How to close your speech or presentation for maximum audience response? Techniques for a better closeChia-Li Chien, Ph.D., CFP®, PMP®, CPBC
Chia-Li Chien | Dec. 12, 2011
Have you attended an event recently that made you rush to the back of the room to meet the speaker afterward? Most importantly, you did not just meet the speaker. You even purchased his or her autographed book plus other important materials. I’m sure you can name a few of those events. I certainly was one of those people in the past.
I often test my public speeches just to see how the audience responds to my closing. After over 100 public speaking engagements, I have realized that there are three major components of any satisfactory closing. (A satisfactory closing is an audience response of 40% or above.) The three major components are:
• GOAL: Set the purpose and goal of your speech.
• TIME: Allocate the right amount of time for closing.
• ACTION: Use a combination of closing techniques to move your audience to change.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not there to sell anything,” the reality is that when you are in front of a crowd, regardless of the size, you’re selling something. You’re either branding, marketing your services, selling your expertise, or even just securing your next presentation opportunity.
Picture yourself standing on the stage and ready to give your speech to an audience of 300. The audience consists of your ideal target customers. What would you like to accomplish? How much time will you use to close your presentation? Most importantly, what would you like the audience to walk away with from your presentation?
Let’s try another scenario. Visualize standing in front of an executive board consisting of 12 board members. You’re about to present your idea to them. What would you like to accomplish? How much time will you use to close your presentation? What would you like the board members’ response to be as a result of your presentation?
Last scenario—visualize yourself right in front of one of your top three clients. You’re about to present your new idea to the three partners of this particular leading firm. What would you like to accomplish by giving your presentation? How much time will you use to close your presentation? What would you like the partners to do after your presentation?
You see, the truth is that it’s your job to motivate your audience to a desired action while interacting with you during your presentation. Any of the above opportunities may play out at any point during your everyday activities.
Let’s briefly walk through some of the closing techniques Toastmaster International recommends:
• Use a quotation
• Tell a short story or anecdote
• Call for action
• Ask a rhetorical question
• Refer to the beginning of the speech
• Summarize your main points
There are many sales books out there to help you with the specifics of these techniques. For the purpose of this article, we will only focus on the main techniques indicated above.
Here are some myths of delivering a satisfactory closing presentation or within a public speech. I went through all of these during my first 50 speaking engagements:
• You are a sales professional.
• You are there to teach.
• You have no intention of changing anyone in the audience.
• You speak slowly to ensure the audience can follow you.
• No need to show any proof—they will just get it.
Boy, I was dead wrong for following these myths. I started testing a new formula that combines three major closing components: 1) I set a goal for my speech. 2) I then allocate 13% of my time to the closing. 3) Finally, I include specific instructions during the close for a call to action.
Here is a list of the astonishing results that I did not expect from this change in my public speaking method:
• For free additional information, I have an 80% conversation ratio.
• For fee 90-minute webinar, I have about a 45% response rate.
• For a 2-day boot camp, I have about a 40% response rate.
Can you use at least one of the ideas above for your next public speaking engagement? Can you use two or three? Set your goal, allocate enough time to close, and most importantly, motivate your audience to change the reason you’re there for.