Effective public speaking isn’t only about grabbing your audience at the beginning. The way you finish is crucial to the overall success of your speech.

For one thing,your final words are likely to be the ones your audience will remember for the longest time. More important, if you don’t persuade them to take the action you want them to take — perhaps to donate to a worthy cause or buy your back-of-the-room product — you will have wasted your time.

Some speeches lend themselves to a humorous finish, while others require a more serious approach.

As a comedian, I’m all for leaving ’em laughing — provided it’s appropriate. If, for example, you were delivering a eulogy, that would usually not be a good time to try to be funny.

Usually, but not always. I’ll never forget a funeral service many years ago for Dennis Wolfberg (a wildly funny friend of mine). With Jay Leno, Paul Reiser, and Jerry Seinfeld among those participating, there was LOTS of laughter. And Dennis wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

It’s easier to go out with a bang when your audience responds with laughter and thunderous applause. You know you’ve made a strong impression on them and your speech will be remembered. They will be quoting you and talking about you around the water cooler for days.

An appreciative and happy audience also provides a great backdrop for you to take your final bow and leave the stage. It makes you look good and it makes you feel good.

But you can make a powerful impact on your audience by ending on a somber note too. Even if you had them rolling in the aisles throughout your very witty presentation, it shows that, frivolity aside, you take your topic seriously… and so should they.

Inspire, Motivate, and Entertain Your Audience — Always!

Keep in mind that a good speaker doesn’t just talk to his audience. If he isn’t there strictly to entertain, he is there to inspire, motivate, or lead. If your talk hasn’t achieved much of that, you have only your closing statements left… so make the most of them.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Whet your audience’s appetite at the beginning by starting to tell a story. But leave the rest of the story — and the punch line — for your big finish.
  • The title of your speech should summarize your main point in a memorable, catchy way. So if you can incorporate the title into your closing words, that will reinforce your message.
  • End with a humorous or meaningful quotation from somebody famous. There are many quotation websites on the Internet, and you will have no trouble finding something suitable.
  • Don’t end abruptly. A hasty “Well, that’s it from me, thanks for coming” and off you go is unprofessional. It tells your audience that you are inexperienced and/or unprepared.
  • Give your audience a signal that the end is near so they will pay attention to what you are about to say. If you were walking around with a hand-held mike, for instance, you could replace it in the stand. If you were reading from a book on the podium, you could shut it.
  • Involve your audience. Ask them to repeat something after you — maybe a simple “commitment oath” you have written.
  • Congratulate your audience and wish them future success. Ask them to stand and applaud themselves for their achievements. (They may not be applauding you as you leave the stage, but it’s still applause, at the right moment. And it will still make you look good and feel good.)
  • Issue your call to action. Tell your audience what you want them to do next and ask them to do it.
  • Lead them to whatever it is that you’re selling. You might say, for example, “In about 10 minutes, you will find me at the back of the room, where I will be answering any questions you may have and autographing copies of my books and CDs.”

Don’t forget to thank your audience and the organizers of the event, of course — but don’t let your thank you be the last thing you say before leaving the stage. Choose your final words carefully. Like I said, that’s what your audience is going to remember.

[Ed. Note: Peter “The Reinvention Guy” Fogel is a humorist, speaker, seminar leader and proud member of the National Speakers Association who has appeared on over 22 television shows. He delivers presentations on humor, reinvention, copywriting and marketing to corporation and associations across America and parts of Jersey.  As an information marketer he is also the creator of Peter Fogel’s Guide to Effective Public Speaking. For more information on his products, or to sign up for his FREE 7 Days to Effective Public Speaking E-course, go to www.publicspeaklikeapro.com.

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