Recently, a client flew me out to California to help him with two speeches. In many ways, they will be the biggest speeches he has ever given.
I’m not a speech writer, I’m a speech amplifier, so that’s what I did.
I helped him find the opening line, work on seamless transitions and prepare every nuance of those few minutes he had on stage. After working on it for two days he presented the entire speech to me a few times and we critiqued it line by line.
One thing I told him that I’d tell you is to avoid a mistake that 90% of speakers make.
What is it?
Most speeches have two or three endings. This happens for a few reasons:
1. It’s hard to end a speech.
2. The speaker is having fun and just keeps going.
3. All of the creative attention was given to the beginning of the speech and the end was allowed to resolve “organically” in the moment.
You’ve experienced this before. A speaker has an amazing story, cogent point and poignant closer. And then she adds something else. And something else. It’s like driving by an exit on a highway. You thought you were going to the beach and end up cruising in the breakdown lane and swerving back onto the road at the last second just when you thought it was over.
Pastors struggle with this a little sometimes which is why they will abruptly end sermons with “Let’s pray.” Out of nowhere, after multiple possible endings and rabbit trails they will simply ask you to pray which is meant to serve as the conclusion to a sermon that didn’t have one.
How do you avoid this problem?
It’s hard. I honestly struggle with this. I’ve probably done this a hundred times myself. I am very much a work in progress. The biggest thing I’ve learned to beat this is to avoid the “Eminem Expectation.”
That’s the expectation that like Eminem at the end of the movie 8 mile you’ll be able to say one amazing statement that allows you to drop the mic and walk off the stage triumphantly.
That’s nonsense. That’s like telling yourself that every time you play basketball the game better end with a half court buzzer beater.
Instead, have one story and one line that you promise to yourself will be the end. When you get to it, be brave enough to end. (And even if you don’t hire me to help you, practice it live with a friend. Your speech will improve dramatically.) When you finish, just finish. Don’t add a story you forgot or a new idea you just had.
One ending is enough.