About a year ago, my friend Rachel Olsen and I had a conversation about the challenges of ending a message. She had some insights that have stuck with me as I’ve been writing messages, so I asked her to share with you. Here’s Rachel! ~Amy
I long thought concluding my message was the hardest part of speech-making.
I’d craft my opening, introduce my topic, cover the material I felt God laid on my heart – using scripture and relatable illustrations. And then … what?
How do you end gracefully and effectively?
Maybe you’ve wondered the same thing.
Many speakers pay less attention to their conclusions than to any other part of their speech. It’s easy to assume if we can just get through the meat of the message (and that’s often our main focus), we’ll figure out how to end it when the moment comes.
But when that moment to close actually comes, if we have no plan for doing so we’re likely to lose steam and trail off rather than ending strong.
Never wait until you’re on the stage to decide how you’ll end. I’ve watched too many speakers do that last minute grope for a conclusion. Suddenly they appear unsure, inarticulate or uncomfortable. Those are not the feelings nor the impression you want to leave your audience with.
You want a powerful, effective ending—planned from the start—not a spur of the moment search for what to say.
The Best Endings
The best endings are ones that inspire automatic applause. No one has to tell or signal the audience this is the end because the last thing you said was the perfect way to wrap up this message. It’s now whole and complete.
The audience feels you are done – not because you are packing up your notes and Bible, not because the pianist has started to play, or because you’re saying, “Thanks for coming out today.” You have delivered the audience to their destination and it is evident.
They feel the satisfaction of a completed journey.
How do you achieve that feeling? You encapsulate what you’ve been saying in a memorable way.
This might be done with a summary in your own words – hitting your bottom line, sticky statement again. This might be done with a brief poignant story. Or perhaps with a powerful quote.
Finishing a speech well is more art than science, I admit. It takes work, but it can be done. And as speakers, we need to be good stewards of our entire message, including the conclusion.
Perhaps especially the conclusion.
Are you crafting tight, satisfying closings to your messages? Are you finishing well?
The writer of Ecclesiastes asserted, “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecc 7:8). Work to make that true of your message and both you and your audience will leave feeling satisfied.
Rachel Olsen is a national speaker with twelve years’ experience. She teaches public speaking for the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Find her at www.RachelOlsen.com.