Toastmasters say “Don’t thank your audience”, I say “Why not?

You might’ve heard some people (especially members of Toastmasters) say not to thank your audience at the end of your talk.

But you’re less likely to have heard any reason for that advice. So in this post, you’ll find these 4 topics to address that issue, and to help you with your speaking:

 

Why you might choose not to say thanks

Due to what are known as primacy and recency effects, your audience is more likely to remember the first and last things you say, which makes the opening and closing lines of your talk vital.

What’s more, thanking people has nothing to do with your topic, and it therefore slightly weakens your message. That’s why some people advise you not to say thanks (at the start or end of your talk).

So, the advice is well-intended, and (as you’ll see a bit later) there are certainly stronger words you could end with. Mind you, saying thanks meets 2 pressing needs:

  • It conveys your gratitude for people’s time and attention.
  • It signals clearly that you’ve finished!

Often though, a person who says you shouldn’t thank people doesn’t give any reason for their advice, which causes 2 problems:

  • It’s harder for you to decide how valid their advice is.
  • Next time, you might say something worse instead – like the options you’ll see next.

 

Worse options than saying “Thank you”

Sadly, many people who advise you not to say “Thank you” don’t suggest a better way to close your speech. That’s understandable, for sure, because:

  • It’s hard to write a great closing line!
  • It takes time, too. (Yet in Toastmasters, speech evaluators only have a few minutes to prepare their remarks, so they’re unlikely to come up with better lines for a speech that’s probably taken hours to prepare.)

As a result though, people’s closing words at Toastmasters are often much worse than saying “Thank you”. Here are some typical “closing lines” you might hear (for speeches or other Toastmasters assignments):

  • “Back to you!”
  • “Mr Toastmaster”
  • “That concludes my assignment”

So as you can see, if you fixate on avoiding “Thank you” but don’t have a better option in mind, you can end up with a rather awkward phrase in its place.
 

4 stronger ways to end your talk

My own opinion is that you should thank your audience during your closing. And, although having “Thank you” as your closing line isn’t the ideal way to do that (for the reasons mentioned above), nor is it a huge problem. (In the next section, as evidence you’ll find several examples on video that show world-famous speakers ending with thanks.)

Ideally, then, how should you end your talk? Well, in this section you’ll find a range of ideas and examples, which I hope suit your needs.

1: A tip suggested by many professional speakers is to end with a call-back, in other words by mentioning something you said earlier. For instance, in Conor Neill’s TEDx talk, he restates his opening line (which in this case was a rhetorical question) for his closing:

“Who would you bet on?”

2: Here’s a 2nd way to use a call-back: If your talk’s just a short statement of your views (like when you’re asked for your opinion in a meeting or interview), try this great 3-part structure for your talk, with a call-back at the end:

  1. To open, state your viewpoint in a simple yet confident sentence: “I believe
  2. Back it up with supporting points – 3 if possible:
    “There are 3 reasons. First, Second, And third,
  3. Close with a call-back to your opening line: “So that’s why I believe

3: Another option’s to call back to your talk’s title. For example, with Allan Pease’s TEDx talk on gestures, called Body language: The power’s in the palm of your hands, I suggested he could’ve closed this way:

“Remember: The power’s
in the palm of your hands!”

4: Lastly, a potent way to end is by stating your call-to-action in a short sentence. For instance, in a talk about lending money (through micro-financing) to people in developing countries, renowned former public-speaking blogger Olivia Mitchell said:

“So here’s what I’d like you to do:
Lend $25 to a poor person.”

So you’ve various options to close your talk without thanking people, if that’s what you decide on. However, to keep things in perspective, in the next section you’ll find links to 3 extremely successful talks where the speaker did end by saying thanks.
 

Well-known examples of talks that do end with thanks

In the table below, you’ll find the 3 most-watched TED (or TEDx) talks of all time. And as you can see, they each end with the speaker briefly thanking the audience:

Speaker Title Viewers Closing words
Sir Ken Robinson Do schools kill creativity? >12.5 million “Thank you
very much”
Amy Cuddy Your body language may shape who you are >12 million “Thank you”
Simon Sinek Start with why – how great leaders inspire action >6 million “Thank you
very much”

 

Your turn

Now that you’ve seen some arguments on both sides, what’s your opinion?

  • When do you think it’s OK to thank your audience?
  • What ideas do you have for other approaches?

You might also like to check out these posts on this topic, by other writers:

 

See also

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6 thoughts on “Toastmasters say “Don’t thank your audience”, I say “Why not?

  1. A lot of these “rules” for speakers are overly prohibitive, designed perhaps to keep a beginning speaker from going off the rails. I’ve seen speakers go on and on and on thanking people like they’re accepting an Oscar, which is unnecessary and distracting. But the rule doesn’t allow for the judgment call an experienced speaker might make. I personally do both. I end with a strong statement AND I say thank you. Just two words. I believe in the serial position effect but I don’t think a short thank you is going to obliterate my closing message. If it does, my close wasn’t strong enough.

  2. I agree with the message here, that “thank you” might not be the strongest ending to a presentation, but also can’t imagine NOT thanking an audience for their time, attention and participation. Perhaps the “thank you” becomes the penultimate thing a presenter says. Once you thank the audience, you can then deliver that last strong message, call back, or call-to-action.

  3. Craig, another excellent posting. I think you make excellent points. As you know, I have long disliked this “no thank yous” idea in Toastmasters, and I hope you don’t mind if I shamelessly link (on my name) to when I wrote about it a couple of years ago myself. I didn’t talk about alternatives in my blog posting, but I really like yours. I also didn’t know Conor Neill had given a TEDx talk, I will have to check it out. I think your best point of all here is that too often we don’t really think about what we’ll end with at all, and we need to change that. Pretty much ANY ending is better than what most of us do, most of the time!

    • Thanks very much for adding to the discussion, Gary, and for the link.

      P.S. I’d planned to include a link to your post, but when I checked it out, the page wasn’t appearing correctly and some of the text wasn’t visible. However, I just checked again from another computer, and the page looked fine, so I think something must be blocking access on my current PC. So I’ll add a link to your article (and a couple of other people’s) in the next few days.

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