The conclusion may be the most important part of your
presentation. It is the last part of the message the audience will hear or
read. Choose your words carefully and use your conclusion to seal your
This material is based on Ehninger, Douglas, et al.
Principles and Types of Speech Communication. 9th Ed. Glenview,
IL: Scott, Forseman and Co., 1986 and Sprague, Jo and Douglas Stuart.
Speaker’s Handbook. 2nd Ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
Is the speech developed in a simple or a complex
Does the content lead naturally to a “so what?”
What mood do I wish the audience to be in as I
Should I signal the ending of the speech?
Summarize the main points.
Just as you gave a map in the introduction, give a
summary in the conclusion.
the audience of the big ideas to help solidify their memory of the message.
In a technical or argumentative speech it can be
particularly useful to restate your thesis and main points exactly. For
today I have tried to show you that conjugal visits should be allowed in
prisons. I first explained the system of conjugal visits that has been adopted
successfully in some penal institutions. Second, I made the point that conjugal
visits contribute directly to the morale and rehabilitation of prisoners.
Finally, I documented that the visitation system is beneficial to society as a
some speeches you may think this is too mechanical. You may then choose to
paraphrase rather than restate exactly, summing up the content, but not in the
summarize-meaning is in the head of the listener. You cannot stir up what is
not already there. You communicate through all the senses. Often the where and
the when may influence those that listen to you. if
you can’t put your message in the language of your listener, you are likely to
Waldo W. Braden, “In the Heads of the Listeners,” Vital Speeches of the Day 44,
no. 2 (Nov. 1, 1977):44.
Restate the main idea
Emphasize once a again the
main idea of the message with a clear, concise, single sentence.
it memorable if appropriate.
Adapting to Complexity
A message that advances but one idea, fully developed
through clear, relevant supporting materials, needs only a simple restatement
of the central point to ensure audience understanding.
message that advances ten claims about the effects of a particular bill or
governmental action needs a summary that synthesizes the different ideas into a
condensed, unified form.
Answering the “So What?” Question
If your presentation is directed toward some type of
overt response, your conclusion is the final chance to clarify what you want
that response to be.
Creating the Appropriate Mood
Then plan to conclude your speech in a way that
generates that mood or creates that frame of mind that supports the influence
you wish to exert in your message.
Signaling the Ending
A successful message also conveys a sense of
completeness and finality.
can signal the end with transition phrases:
I conclude this address, let me reiterate . . . “;
eminent poet, Robert Frost, best summarizes what I have been saying. . . .”
Challenge or Appeal to Listeners
Openly appeal for support or action, or remind the
listeners of their responsibilities in furthering a desirable end.
vivid and compelling and include a suggestion of the principal ideas or
arguments presented in the speech.
Leland Miles, president of the
of Bridgeport, selected this method
when urging university presidents to seek peace studies for their campuses:
is not something that you pick up off the ground and say, oh look,
peace! I found peace. Peace you’ve got to work at, peace you’ve got to create,
peace you’ve got to make, peace you’ve got to produce. And the only way I know
to produce it is through education, which is our business. Rodrigo Carazo, the president of Costa
Rica, has said, “If you want peace, educate
for peace.” I agree. He has also said, “War begins in the minds of men and
women. It is therefore in the minds of men and women that we must construct the
defenses of peace. “ I say let all of us join in
building those defenses. Let all of us in our own ways attempt to build on our
respective campuses constituencies for peace. We have constituencies for
fraternities, constituencies for drugs, constituencies for better jazz
concerts. peace, by requiring some kind of
internationalized curriculum for all our students. Let’s not leave the critical
task of survival to Costa Rica
ability to make sense of the world which you now enter will depend on your
determination to retain your own integrity. If you do that, the rest will
follow. Yours may not be what is often called a happy life; it may be battered
by adversity. But it will be a life of purpose, of dignity, and of meaning. And
that should be enough for anyone.
John R. Silber, “Beyond the Real World Integrity,”
Vital Speeches of the Day 45, no. 19 (July 15, 1979):604-606.
Robert Kennedy, in a speech to the Democratic
legislative dinner, shortly after the Watts riots of
1967, ended his speech this way:
us as Democrats the responsibility is clear. We must reject the council of
those willing to pass laws against violence while refusing to help eliminate rats ...
must offer that leadership—in every legislature and school board and city
hall—which dares to speak out before it tests the shifting wind of popular
anger and confusion; that leadership which prefers facts to illusions, actions
to sullen withdrawal, sacrifice and effort to indulgence and ease.
Leland Miles when concluding a
challenge to his audience to act with him for peace.
quotation is used in the beginning of the speech, you can tie the speech
together by a direct reference back to the earlier quotation. Chui Lee Yap
began a speech on ethnocentrism by quoting from Aldous
Huxley: “Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We
don’t know because we don’t want to know.” After explaining the reasons for
American ignorance of other cultures, Chui Lee concluded by noting that “As
Huxley implied, cure of our not knowing-is our wanting to know.
A speech-ending illustration should be both inclusive
inclusive of the main focus of your speech,
ii. conclusive in tone and impact.
Twitchell used an illustration in both the opening
and closing of his speech on the causes and effects of depression:
you ever felt like you were the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the
leaking dike? You waited and waited but the help never came. The leak became
worse and the water rushed around you and swept you away. As you fought the
flood, gasping and choking for air, you realized that the flood was inside
yourself. You were drowning and dying in your own mind. According to the
American Journal of Psychiatry, as many as half the people in this room will be
carried away by this devastating flood. What is this disaster? Mental depression.
go back to my illustration of the little Dutch boy. He was wise to take action
and put his finger in the dike, preventing the flood. In the case of
depression, each one of us must be like the little Dutch boy’-willing to get
involved and control the harmful effects of depression.’
In his speech, Michael Twitchell
elaborated at length on the effects of depression on the family of David Twitchell. Besides tying the introduction and conclusion
together with an illustration (see above), Michael added an inducement:
should you really care? Why is it important? The depressed person may be
someone you know-it could be you. If you know what is happening, you can always
help. I wish I had known what depression was in March of 1978. You see, when I
said David Twitchell could be my father, I was making
a statement of fact. David is my father. I am his middle son. My family wasn’t
saved; perhaps now yours can be.
Expression of Personal Intention or Endorsement
State your own intent.
Coppola, a student at Towson
University, ended her speech on
computer anxiety with an endorsement of her own solution to the problem:
we who avoid computers because we don’t understand them can enroll in a
college’s or university’s introduction to computer course, as I have done.
Although it is still sometimes difficult to sit behind the computer terminal
without becoming nervous or fidgety, I am convinced it is still worth my while.
I believe all of us should become comfortable with computers. Only in that way
will we be able to perform in the job market and the educational system, in
order to become computer literate and to function effectively in our
“I plan to give blood tomorrow morning and I hope to
see you down there.”
Leave enough time in your speech for a solid
If you are running short on time, don’t cut the
conclusion since it falls at on of the psychologically strongest parts of the
try to cut material from the middle—or at least something before the
Just like the introduction, build your ethos in
the conclusion with solid, confident nonverbal cues.
Look at the audience.
Take the time to plan a solid conclusion.
Avoid giving the audience a false sense of when
you will finish. Few things annoy an audience as much as thinking a speech is
over, only to have the speaker go on, and on, and on.
Do not use “thank you” as a substitute for a
Don’t end with an apology:
“I guess I’ve rambled on long enough.” “I don’t know if
I’ve made this clear.”
not usually this hyper; it must be the coffee.”
Don’t trail off. Do your audience the courtesy
of wrapping things up and using a clincher.
Don’t introduce a whole new idea in your
conclusion. The body of your speech is the place for that.
Don’t make the conclusion disproportionately
long. It is a summary and ending.
Don’t end a speech in a style or mood that is at
odds with the tenor of the rest of the speech. You do your listeners a
disservice if you have kept them laughing up to the very end only to hit them
with a stark recitation of doom.
Don’t use the phrases “in conclusion” or “in
summary” in any part of the speech other than the actual conclusion. You will
lose part of your audience while they reorient themselves to the fact that the
speech is continuing even though they thought it was winding down.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2001.
- You may contact the instructor at SHKaminski@yahoo.com
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University COMP 5970. Unauthorized use is prohibited.