There’s a great discussion going on at The Official Toastmasters International Members Group on LinkedIn. Because you can’t access the group unless you join, I thought I’d summarize the opinions and see what you think. Here’s the question the sparked the discussion:
“In my home [Toastmaster] club, it has been generally accepted that the speaker does not thank the audience at the conclusion because it diminishes the impact of the ending and it is somewhat trite. The belief exists that the audience should be thanking the speaker for taking the time to prepare and share their thoughts.
Recently, one of our members has pulled me aside and indicated how rude he thinks it is for the speaker to assume that the captive audience should appreciate being held hostage without a thank you. We have another member who feels similarly.”
Opinions that you shouldn’t say “thank you” at the end
Official TM stand on thanking the audience after the speech: “Don’t end by saying “Thank you.” The audience should thank you for the information you’ve shared. Instead, just close with your prepared ending, nod at the Toastmaster of the meeting, and say, ‘Mr. [or Madam] Toastmaster’ – then enjoy the applause.'”
I find “Thank You” a weak ending especially when a speech deals with emotions/persuasion. I prefer to pause for a few seconds (2-3) after a power-ending before handing over the control to the Toastmaster.
The audience remembers the last sentence best, so what do you want them to remember— the point you are making, the thing you want them to do, or thank you?
If it’s just a regular speech, closing with “thank you” just sounds like “thanks for not walking out.”
This concept has become so ingrained in me that I don’t think I could close that way if I tried. If you go back and watch videos of excellent speeches, I don’t believe you’ll find many (if any) that close with ‘thank you.’
Opinions that you should (or can) say “Thank you”
It is speaker’s preference. I usually do say thank you because I believe it is the polite thing to do.
Outside of TM world, “Thank you” is fine as part of the close. You’re not thanking them for sitting and hanging on your every word, rather for inviting you, organizing the event, contributing questions, etc. It MUST be sincere and not a throw-away line.
At conferences I attend, it is usual and courteous to thank the audience at the end. The two best conference speakers I’ve heard (who get invited all over the world to speak) not only say “Thank you” at the end of every speech, but even end with a “Thank-you” slide. There’s nothing wrong with that — you’re thanking the audience for being attentive, asking good questions, laughing in the right places…. Then they thank you back, by applauding.
I usually try to put a thank you in the transition leading to the conclusion – that way I make my personal thanks known (and signal the audience that the end is near) without muddying the conclusion.
Opinions that it depends on the circumstances
For TM speeches, and especially for contests, I would not say “Thank You.” For speeches outside TM, I agree that saying “Thank You” is OK, especially if you have been giving a long seminar. However, a good alternative would be to (sincerely) wish the audience well with whatever the topic of your speech has been. That is a clear signal that the speech is over and should leave them with a favorable impression.
When speaking at TM, you generally do not thank the audience. If I were giving a seminar, or other training, I would ALWAYS thank the audience. At Rotary, at a professional venue, or any public presentation, I would ALWAYS thank the audience.
If you NEED to thank the audience, (for going out of their way to hear you, or for them giving you an opportunity to speak), you can do it towards the end, but it shouldn’t be the last words.
What I think
I almost always thank the audience, but I don’t think I did so when I was in Toastmasters. The situation was different:
- The audience wasn’t paying to hear me speak
- The audience didn’t choose to come and hear just me (they came as part of the meeting and for their own learning experience)
- Toastmasters is a very formal atmosphere. Yes, you end with Mr. (Madam) Toastmaster and a handshake at the end. Who does anything equivalent in the business world?
I do like the idea of not making “thank you” your last words, though, and leaving the audience with a final, uplifting point. For example, I might say, “Thanks for your attention and remember that you CAN present complex data clearly!”
If you’re giving a sales presentation, you would always thank the audience. Why should they thank you when you’re trying to sell them something? If your CEO gave you some of his precious time to hear a pet proposal of yours, of course you should thank him or her.
See my earlier post, “What goes on the last slide?” for a related discussion.
What do you think? How is the answer different in different situations and for different types of content?
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