Episode 175: October 18, 2012
by Lisa. B. Marshall
One of the most common questions I receive regarding public speaking is how to end or conclude a persuasive speech effectively. I think the problem is that many people spend so much time on the opening attention-getter, on organizing the main points, using the rule of three, inserting humor, etc., that they run out of steam when it comes to end. Today I’ll cover how to end a persuasive speech with a bang and not a whimper.
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What is a Persuasive Speech?
First, let’s review. A persuasive presentation is a speech that’s made in an effort to influence a specific outcome. Your goal is to persuade your audience to believe in your cause and to take action to support you. Political speeches and fundraising speeches are great examples of persuasive presentations. In a persuasive speech, your final words – your closing– are the most important.
Don’t Cut Your Conclusion Short
Before I show you how to craft a persuasive ending, you need to know what not to do. Speakers often work so hard on the introduction and body of the speech that the conclusion is an afterthought.
Have you ever heard a speaker say something like this?
“Well, it looks like I’m about out of time. If you want to know more, I’ll stick around for a few minutes.”
“Are there any questions? No, it doesn’t look like it. Thanks for coming.”
Your conclusion should signal the end, but it is not just a final sentence. As a general rule of thumb, it should be about 10% – 15% of your speech. In a persuasive speech, you use this time to summarize the benefits of taking a specific action. If you told stories in the body of the presentation, now is the time to remind the audience of the main stories you told.
If you choose to signal the end with the words “in conclusion” (and I don’t recommend this), make sure you mean it. Don’t ramble on for another 30 minutes or add new points to your talk.
A Call to Action and a Solution
In a persuasive presentation, the closing words are where you drive your point home. If the audience walks away with one thing, it should be your closing call to action. This is when you deliver the specifics of what it is that you want your audience to do—to be part of the solution. Be passionate. And carefully choose how aggressive you’d like to be.
Let’s say you’re making a speech to friends and donors of a non-profit organization you represent. This is your annual fundraising drive. Without generous donations, you won’t make your budget goals for the year. The intro and body of your talk described the ways your nonprofit has provided support and what your goals are for the future. Again, your closing is a specific call to action and a solution. For example:
“Our budget has been cut by 25% and private donations are the key to our organization’s survival. Before you leave tonight, please consider signing up to help with one of our important fundraisers this year.”
Your persuasive conclusion needs to offer a solution your audience can be a part of. In this example, the audience was asked to help with fundraising to raise support. To make this more tangible, you could briefly list a few of the fundraisers, what roles you need volunteers to fill, and instructions for whom to contact about helping. Or a much more aggressive approach may be:
“Our budget has been cut by 25% and private donations are the key to our organization’s survival. I’m sending around the volunteer forms, please sign up to help with one or two of our important fundraisers this year. In addition, you’ll see the donation forms which you can hand to Paul on your way out.”
Make Your Ending Memorable
After you’ve delivered your call to action and concrete steps your audience can take, make your exit memorable. You’re looking for applause and agreement. You want to know that your message got through.
Since we’re in the middle of election season, I’ll use a recent acceptance speech to show what I’m talking about. These transcripts show the “exit” line delivered by President Barack Obama. This speech was written by a master speechwriter, and the goal is to energize his party so they’ll vote for him. You can see in the transcript from NPR that the words and delivery accomplished their goal.
"We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. [Cheers.] We pull each other up. [Cheers, applause.] We draw strength from our victories. [Cheers, applause.] And we learn from our mistakes. But we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth."
You probably don’t have a professional speechwriter, but you can still make your ending memorable. Find a quote that supports your view point or tell a quick story that shows how the support you’re asking for has made a difference in someone’s life. Use motivational words that inspire your audience to stand or cheer in agreement.
When you’re asked to give a persuasive speech, remember that your final words are your most important. Use them to turn your audience to your point of view and tell them what action you need them to take.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.
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