How to end a speech, Italian style

I attended my first Italian play last week since I’ve been living in Siena (Il Viaggio di Artemisia at Teatro dei Rozzi) and at the curtain call, the performers did what they usually do: while we applauded, they took a bow.

But then, they walked to the edge of the stage, and really looked at us, all of us, those in the balcony, in the orchestra, and at the back of the theatre and raised their arms to acknowledge and thank us. I’ve never been thanked so deeply, authentically, or profusely from the stage in an American theater.

It was a touching moment as they motioned with their arms in all directions, acknowledging our presence. The universal language they used to communicate with us let us know that if we hadn’t been there, they couldn’t have performed. They needed us and they said so with their movements and their eye contact.

How do you say thank you at the end of a presentation? Is it only with your words or do you also say it with your attitude and your gestures? You can do this whether you’re a solo artist or a CEO. Sometimes the physical gesture can be even more moving than the word “Thank you.”

When your speech is done and the crowd applauds, leave space for the two things to happen: your acceptance of your audience’s appreciation and then your expression of your thanks for them. It can be a very small gesture: you can nod, make eye contact, raise your hands toward them. Rehearse a few choices until you find something that feels authentic to you.

Otherwise, it’s too easy to rush this moment because so much is happening at the end of your talk: you may feel relief that it’s over, disappointment if it didn’t go well, exultation if it did go well. So, rehearse how to end a speech with a colleague or a coach.

You couldn’t be standing there without your audience. Let them feel the power of their presence.