“The end of THE END is the best place to begin THE END, because if you read THE END from the beginning of the beginning of THE END to the end of the end of THE END, you will arrive at the end.” ~Lemony Snicket
As hard as it is to read that quote, it’s not nearly as hard as writing a great ending to a message. Or at least that’s how I feel!
I love starting with a personal story, compelling the audience to connect through felt need, teaching God’s truth and coming up with a transformational challenge. These are my areas of strength, but when I have to wrap it all up, I begin to falter.
Just this morning I was preparing for an event by editing my message. All was well with just a few tweaks here and there until I got to the end, and I realized that the finish lacked polish and power.
This message in particular shouldn’t contain a weak, wishy-washy ending. It’s my testimony message! It’s the story of my heart’s transformation through the power of Jesus in my life, so I want something that stirs women’s hearts and draws them to the One who captivates my soul. Ending well is important for this message and all others.
How do we construct great endings? I’m still sharpening my skills in this area, but here are some tips I’ll focus on as I work to write stronger conclusions for my messages:
End with hope
Most of the time, our message focuses on leading our audience to the “how to,” but we have to leave them with “want to.” They have to believe they’re capable of making change and that the effort will be worth it. Endings should contain the motivation to move forward. Culminate by answering their question: “How will my life improve if I walk out the truths you’ve presented?”
Painting a picture—showing instead of telling—through true stories of triumph is an effective way to infuse our endings with inspiration. Explaining what life is like when we make the change is another. We need to end with hope-charged words so our audiences walk out inspired, full of optimism and ready to make a change.
End with a crafted sentence
At one conference where I led a small group of speakers to write short messages from beginning to end, our participants were videoed as they presented at the end of the weekend. It was a stressful situation for everyone, and toward the end of our preparation time, the group freak-out started.
Trying to diffuse the tension, I heard some very profound words coming out of my mouth. “You need to CRAFT and MEMORIZE three sentences: your opening sentence, your sticky statement, and your closing sentence. Everything else can be fairly fluid.”
As these words flowed out of my mouth, I thought, Great advice, Amy. Why don’t you try it yourself? Now I do! I carefully create and memorize both a strong hook for the beginning and a memorable sentence for the end. It has built my confidence as a speaker to know definitively where I’ll start and end.
End with emotion and inflection
Years ago, I was talking with my friend Rachel who teaches communications at a university. Her classes analyze TED Talks to find what makes a great speech. They found that effective endings vary in their construct, but they always create spontaneous applause. It’s a great insight, and it’s a goal to shoot for as we craft our endings.
I know from experience that I often finish to a puzzled pause instead of spontaneous applause. There was an obvious, “Is she finished?” in my audience’s eyes. One of the keys to eliminating my audience’s confusion is in the delivery of the conclusion.
I’m learning to really feel my end, to use inflection to indicate the ending and to use my voice (volume, pitch, and rate) to signal an end. If you’re not sure about how to do this, experiment a little yourself and start listening to great endings. For a fun way to study how other speakers create effective signals that it’s time to applaud, evaluate some TED talks.
Great endings are crucial for memorable messages. To move our audiences to action, we leverage inspiration and leave them excited about a better life.
Amy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s author of Breaking Up with Perfect and speaker coach at Next Step Coaching Services. You can always find her trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner.