Getting Offstage

Any speaker can rise to the occasion, but few know when to sit down. The best speeches are those that have a good beginning and a good ending— close together!

During my last speech, I noticed a little old man in a wheelchair. After I stepped down from the podium, I went over to him and thanked him for coming. I said, "And I hope you get better real soon." And he said, "After listening to you, I hope you get better, too!"

Never speak at length at the tail end of a long program. No matter how you may try to avoid it, it sometimes happens. When it does, and unless your client is the featured speaker, cut the speech in half, and end with lines like these:

It has been my responsibility to speak and yours to listen. I am delighted that we've finished our responsibilities at the same time.

Always thank the audience. There is no better exit line.

If I've held your interest this is a good place to stop. And if it's been a bad speech, then this is a very good place to stop. Thank you.

In conclusion, say "In conclusion." Next to "I'll take the check," these are a dinner audience's favorite words.

In conclusion, I have had a very difficult task. The food has been good, the drinks plentiful, and you have been a wonderful audience. I feel like the preacher who noticed a small boy sitting in the front pew alongside his father who was nodding off. "Billy," he said, "wake up your father." And the boy said, "Wake him up yourself. You put him to sleep."

A good salesman always ends a pitch by asking for the order, and that's not a bad idea for speakers. Tell the audience what you want them to do: buy a product, donate to a cause, vote for a person or issue, etc. You can do it with humor, too.

Young boy to family: "I'm going up to say my prayers. Anybody want anything?"

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