A speaker asks a lot of an audience. Understanding, enthusiasm, support — and inactivity. Speakers expect audiences to be passive most of the time.
That's after all what speakers are paid for — to inform and entertain the audience. Not the other way around. And the higher the price, the more entertaining the speaker better be. But that means that most speakers figure that they should be doing the majority of the work.
That's unfortunate, because if a speaker does a good job, pouring out lots of energy into an appreciative crowd, the audience is soon ready to give that energy back.
And it wants to give that energy back in the form of — action. Happy audiences want to do something, to show their involvement, their appreciation, their connection to the speaker. (Unhappy audiences want to do something else: leave.)
A wise speaker gives the audience an opportunity to express that collective energy in the form of action.
So think of something that you can get audiences to do at the end of the speech (if not before), and they will thank you with higher ratings, better response, and a more lasting connection with you. Look for some sort of action step for the audience to take that is relevant to your talk and closes your speech with dynamism.
By “action step,” I don’t mean, “give them a bogus assignment to do at some future date.” That’s what politicians do: Let us work together to reduce this and increase that for the greater glory of this country! Everyone knows that it’s just feel-good rhetoric. No, what I mean is that you get the audience to do something small and achievable right there in the room – that relates to the overall point of the talk.
I'll give you one example. We helped a speaker design a talk to a large audience on a religious and charitable theme. For the action step at the end, the speaker asked everyone in the audience to reach into their pockets and purses, grab all the loose change they could, and, on the count of 3, throw it on the floor of the meeting hall.
He then sent 'runners' around to pick it all up. The speech raised $12,000 for AIDS relief in 5 minutes. That's an action step. That’s the best way to end a presentation.