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Your Speech's Closing:
How Far Will You Go?

By Craig Harrison DTM, AL, PDG

December, 2005
edition of
The Toastmaster

In my thirteen years as a Toastmaster I've heard over 2,000 speeches:  Ice Breakers, contest winners and every other variety of speech from our Communication & Leadership and advanced speech manuals. They've covered myriad topics and encompassed a slew of styles. And yet most of them contain a common trait, and it isn't the presence of um's and ah's. It's that THEY DIDN'T GO FAR ENOUGH! They went plenty long, but most didn't go far enough. They closed with a whimper, not a bang!

When an an attorney tries a case, it culminates in a powerful closing argument. When an Opera ends it usually does so with fanfare. Yet many speeches just quietly fade away. They limp to an end. They leave us wanting more. They often miss an opportunity to drive their points home emphatically. Why don't they "seal the deal"?

Are speakers afraid? Unsure? Are they uncomfortable coming on too strong? Or is it that they just don't realize how powerful they truly are?

The Speaker Formula: A Four Part Equation

In any speech there are four components: the speaker, the audience, the speech and its result.

THE SPEAKER: Has a point of view, an opinion or a belief he or she endeavors to express. There's a purpose for their speaking.

THE AUDIENCE: Is usually open to hearing from the speaker. Audiences are willing to listen to her or his arguments, their reasoning, the expression of their thought processes, etc. Most audiences are both receptive and pliable.

THE SPEECH: makes the speaker's case.

  1. Their introduction by the Toastmaster establishes credibility.
  2. The speech title frames the topic to be discussed.
  3. The Speaker's own introduction within their speech sets expectations or announces attentions.
  4. The main body of their speech provides their evidence or supporting arguments.
  5. Their speech's closing usually summarizes or ties together the topic and, ideally, capitalizes on the case that's been made.

THE RESULT: Despite the speaker's having invested so much time and preparation in their speech, there's often a lack of follow through at the speech's end. Speakers have generated momentum as they built their case within their speech, only to shy away from pressing their conclusion forcefully. And it's their loss. What, if anything, happens as a result of an audience having heard the speech? Are hearts swayed? Are people moved to action? Most times the answer, sadly, is no. Yet these results are true measures of a speech's success

A Sample Speech

Consider the Toastmaster who wants to give a persuasive speech on the importance of exercise. First the speaker would research their topic and then outline their speech.


TITLE: Exercise Your Rights!


Introduce topic and scope of speech: the importance of EXERCISING as preventative medicine to increase life expectancy, improve quality of life.


Technology is replacing our manual labor where we used to exercise

Our lifestyle is more sedentary

Advent of fast food's popularity has added more calories to our diet


As little as 30 minutes a day of exercise reaps the following benefits:

  • Strengthens cardio-vascular system — stave off heart attacks
  • Strengthen immune system — helps ward off illness
  • Provides mental stimulation
  • Lower our cholesterol levels
  • relieve high blood pressure
  • reduce stress
  • aid in weight control
  • Improves our memory


"So get out there and exercise your rights."


A speech using this structure would likely be met with agreement by many, if not most, listeners. But it could be more persuasive, powerful and impactful if the speaker chose to capitalize on the case made with a more compelling conclusion.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Audiences listen politely to speakers as they state their case. At speech's end, audiences must form an opinion about the speech topic and content, if they haven't already. Some might agree, others disagree. Others still may be undecided or feel neutral about the topic, due to content, construction or delivery. Yet they look to the speaker for cues about where to go and what to do next. They ask themselves: "Now what?" And so often speakers don't lead them like they could.

Take Your Listeners One Step Beyond

Powerful speakers know they can take license with audiences at the end of their speeches. Since speakers are leaders, they can lead their audience to more than just applause. How would you take this voting speech further? How would you mobilize your audience to action? How could you move them further with a more powerful closing?

Here Are Six Ways to Close This And Other Speeches With Power


1. Tell them what YOU will do.

"When this speech is over I am going to my local track for 40 minutes of         walking around the track."

2. Issue a Call to Action. Challenge your listeners to do something:

"I challenge you to calendar in two hours for exercise before our meeting next week." (Hold up your daily calendar as a visual cue.)

3. Issue a Call to Action. Challenge your listeners to do something:

Ask your audience to take an oath;
Ask them to raise their right hand and repeat after you:

"I hereby promise to …"

4. Lead them (you do it!):

"Join me in a short stretching interlude: please stand and we'll do this exercise together:"

5. Give them the tools to take the next step:

 "Here's a list of local gyms and health clubs to choose from, as well as exercise classes at the local adult school."

6. Put It In Writing!

Invite your audience to write down their next action step, goals or plans as a result of your speech. Whether they turn it in to you or post it for themselves you've built in some accountability for them. 

 "Fill out this piece of paper with your action step. Write it on the top and bottom, date it, sign it and put a due date on it, and tear off the bottom and return to me. I will contact you on that date to confirm your accomplishment!"

It's Closing Time

The next time you listen to speeches in your Toastmasters club see how far other speakers go in their closing. While not every speech is intended to be persuasive, inspirational or motivational, many are. For each of those, identify ways they can close with power, leading their audiences to action. And the next time you give a persuasive speech, be more than just a speaker, be a leader too. Whether you're speaking in a contest or in your home club, close with power and extend your sphere of influence accordingly.

Craig Harrison DTM is a professional keynote speaker and member of Laugh Lovers Toastmasters #596430-57 in Oakland, California. Craig takes special pride in mentoring others and believes every member should both be and have a mentor. Visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com for more tips on communication and leadership.

For more speaker resources visit the Speaker section of Craig's Learning Tools webpage

© Copyright 2002-05 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Professional speaker Craig Harrison is a past District 57 Governor who used Toastmasters leadership lessons as the 2004-05 president of the National Speakers Association's Northern California chapter. Visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com for additional tools for communication and leadership


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