Conclusion

The Role of the Conclusion

The conclusion of a speech functions as a summary of the most important points so that the audience can best remember them.

Learning Objectives

Define the role of a conclusion in a speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The end of your speech is going to be the audience ‘s lasting impression of everything you’ve said. Use your conclusion as an opportunity to remind them of your main points.
  • Reiterating your introduction in your conclusion will bring the audience’s mind back to the overall purpose and message of your speech.
  • If you end your speech without some kind of lead-up or indication that you are about to do so, it can feel extremely abrupt and confusing to the audience. Make sure to give the audience closure with your ending.

Key Terms

  • reconcile: To make things compatible or consistent.
  • applicable: Suitable for application; relevant.
Bill Gates speaking on a stage.

Summarizing a Speech: It’s important for public speakers to have a strong conclusion.

The role of a conclusion in a speech is to signal to the audience that the speech is coming to a close and help them remember the most important points from the speech.

While this may sound unimportant or superfluous, if you do end your speech without indicating you are about to do so it can feel extremely abrupt and confusing to the audience. Make sure to give the audience closure with your ending.

It is important that you always tie your conclusion back to your introduction. This can most effectively be done by circling back to your “hook,” or attention grabber. The same ‘vehicle’ or theme, for example, an anecdote about Margaret Thatcher, is employed to conclude the speech as was used initially to introduce it. A clever closing line is common place and many strong speakers will simultaneously reference the theme discussed in the introduction and conclusion.

The end of your speech is going to form your audience’s lasting impression of everything you’ve said. This is why your conclusion is the perfect opportunity to secure the key elements of your speech in your audience’s mind. Make sure that you reiterate the thesis statement from your introduction, highlight the most important points from your speech, and then relate the concepts of the speech back to reality so your audience can see how it is applicable to their world.

By reiterating your introduction you bring the audience’s mind back to the overall purpose and message of your speech. By signally the end of your speech your ensure that your audience leaves with an overall positive impression of your speaking and does not feel confused. By highlighting the main points, you ensure they are fresh in your audience’s memory.

Think of your conclusion as an opportunity to summarize. While your speech is undoubtedly well organized, concise, and poignant it is still possible for listeners’ attentions to wander or for them to not fully understand a certain section of your speech. Your conclusion is the perfect place to reconcile any miscommunication with your audience.

Summarizing Ideas

Summaries succinctly communicate lengthy ideas; your conclusion is the perfect place to summarize the main points of your speech.

Learning Objectives

List the best practices for summarizing ideas in the conclusion of a speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Three main areas of your speech should be summarized in your conclusion: your primary message, your main points, and what you want your audience to take away from your speech.
  • A summary should concisely revisit what you’ve just been speaking about in a way that is accessible for your audience.
  • Summaries should be lean, only including the most crucial information and ideas.
  • Your conclusion should be an overview of your speech. There is no need to elaborate or use examples, as this should have been done in the body of your speech.

Key Terms

  • concise: brief, yet including all important information
  • elaborate: (used with on when used with an object) To give further detail or explanation (about).

Summarizing Ideas

Your conclusion is the perfect place to summarize the main points of your speech. That way, when your audience leaves, the most important information from your speech will be fresh in their minds.

Summarizing means to succinctly communicate a complex or lengthy idea. In the context of your speech, it means concisely revisiting what you’ve just been speaking about in a way that is accessible for your audience. Summaries should be lean, only including the most crucial information and ideas.

Bill McKibben speaks at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Summarizing a Speech: Ask yourself one main question: What do you want the audience to remember?

The best way to summarize ideas in your conclusion is to ask yourself the following important questions:

  1. What is the primary message I want my speech to communicate?
  2. What are the most important points of my speech that convey this message?
  3. What do I want my audience to take away from my speech?

By asking yourself these three questions, you will be prepared to write and deliver a conclusion that effectively summarizes the most important ideas from your speech.

Primary Message

It is important to always keep your primary message in mind when preparing for a speech. Throughout the entire speech you must constantly relate your research, examples, analyses, etc. back to the message of your speech. Your conclusion is no exception.

It is important to reiterate the focus of your speech again in your conclusion. By summarizing the primary message of your speech you will refocus your audience’s mind back to the overall purpose of your speech and the reasons why they should care about what you are saying.

Main Points

After you readdress your primary message, it is then crucial to summarize your main points. You have just spent your entire speech speaking in depth about these points, so you’ll want to be sure that you are only summarizing them and not entirely rehashing them all over again. Remember, a summary must be concise and lean. Clearly list your main points and connect them back to the primary message of your speech. There is no need to elaborate on them again or use examples—this should have been done in the body.

Audience Take-Away

Thinking about what you want your audience to take away from your speech is necessary in order to write an effective conclusion. You must decide the intention of your speech: is meant solely for educational purposes, are you trying to convince your audience to take a certain action (such as give money or vote), or perhaps you are attempting to teach them a skill.

Whatever the answer may be, it is imperative that you make your final push toward this goal in your conclusion. You can easily summarize this idea in only a sentence or two. You can even address your audience directly using the 2nd person (“You”) to help implant the message in their memory. Using call to action verbs such as “go”, “do”, “vote”, “sign-up”, etc. can also motivate audiences to engage in action.

Whatever you decide you want your audience to take away from your speech, it is important that you reiterate this in the conclusion and that you focus on simply summarizing it and not stating your entire speech all over again.

Signaling the End of Your Speech and Managing Q&A

Signaling the end of your speech and managing a Q&A session afterwards are crucial steps to leaving your audience satisfied and informed.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the best practices for ending speeches and managing Q&A sessions

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • To signal the end of your speech, you can use concluding phrases and vary the tone of your voice to wind down your conclusion.
  • Managing Q&A sessions is an important skill and will help your audience gain more in-depth information that is relevant to them.
  • To successfully facilitate a Q&A session, it is important you are as knowledgeable about your topic as possible. If, however, you are asked a question that you cannot answer, it is crucial to stay calm and still answer professionally.

Key Terms

  • colloquial: Denoting a manner of speaking or writing that is characteristic of familiar conversation; informal.
  • conclusion: The end, finish, close, or last part of something.

Signaling the End and Managing Q&A

Part of a successful conclusion is easing your audience into the end of your speech. If you end to abruptly, your listeners may leave with a feeling of incomplete knowledge or hurriedness. You want to round out the end of your speech—like slowing down a car. You want your conclusion to lead to the end of your speech slowly and gently; you do not want to slam on the breaks.

A picture of a triangular street sign with a question mark on it.

Questions: Successfully answering questions at the end of your speech ensures that your audience has been pointed in the right direction.

Signaling the End of Your Speech

There are several ways you can indicate to your audience that you have reached the end of your speech. The easiest way is to directly tell them by using phrases at the beginning of your conclusion, such as, In closing, In conclusion, or Finally. This way, they are clearly aware you are coming to the close of your speech.

Another good way to indicate you are approaching the end is using a change in the tone of your voice. Humans naturally slow their speech and lower the tone of their voices at the end of a sentence or paragraph. By doing this, your audience will intuitively know that you are reaching the end of your conclusion.

Once you have successfully ended your speech, it is often appropriate to offer the audience a question and answer session, colloquially referred to as Q&A. In a Q&A session, you will allow your listeners to ask you specific and in-depth questions about your speech topic and then provide them with the appropriate answer.

Depending on the content of your speech, this could turn into a hostile or confusing exchange, so it is important to know how to manage a Q&A session.

Managing Q&A

The first and most important way to avoid any embarrassing moments during a Q&A session is to be very well versed and knowledgeable about your topic. There is nothing worse than being asked a very poignant question by an audience member and having absolutely not idea how to answer it.

While it is crucial to know as much about your topic as possible, it is impossible to know everything and even if you do your very best to prepare, there is always a chance you will be asked a question you cannot answer. If that ever happens, it is important not to panic. The best strategy is to have a handful of diplomatic phrases in your back pocket to save face. Some good ones include the following:

  • “I did not come across that in my research but I can find out and get back to you.”
  • “That’s a really good question and I’ve actually been wondering that myself. “

Since these are examples, you will want to word the phrases in your own style and according to your topic.

It is important to maintain control of the Q&A session. As the speaker, you are in charge of facilitating this interaction portion of your presentation. This means you must be aware of things like giving all audience members a chance to ask questions, not spending too much time on any one question, and not engaging in hostile rhetoric with your audience.

Finally, it is important to remember that while the conclusion is your audience’s final impression of your speech, a Q&A session will be the freshest in their minds. You want to do your best to be helpful and informative. Hopefully, audience members are asking questions because they are genuinely interested in the topic. It is your responsibility to engage them and do your best to help them attain the knowledge and answers they seek. The Q&A is still part of your presentation, so continue to present yourself as you did while you were speaking; do not become overly casual or revert to bad habits like breaking eye contact or speaking too quietly.