How to end a speech memorably

Knowing how to end a speech is just as important as knowing how to begin. Truly.

*Cautionary and true tales from the "she'll be right", "I prefer spontaneity. It's more authentic." or "wing it" department. What happens when you don't plan how to end your speech.

stop sign with hand

Research tells us that people most commonly remember the first and last things they hear when listening to a speech, seminar or lecture.

If you want your speech to create a lasting impression sliding out
with ...

"Well, that's all I've got say. My time's up anyway. Thanks for listening."

... isn't going to do it.

So what will?

3 effective speech conclusions

Here are three effective alternative ways to end a speech. Each ensures your speech ends powerfully rather than a fading away.

A summary of your most important points ending with a:

  1. powerful quotation
  2. challenge
  3. call back

To work out which of these to use, ask yourself what you want people to do or feel as a result of listening to your speech. For instance;

  • Do you want to motivate them to work harder?
  • Do you want them to join the cause you are promoting?
  • Do you want them to remember a person and their unique qualities?

What you choose to do with your ending should support the overall purpose of your speech.

Let's look at three different scenarios showing each of these ways to end a speech in action.

1. How to end a speech with a powerful quotation

Your speech purpose is to inspire people to join your cause.

You've summarized the main points and want to finish with a statement to propel the audience into action.

Borrowing words from a revered and respected leader aligns your cause with those they fought for, powerfully blending the past with the present.

For example:

"Martin Luther King, Jr said 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' Now is the time to decide. Now is the time to act. Now. Where do you stand?"

2. How to end a speech with a challenge

Your speech purpose is to motivate your sales force.

You've covered the main points in the body of it including introducing an incentive - a holiday as a reward for the best sales figures. You've reiterated those main points and have reached the closing sentences. The end is a challenge.

"You have three weeks from the time you leave this hall to make that dream family holiday in New Zealand yours. Can you do it? Will you do it? The kids will love it. Your wife will love it. Do it now!"

3. How to end a speech with a call back

Your speech purpose is to honor the memory of a dear friend who passed

You've briefly revisited the principal points of your speech and wish to
leave the audience with a happy compelling image to dwell on. Earlier in the speech you told a poignant story, it's that you return to or call back.

Here's an example of what you could say:

"Remember that picnic tale?
Every blue sky summer's day I'll see Amy in my mind. Her red picnic rug will be spread on green grass under the shade of an old oak tree. There'll be food, friends and laughter. I'll see her smile, her pleasure at sharing the simple things and I know what she'd say too. I can hear her. "Come on, try a piece of pie. My passing is not the end of the world you know."

When you don't plan how to end a speech ...

That old cliche "failing to plan is planning to fail" can bite and its teeth are sharp. The "wing it" department delivers lessons learned the hard way. I know, and remember the bruising!

How many of these traps have caught you?

  1. having no conclusion and whimpering out on a weak "That's all" type of line
  2. not timing the speech and running out of it before giving your prepared conclusion
  3. ending with an apology undermining your credibility - "Sorry for going on so long. I know it can be a bit boring listening to someone like me." 
  4. adding new material just as you finish which confuses your audience. That belonged in the body of your speech.
  5. making the ending too long in comparison to the rest of your speech
  6. using a different style or tone that doesn't fit with what went before it
  7. ending abruptly without preparing the audience for the conclusion. You need a transition or bridge to have them follow you comfortably.

More speech writing help

Visit this page to find out about structuring a speech.
You'll find information on writing the body, opening and conclusion as well as those all important transitions.

Would you share your words of wisdom?

If you have any public speaking tips that could help others and would like to share them, like for instance more examples of how to end a speech, you're more than welcome to enter them on this tips and speeches page. I'd love to hear from you and I know my visitors would eagerly read your suggestions.