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5 Ways to End your TEDx Talk with Power

 Dr. Steven Hayward & Cesar Cervantes

Whether it’s a sentence or a vacation or a TEDx talk, it's beginnings and endings that people focus on most, and which they remember long afterwards. “That talk has an amazing middle,” said no one, ever. And for that reason it’s worth taking the time to craft the ending of your talk with as much care as you put into the beginning of it (which, let’s face it, you focus on way more because it’s at the beginning). Quick side note: by "ending" I don't mean your "call to action." That's separate and your talk should have one, but I'm talking about the very end of your talk. The last thing you say to your audience. With that in mind, I put together five possible ways to end your talk in a way that will not just make your audience remember it but immediately want to share it with everyone. 


1. The Circle Back 

Coming full circle can provide a sense of closure and completeness to your audience. If you started your talk with a personal anecdote or a powerful statistic, refer back to it at the end. A fantastic example of this is Tim Urban’s talk about procrastination where he ends with reminding his audience about what he calls “the Instant Gratification Monkey.” That’s what really stands in the way of getting things done and confronting it, as he puts it, is “a job for all of us. And because there's not that many boxes on there, it's a job that should probably start today.” He could end there but cycles back to where he began, with putting it off: “Sometime soon,” he says, in closing. It’s hilarious; it gets his point across. You never forget it.


2. The Lyrical and Poetic Ending

Utilizing the beauty of language can be a particularly effective, even mesmerizing, way to wrap up your talk because it connects with the emotional response of the audience--and once you do that, you’ve gone a great distance to making sure they remember your talk way into the future. A great example is from spoken word poet Sarah Kay and her legendary talk “If I should have a daughter” which brought the crowd literally to their feet. Here’s the lyrical, open ended way that she concludes: “This isn't my first time here. This isn't my last time here. These aren't the last words I'll share. But just in case, I'm trying my hardest to get it right this time around.” Mic drop.


3. The Clever Ending

Leaving your audience with a clever twist or unexpected insight can be both entertaining and thought-provoking. This approach is perhaps best suited for talks that aim at introducing the audience to issues that they might not have thought about, or considered in any detail. For instance, if you're discussing technological advancements, you might end with, "In a world where our phones are smarter and smarter, it’s our job to be brilliant.” Don’t use that one--come up with something actually clever--but you get the idea.


4. The Question

Ending with a question invites your audience to engage in further reflection and introspection. This is another way of bringing them into the talk--rather than just passively receiving information, they're actively thinking about how it relates to their own lives. As TED curator Chris Anderson puts it in his excellent video “Questions No One Has the Answer To,” “In a typical day at school, endless hours are spent learning the answers to questions, but right now, we'll do the opposite. We're going to focus on questions where you can't learn the answers because they're unknown.” End on that note, and your audience is ready to take action.


5. The Warning

Ending with a cautionary note can serve as a wake-up call, urging your audience to take action before it's too late. This approach is particularly effective for talks that address urgent issues like climate change, public health, or social injustices. A warning not only emphasizes the gravity of the situation but also motivates your audience to be part of the solution. A great example of this is Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity” that leans forward out of the talk into a possibly dystopian future: “Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth for a particular commodity,” he tells this audience, ominously. “And for the future, it won't serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children.”


Whether you opt for something clever, poetic, reflective, or cautionary, the key is to be genuine and true to your message. Remember, it's not just about delivering a great talk but about leaving an indelible mark on your audience's hearts and minds. And prompting them to share the talk as widely and as often as they can! 


If you're ready to land and deliver your TEDx talk or write and develop your signature keynote speech, schedule a call with us here.


- Dr. Steven Hayward is our head writer, an English professor at Colorado College, national bestselling author, award-winning filmmaker, TEDx Speaker, and has a great head of hair.


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