I first found out about the concept of bookending a speech when I had attended a Student Counseling Session; I was unclear about my career path. While most of the presenters were pretty boring, there was this one counselor who kept me hooked till the end and left me pondering on the downsides of my decision.
The point here is that his speech was powerful, to-the-point, and ignited the fire in me to follow the right path. Thus delivering a speech is all about creating a long-lasting impression on the audience. The core message of the speaker should etch on their minds so much that they change their perspective entirely ensuing it.
One of the efficient ways to deliver a powerful speech like that is by bookending (which is what the counselor did). Be it any topic, the start and the end of your speech should be captivating, and that’s where bookending your speech comes in. But, what does the term ‘bookend’ mean in the first place?
What does Bookend Mean?
In a literal sense, bookends act as the ‘pillar of support’ for keeping books. They are the backbone that holds the books intact.
A standard dictionary meaning is “A support placed at the end of a row of books to keep them upright, typically forming one of a pair.”
But, wondering how it is related to delivering a speech? Well, we have got you covered.
What does Bookending Your Speech Mean?
Bookending your speech is to begin and end your speech with a shared component. It’s about binding your introduction and the summing-up to make it more meaningful.
Reba McEntire quoted, “To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”
Let’s rephrase this with regard to our context. It goes this way, “To succeed in delivering a speech, you need three things: a powerful introduction, a strong message, and a noteworthy conclusion.”
Say, you start your introduction with a question, you conclude by answering that question. That adds value and makes your speech powerful. It leaves your audience to reflect on every aspect of your message after the speech.
Bookending your speech enhances the effectiveness of your speech more than any other technique. There are plenty of ways to bookend your speech.
Importance of Bookending
- Bookending your speech will help you to deliver your content effectively.
- It helps to tie the beginning and end together and close the loop of your speech.
- Your audience will get a precise picture of what you’re trying to convey.
- It will enable the audience to recall the key points of your speech far more than if you do not use Bookending.
- The Bookending technique enhances your speech delivering skills rather than being drab.
- It taps the audience’s untapped potential and keeps them engaged throughout your speech.
To get a clear understanding of bookending your speech, Joey can be your best teacher. Watch this video from my most favorite series, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. In one of the episodes, there’s this scene where Joey does a dramatic reading of one of Emma’s book where he bookends his reading.
7 Techniques to Bookend Your Speech
Introduction? Check. Content? Check. Presentation? Check. Conclusion? Check. Ultimate Message? Uh-oh, uncheck. That’s the case with most of the speakers. They would possess excellent presentation skills but lack the art to touch the audience’s heart.
So, as a beginner, it is essential to know who your listeners are and how to awaken even the sleepy eyes in the room. For an amateur, we know it’s an arduous journey to employ that strategy, but pushing your limits will only make you better.
Try the technique of bookending your speech and notice whether your audience would want you on stage more often or not. Here are a couple of bookending strategies to begin and end your speech.
1. The Question-Answer Method
One of the most common methods is to start with a question and end by answering the very question. It should be relevant to your content and you have to blend it with the message you’re presenting your viewers.
‘Wh’ questions or simple questions that make the audience think about are great starters for a speech. Do your research on the topic and ask yourself what might trigger your audience. Such questions are effective.
It can also be a problem where you give them the solution in the end. Questions are always one of the ways to bookend your speech. You can take inspiration from Aesop’s Fable too.
Example: If your topic is on the ongoing pandemic, then you can start your speech with "The government is taking infinite measures to stop the spread of the virus, and yet the numbers are increasing at an exponential rate, what do you think we are lacking?" Proceed with the body of your speech and come up with strong points that point out the issue and end your speech by asking the same question "So, what do you think we are lacking?" You are not restricted to only 'wh' questions here. It can be anything.
Related Article: 5 Ways to End Your Speech with Maximum Impact!
2. Paint a Picture Through a Story
Stories are always intriguing, be it a child or an adult. Beginning your speech with a story and ending it by completing the story is another way to bookend your speech.
You can start with a story where the characters connect with the message you are trying to explain, pause after a point(where it gets interesting), continue the main body of the speech, and finally blend it with the ending of the story.
It should have a close relation to your speech and be relatable. If you’re presenting a speech on “How to overcome tough times in life,” then start the introduction where the characters of the story would be facing hardships in their lives, deliver your speech content and finally end by how your characters got past the tough phase of their life.
Example: I came across this TED speech by Stephen Duneier, an author, speaker, and artist who starts by showing how Chuck Close, a world-class artist, creates his art step-by-step and ends his speech by displaying how he created HIS art using the same technique and bagging the Guinness World Record for his art. His core message was “Marginal adjustments lead to success.”
3. Bookending With a Quote
Opening and closing your speech with quotes is a good strategy too. You can start with a popular quote or make up a quote of your own then proceed with the speech. End it by repeating the quote.
Your speech should move the audience in a way that they view the quote through a different perspective at the end of your speech. You should craft your speech in a clever way that will create an impact of the quote on the audience. But, ensure that you do no come up with quotes that are too generic. Keep it unique.
Example: Imagine you're delivering a speech on how spending too much money shopping or too much time on the internet or complaining a lot about the little things in life has a negative impact. Your main gist of the speech would be to set a boundary for everything in life. You can perhaps start with the quote, "Less is More" and go on about what were you indulging in too much and how it took a toll on you. You can finally Bookend the speech by saying "and hence...less is the new more."
Keep the content relatable, share a personal experience, and end it with the same or your version of the quote. Your speech will be valuable and impactful with inspiring quotes.
4. Give an Unexpected Turn to the Storyline
Movies like “Shutter Island” and “Joker” leave the audience thinking due to an unexpected ending. You can instill that idea into your speech too. You can start your story but end it by contradicting it and end it on a positive note.
It will definitely leave the audience to contemplate for a long time. Bookending your speeches this way is a smart technique to keep your audience hooked. Depending on the length of the speech, you can come up with short stories that have a great message.
Example: Concoct a story. Let's say you're a Managing Trustee of an NGO and you want people to know the issues you're working on and what made you set up the organization in the first place. You can start your speech by sharing your initial struggles and challenges in terms of a character of the story and then eventually revealing, in the end, it was YOU.
If your story is known to the audience prior, you can use the other techniques, but I hope you got the point of delivering the chief element in the end.
5. Use Stats, Figures, Factual Data
Get your facts right and toss them to the audience. Stats get your listeners thinking. You can start and end on the same note. Being accurate will not only show that you are prepared for your speech but also enlightens the audience as a lot of issues go unnoticed.
It can be about everyday things that are often ignored. Do not deviate from the topic and keep it relevant. Start with a fact and end with a call to action to reduce the number on the graph if the issue is a serious one. This technique can be used if you’re speaking on social issues that need action straight away.
Example: Watch this video of Jamie Oliver who speaks on how eating unhealthy food is having a negative influence on children's health. He starts his speech in a way that grabs the attention of the audience immediately.
Related Article: 15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines( How to Create Your Own)
6. Bookending With the Use of Visual Presentations
If you happen to use slides in your speech, you can start by displaying a slide that is similar to your ending slide. It can be the same or any version at the end.
You can begin by showing a famous personality who has done something extraordinary and you can end by presenting something you have done taking inspiration from that person.
If you’ve done something stunning, you can make your audience go mum for a minute at the end of the slide. Bookending your speech using slides can also be effective anywhere. It weaves a positive message and lingers in the minds of your listeners.
Examples: 1. You can add an infographic in your slide or add 'before and after' images to be shown at the beginning and the end. - If you're delivering a speech on how the amount of garbage that is affecting the pollution, then you can share an infographic that explains the current issue at the beginning of your speech. While ending the speech, display a slide of how the environment will be if initiatives are taken this very moment. 2. If you're sharing a personal story, you can add images and your transformation in the end. - Imagine your story is on how you recovered from a serious physical or mental illness, then you can display your before and after pictures. 3. Stats and Graphs can be also be added if you're speaking on a serious topic that needs a change. - As mentioned in point 1, you can have a slide that includes a graph showing the number of people or animals getting affected due to the toxic substances and end the speech by having another slide that shows a graph or a pie chart of the decreased number of deaths if serious actions are taken at the moment.
7. Make use of Props to Bookend Your Speech
Bookending your speech using props is highly effective. As soon as you pick the prop, your listeners turn into curious cats where they want to know what exactly you’re trying to convey.
If you want your speech to be unique and reach the audience, you can use props along with other techniques and weave a strong powerful message. Props work well every time.
If you’re not comfortable using props, you can begin by adding other techniques in your speech, and as you gradually advance, you can make use of props to make it more powerful.
Example: Watch this video of a World Champion Contest held by Toastmasters International, Mohammed Qahtani, who uses a 'cigarette' as his prop in the beginning and bookends with the same prop at the end of the his speech. It's unusual, and the audience gets curious and wants to know what he's trying to do. His speech has a sense of humor, is powerful enough, and inspiring.
Keeping your introduction and conclusion accurate and powerful is what bookending your speech means. You can always come up with a bunch of strategies to deliver your speech, but by bookending your speech, you’ll be surprised by how it works well every time.
Being detail-oriented and adding the little things in your speech, can keep your audience engaged. Though it is one of the biggest challenges for a speaker, this approach might make it easier than ever. Happy Bookending!