In this series, I’ve written about seven ways to close your next speech. But the word “close” is a bit misleading: there are actually two closes to most speeches, not one. You’ll often deliver your main close and the “second close.”
The first close serves to wrap up the main body of your presentation, after which you can open the floor to questions. The second close occurs after you answer the final question, allowing you to end the presentation on your own terms instead of the audience’s. The second close can be short, even just a few seconds long, or it can be a more fully developed close that incorporates one of the seven techniques in this series.
Today, you’ll learn two final ways to close a speech: asking audience members to develop a follow-up action and painting an opposing picture.
Close Six: Ask Audience Members To Develop A Follow-Up Action
One of our clients delivers a well-received presentation each year called “20 Great Marketing Ideas for Your Business.” The problem, as you might have guessed, is that presenting 20 ideas in an hour can overwhelm an audience.
He got around that problem by handing his audience a worksheet at the beginning of his session that only had the numbers 1-20, with a blank line next to each. At the beginning of his talk, he encouraged attendees to circle the number of every idea they were interested in, and to write down the name of each idea he discussed as he went.
At the end of his talk, he concluded along these lines:
“Hopefully you circled several of the ideas I discussed today. I’d like you to spend the next five minutes looking at your list. First, I’d like you to prioritize the top three ideas that you’d like to put into practice. When you’ve identified your top three, I’d like you to write a date next to each item as a promise to yourself to complete that task by then.
(Waited five minutes)
You’ve just made a promise to yourself. You have now committed to doing three specific things and have given yourself deadlines for when you should complete them. Other tasks will inevitably arise, which will make it difficult to complete them. But I strongly urge you to resist your instinct to push your deadlines back, since little will make more of a difference in your business than the three things you just identified.
If you want some accountability to someone other than yourself, jot down an extra copy of your three tasks and due dates, and leave them with me before you leave the room. I’ll email you as each task approaches and make sure you’re still on track for getting them done.”
Close Seven: Paint an Opposing Picture
In this close, you’ll present your audience with two competing visions. One vision will be more negative than the other, allowing the audience to see the two choices before them (e.g. the status quo vs. your desired action). This type of close is often used to inspire an audience while encouraging them to choose a specific option.
For example, say you’re speaking to a group about restoring a local lake. You might end by saying:
“For the past 25 years, no one has dared swim in our town’s lake. The water is badly polluted, the beach is filthy, and the surrounding area is plain dangerous. Kids and families in three surrounding towns can use their local lakes, but we can’t. And if we don’t do something about it, you can be assured that your kids – or for those of you who have children already, your grandkids – will never enjoy memories of spending their summers at the lake.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If we can convince the town council to act, we can begin cleaning the lake almost immediately. More than 100 volunteers have already signed up to clean the beach on weekends, and we have enough donations to hire a full-time security guard to keep polluters out.
Imagine, for a moment, what Crystal Lake could look like just three years from now: Children taking swimming lessons. Families paddling in canoes. Parents relaxing on the beach. Or, we can just continue our legacy of indifference and inaction. The choice is yours.”
You’re probably expecting a killer close to this series here. So I’ll use a call-to-action: Use one of those closes for your next presentation, and don’t even think about closing another speech while running on fumes. Leave them thinking what you want them to be thinking, feeling what you want them to be feeling, and doing what you want them to be doing.
And if you have success with one of these closings, please leave your story in the comments section so other readers can benefit from them. Now, go get ‘em!
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