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Public Speaking: Closing Statements


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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 7:52
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 84 MB
  • Posted: 07/01/2009

This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Public Speaking. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers getting started, preparing a speech, presenting the speech, audience considerations, types of speeches, small group communication, and more. The course features three renowned professors: Jess K. Alberts of Arizona State University, Brenda J. Allen of the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dan West of Ohio State University.

Jess K. Alberts is a professor of communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, where she was Director from 1995 until 2004. She currently serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project and is an associate with Project for Wellness and Work-life. Her research appears regularly in academic journals, and she recently co-authored “Human Communication in Society”. Undergraduates at Arizona State honored her classroom teaching skills with a "Last Lecture Award," and she has twice been a finalist for Professor of the Year at ASU. A nationally known speaker on interpersonal communication, Professor Alberts has given numerous presentations across the country on humor, conflict, and developing and maintaining a passionate life.

Brenda J. Allen is departmental chair and a professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, where she teaches organizational communication. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on organizational communication and diversity and she serves on the editorial boards of several communication journals. In 2004, she authored the book “Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity”. While at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, she has been recognized with the First Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement for Commitment to Diversity and she received the Francine Meritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication from the Women’s Caucus of the National Communication Association. Professor Allen is frequently invited to speak at community and professional events.

Dan West is the John A. Cassese Director of Forensics at Ohio University. Previously, he was a distinguished lecturer at Rice University, where he also acted as Director of Forensics. Under his direction, the team consistently placed in the top ten at national debate tournaments. While at Rice, Prof. West won the Outstanding Faculty Associate for Brown College (1999) and the award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (four times). He is well known for using his engaging speaking style in a variety of settings; his annual presentation of the Rice University Alcohol Policy to the freshman class was always a hit.

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Do you remember how the film The Blair Witch Project began? Do you remember how it ended? Well, if you're like most people, you probably don' t remember exactly how it began, but you have a very clear memory of how that film ended. Those filmmakers, like good speakers, know you need a really strong and memorable finish. There are a number of techniques you can use to conclude your speech and make it memorable. Now, as I go over these techniques you're going to say, "Those sound kind of familiar," and, yes, they are the same strategies we talked about in doing introductions. However, in conclusions you're going to do them just a little bit differently.
For example, you can end your speech with a quotation. You want to choose a quote that really captures the thrust of your speech. You want to use a quote that summarizes your purpose overall. It should be something that is memorable, dramatic, and not too long. I once had a student give a speech on the decimation of Native American tribes due to land theft, forcible relocation, and disease and deprivation until their spirits were broken. And in summarizing and ending her speech, she quoted Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce in reference to their loss of will, and she said, "I quote Chief Joseph. `The people decided I will fight no more forever.'" Now, notice how this quote really captures the sense of sadness and futility that both Chief Joseph and the tribes felt.
You can also tell a story. Now, a story is a really good way to end a speech. It encapsulates all the points you've been making, and it also personalizes your speech. It can bring a kind of warmth and meaning to the cold statistics and facts. I had a student give a speech about volunteerism, and she was talking about the need to volunteer and about her own experiences with the homeless. She told this story in her conclusion about how she had gone to the shelter on the first day and met a woman. She discovered her name was Mary. And the next time she went back to the shelter she saw the woman, and she said, "Hi Mary." Mary's eyes began to fill with tears, and she asked her what was wrong. And Mary said, "It's been years since anyone's called me by my name." Again, stories can really capture the feeling as well as the emotion and the intellectual content of our speeches.
You can also use a startling statement. Just like in introductions, you can use a statement that startles your audience. Now, make sure this statement summarizes your speech. You should not be introducing any new material. It should go back and capture something you've already said. Don't begin with a new topic. I had a student give a speech on drunk driving, and it had a very dramatic ending. The student had gotten a body bag--I'm not sure where--and brought the body bag in and put it under the podium where we couldn't see it. At end of the speech in talking about drunk driving, the student said, "If you continue to drink and drive, your next trip home might be in one of these" and pulled out the body bag. It was startling, and it really captured the consequences of drinking and driving.
You can also end the speech with a question. Now, that may seem kind of odd because it sounds like kind of an opening, not an ending. But you can use a question to really challenge your audience and to cause them to think. Let's say that you were giving a speech about donating gifts and money to needy children during Christmas. There's a good program called Christmas Angels, and I might give a speech about the need to become involved in the Christmas Angels program. I could end my speech by posing a question to the audience and saying, "On Christmas morning, will you really be able to enjoy yourself knowing all over the city small children are waking up to empty stockings?" And again, the question causes people to reflect back upon everything that you've said.
Now, you can also use audience participation. You get the audience involved in doing something that relates to your speech. If you're talking about a product, you can pass out a sample at the end, or you could give them like a pledge card to fill out, or a voter registration card. There are a couple of cautions, however. You don't want to do anything that's going to offend the audience or might embarrass them or in any way compromise them. For example, if you were to give out a pledge card, you have to think real carefully about what kind of pledge card. People may feel pressured to fill out a blood-donation pledge card or a money pledge card. So think carefully about what you have the audience do because you don't want to make them feel uncomfortable and end your speech badly.
Now, a technique that I really like is called the "full circle" technique. In this technique, you end your speech with a statement that echoes a statement from the introduction. So you pick something that sort of resonates with something you've already said. Let's say you're giving a speech about Tommy Hilfiger, and you open the speech with the statement that clothes make the man. Well, at the end of the speech you might say something like this: "While it's always been true that clothes make the man, in the second millennium Tommy Hilfiger will be the man who makes the clothes."
Now, I've already mentioned that you can pose an appeal or a challenge through a question. Well, you can also do it through a statement. You can try to persuade your audience to engage in a behavior or get them to think differently by challenging them through a statement. Let's say that you're giving a speech on the need to eat more vegetables, and you're trying to get the audience more involved. You might end your speech by saying, "The next time you order a sandwich or you make a sandwich, why don't you add some extra lettuce and tomato?" Or you might say, "The next time you order that pizza, why don't you try vegetarian?" So you appeal to them and try to get them involved.
Another strategy that you can use is to use literary material. You can read a short--maybe a paragraph from a novel. You can read a part of a short poem, something that captures the thrust of your speech and everything you've been talking about. But you do want to pick it carefully. Let me give you kind of a brief example. Let's say you were giving a speech on deforestation and the loss of trees. Well, you might remind the audience about how dangerous this is by quoting a poem, such as this. You might say something like, "Remember what Joyce Kilmer wrote, `Poems are written by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.'"
And the last strategy you might use is humor. Now, humor can be really effective in creating goodwill and getting the audience to feel positively as you end your speech, and it can be kind of fun. And if you tell it well, it will be great. However, I've got a couple of cautions. If you don't tell jokes well, if you're not someone who's naturally humorous, I recommend you don't try this strategy. And even if you are someone who's naturally humorous, you want to think carefully about whether you can pull it off because it's something that's really difficult to do on occasion because you have to know your audience pretty well. You don't want to use humor that offends them. So you might want to use this strategy to use later when you're a little bit more experienced. Because honestly, there's nothing really more disconcerting than to end a speech with a humorous anecdote and have no one laugh. So think carefully before you use it.
Now, I've given you a review of a number of different strategies. Now, I'd like you to take a look at some student speeches and their closing statements and see if you can identify the strategies that they used.
The Ballard family could never have imagined what mold would do to their lives. Four-year-old Reese has permanently scarred lungs. Ron's memory loss became so extensive he lost his job as an investment banker, and his wife, Deb, can do nothing but wonder--whatever happened to our dream?
What do we show other countries when we institutionalize a system that discriminates, that divides and conquers, those that it's meant to protect, even though we are the largest and strongest democracy in the world? Condoning the use of racial profiling is equivalent to handing over the keys of our personal freedom and privacy to police. We can no longer afford to sit back and let others do our struggle. If we ignore the signs of caution that lie ahead, we are stumbling into the depths of racism and tyranny.
Preparing the Speech ! Conclusions [page 4 of 4]
Closing Statements
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 82382/18/02
Preparing the Speech ! Conclusions [page 1 of 4]
Closing Statements
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 82382/18/02

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