Public Speaking: Making Your Last Words Last

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

              Here’s an idea to end  your speeches with something more engaging than “Thank you.” Reading time: 3:54

        Last words linger. Movie buffs know that. I still cringe when I think of Anthony Hopkins’ cannibal character’s chilling last line in The Silence of the Lambs:

Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs

Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs

“I do wish we could chat longer
but I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.”

        And I always smile when I recall then 76-year-old Henry Fonda’s last line to Katharine Hepburn in the movie On Golden Pond:

“Wanna dance or
would you rather suck face?

        Yes, last words linger. That’s why I always grit my teeth a bit when public speakers let their last words just drop on the floor,  brushed aside and tossed in the proverbial “Thank you” trash pile.

       How can you can resist–the point of least resistance:  ending your speech with a too familiar and therefore too ordinary “Thank you? “

       Try these four steps:  1. Think of yourself as a drummer when you are concluding your speech. 2. Build to a crescendo. 3. End on a high note 4. Use short sentences in your concluding paragraph.

     Here’s an example of the crescendo finish: Let’s say you were concluding a speech to persuade your audience to take some action and you want to use an oft quoted poem  Life is an Adventure  by that famous author — Mr. or Mrs.  Anonymous.  Notice how the short sentence structure increases the pacing and energy. And so what we have been saying is that life is:

An adventure, Dare it. A duty, Perform it. An opportunity, Take it.
A journey, Complete it. A promise, Fulfill it. A puzzle, Solve it.
A goal, Achieve it.”

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond

Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond

              As you say “achieve it,” your voice booms with an energy and enthusiasm.

           1. Then you pause.  2. Hold the silence.  3. Look directly into the center of your audience and count 1001,1002, 1003. (Let that last phrase “achieve it”– sink into the hearts and minds of the audience.)   4. Then step away from the podium and bow your head.  5. Start counting to yourself “1000, 1001.”

             By the time you get to “1002” your audience will respond to your concluding cue (as if you just downshifted your race car).  Then they will applaud.

Resist the Urge to say “Thank you”

             If  you simply can’t wait for the audience applause,  fight the urge to say “Thank you.” Instead add an appreciative phrase like the Congresswoman who always ended her speeches and Q&A sessions like this:  “Thank you  for such a privilege to serve you in our nation’s capitol.”

      Q&Aman Of course that Congresswoman would be better advised to prime the audience’s pump for her Q&A sessions like this: “Thank you, now let me hear from you. Who has the first question?” At least you keep the energy in the room high and you bridge to the Q & A session with more control

          Stay in command right to the very end.  If the audience is still reticent to pose the first question, don’t let the silence become deafening.  Jump right in and prime the audience pump: “One question that seems to be on the minds of many people I talk to is…”

          See Q&A With a Cherry on Top and Strengthening your Q&A Punch for more ideas on how to end your speech with a strong Q&A that reinforces your messsage.

        Looking for other ideas on how to end your speech with something more memorable than a perfunctory “Thank you?”  See  10 Ways to End Your Speech With a Bang, a guest post I wrote for the public speaking blog Six Minutes.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Make your last words last to keep your
leadership thinking in mint condition.

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1 thought on “Public Speaking: Making Your Last Words Last

  1. Pingback: Public Speakers: Flash your Lt. Columbo Badge of Confusion « LEADERSHIP MINTS

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