Organizing Conclusions

There are four components to a conclusion:

1) Signal that you are concluding
2) Summarize your main points
3) Suggest a call to action or a memorable statement
4) Thank your audience for listening

Signaling that you are concluding

  • Allows the audience to reflect on what they have heard in the body
  • Phrases such as "In Conclusion" or "In Summary" are in most cases inappropriate to start a concluding paragraph. Find a creative way to signal the conclusion without risking confusing your audience

Summarizing your main points

  • Centers the overall thesis of the speech
  • Repeating the main points will give them staying power with the audience
    • Remember, the audience remembers most what they hear last, so it is important to reiterate the thesis
    • Avoid saying “Today, I have talked to you about…”, as this should be fairly apparent. Instead, try to articulate the thesis more smoothly by restating it in slightly different words.
    • This is the third part of “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them,” the famous public speaking adage.

Call to action or memorable statement

  • This is a dramatic statement meant to emotionally connect with the topic
    • It could be a brief story or a rhetorical device that ties in the theme
    • See Barack Obama's Ashley story in "A More Perfect Union"

Thank the audience

  • Depart with a concluding thought
  • All to often, speakers conclude their presentations with a statement along the lines of “and that’s about all I have to say about that…” or “I think I have said enough.” These are hardly powerful conclusions. Leaving the audience with a memorable quote, a vivid image, a reference to the introduction of the speech, or a call to action is a far superior way to conclude the oration.

*Example: “I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” MLK's “I’ve been to the mountaintop”

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