There is much debate as to the idea of thanking your audience. Some suggest never doing it while others recommend it be done as your parting words. There are even those who prefer that you thank your audience twice, both in your introduction and in your closing.
Thanking your audience in your opening remarks is definitely not something I teach, recommend or suggest. Why should you thank your audience before you even begin? Your goal with your opening is to grab the attention of your audience with something more profound than “Thank you.” (Keep in mind, if you do not capture your listeners’ attention with your introduction, then debating whether to thank them or not is irrelevant!)
What you should do is thank the person who introduced you before you begin; however, that ‘thank you’ is something which is said between you and the person introducing you as you shake his/her hand on your way to the lectern.
The sticky question deals with the closing of your presentation. Should you thank the audience or not? The point of public speaking is to solve the problem of your audience – to satisfy their needs – to answer their questions. Of course you should thank those who have gone out of their way to hear you. They are the reason you are speaking. It is not the other way around.
One writer advises giving a mini-close, thanking the audience, and then giving the big close. Again, not something with which I agree. Do not belabor your conclusion. If you tell your audience that you are closing, do it.
The best time to thank the audience is after your question and answer period. A simple, “Thank you” will suffice; however, you could also give a brief statement following the question and answer period. Here is an example. I have often closed the question and answer period with the statement, “Let the power of your voice take their breath away, not yours. Thank you.” This happens to be one of my bylines and is very effective.
On the other hand, you may want to thank them for being such a great audience. I find that my audience and their reaction to me will often determine my final words. If there will be no question and answer period, thank those in attendance, following your concluding remarks.
It is inconsiderate not to thank your audience. Always be grateful that you have an audience. Without them, there is no reason for you to speak.
Join me for my next workshop on Voice & Presentation Skills in Chicago. For a schedule and more information on upcoming workshops, visit my Voice Training Workshops page.