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Public speaking tutorial: Having a strong close

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Think of the grand finale of a fireworks display. There is absolutely nothing wimpy about it. The ending offers a spectacular display of firepower and drama. And that's the analogy I'd like you to think of when it comes to closing your speech or presentation. How can you close with a bang? There are dozens of ways to effectively end your talk, but let's look at six simple closing ideas you can consider right away. The first and perhaps the easiest way to close is with a short summary. For example, if your presentation features three key takeaways, close by reminding your audience what those three points were.

Secondly, you can try the title close. If you've given your speech a provocative or entertaining title, you can close by dramatically restating or reframing the title. For example, in a presentation called Achieving Your Goals, you might close with "Thank you! Now go out achieve your goals." Thirdly, try closing with a call to action. This is particularly effective if you want the audience to do something as a result of your presentation. If you designed your speech to inspire an audience to take action, make your last words very clear.

Close by telling your audience exactly what to do as well, as how and when to do it. Fourth, ending with a personal tagline can be very effective if you often present to the same audience. I know a sales manager who ends every sales meeting by saying "Sell value." The constant drumbeat of a few choice words can make you and your message more memorable to your audience. It also lets the group know that you've wrapped up your presentation. Fifth, closing with a quote can be a satisfying option for the audience.

Unlike an opening quote, an effective closing quote does not offer any surprising new insights. Rather, an effective closing quotation summarizes the main thrust of your presentation. If you decide to close with a quote, make sure that the content, context, and author offer credibility, as well as closure, to your presentation. Sixth, try closing with a final story. A final story needs to be emotionally powerful or provide closure on a story you may have opened up earlier in your speech.

Remember, since you want your final words to be memorable, make sure to write them out. As an exercise, try writing at least three types of closings. You can only use one, but going through the exercise of writing three may help you find a stronger ending than you previously thought possible. And finally, practice saying your powerful closing words and then looking at your audience. Embrace a moment of silence. Then nod, bow, or use other appropriate body language to let your audience know that your speech is over.

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