How To Make Your Speeches Really Count (Hint: Think About Those Last Words)

The late Michael ConradOne can make a LOT of speeches over a long leadership career.

The thing about making a speech that has always fascinated me is that of all its many elements, the one thing that almost always makes it or breaks it is the very last thing you say.

The very last thing.

Think about that one – think about all of your speeches as a leader.

A good speech needs a punctuation mark, something that “brackets” what was said before, or reinforces it, or summarizes it, or contextualizes it – or just leaves the audience knowing that you care.

In my former business, it was the caring part that needed the most attention, because the people I was talking to had hard jobs to do.  They had to go to people’s houses and do physical labor, sometimes in the harshest of weather conditions.   I didn’t have to do that work, but yet as a leader, I was the one standing in front of them telling them how we wanted them to do that work, and explaining our expectations.

That was the core of my speeches to them – and the first few times I talked to them, I felt they went well, but there was something missing.

And then I found out what it was, indirectly.

I was in a city in Montana, and a local employee pulled me aside to tell me about the local general manager and why that person was better than the two previous managers that had been there before.

He really appreciated this person’s “no BS” approach and more importantly, knew that what he had was a leader who cared about their welfare.

How did he know?   Before the day’s work in the field that leader, after going through all the other instructions and declarations, would always tell them to “be safe“. That struck this employee more than anything else that leader said.

That was also the missing difference in my speeches, so after that message sunk in,  every subsequent speech I made after that included an ending of  – “and hey, let’s be safe out there“.

If that sounds a little familiar to some of you,  it should – I took some artistic liberty from an old (and great) TV series of the past, Hill Street Blues:

Yes, the memory of Sgt. Esterhaus also had an influence on me. It was a wonderful last thought to put in the minds of the officers. And it put everything else in the proper context.

I hope this post has also made you think about your speeches, and how you choose to end them. Take the time to think about it, and what ending most “fits” the setting and situation.

And hey, leaders, let’s be awesome out there!


  1. Greg Hartle says

    I can remember your last words at SOBCon very clearly…Show the way! Thanks for continuing to show the way, Terry.

  2. says

    Hey, thanks for another good post.
    I’m sharing this on Twitter, LinkedIn and sending the link to a friend starting up a nonprofit, The Minerva Project, which helps other nonprofits run better (& stay alive).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *