the end of your speech, you help your audience draw conclusions that lead into the call to action.
We’ve examined the need for better dandelion breeding and our commitment to developing this undervalued plant as a food source. You may never have considered what you do to dandelions and how it has an impact on your lawn. Now is the time to reconsider your use of pesticides as a way to control these valuable plants – not weeds – to improve your gardens. The next time you look at a dandelion, remember the good that this singular plant has and instead of ripping it out of the ground, give it a little loving pat and an encouraging word. Let that yellow flower bloom and grow!
End your speech with actions that result from the information you gave in the middle of your speech.
End of Your Speech Podcast Ending?
I’m at the end of my podcast now. I guess I should say something really insightful and witty, right?
Don’t signal to your audience that you’re about to wrap up. They’ll figure it out. That’s why “in conclusion” isn’t worth the breath to say it. Just get to your final words – which is why although my podcast show notes almost always say “Wrap it up, Kim” I never say that.
When you end your speech with a challenge, with an emotional kick that motivates people to action, you’ve nailed your conclusion.
That doesn’t happen by accident. I encourage you to write your conclusion first, then the body, and then the intro, but don’t forget to come back around to make sure you’ve got the right conclusion to your speech. You may need to edit and make changes to bring it home with strength and verve. It’s worth the effort and time to make your speech as powerful as you need it to be.
Wrap it up, Kim
Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10
Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io
When you write your speech, how do you do it? I’d love to know if you agree with me or if you start at the beginning? Let me know by going to the Toastmasters 101 podcast Facebook page and answering my poll. The link is in the show notes, or you can search Facebook for Toastmasters 101 PODCAST. There’s a Toastmasters District 101 and they have a podcast, too!
We’ll talk again next time on Toastmasters 101.