Public Speaking: Present First or Last?

June 2nd, 2009 by Frank Damelio

When public speaking at networking events, your objective is memorability.  You have heard that when given a string of numbers to memorize, people overwhelmingly recall the first and last.  Much of the middle is forgotten.  The same holds true with life experiences.  For example, I’ll never forget the first professional training I delivered, and of course, I remember the most recent.

Apply this to public speaking at networking events.  Given the choice it is best to go first or last.  I believe going first has the greatest advantage because people have not yet “spent” their scarce attention span. Their crisp minds await the first imprint.  Going last can be effective especially when there is a mixer following the event.  Your words, if delivered powerfully, will linger in their minds, which will provide an easy lead-in for conversation.

Some caveats:

Going first: Late arrivals can severely detract from your presentation

Going last: At longer meetings, attention-span burnout can render your presentation inconsequential.

Tell me what you think . . .

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4 Responses to “Public Speaking: Present First or Last?”

  1. Bella Nox Says:

    I think if you are a great presenter – it shouldn’t make that big of a difference. However – if given the choice, I also feel that going first would have the best advantage. Expanding on what you said about the audience still being crisp – I have noticed that when I am part of an audience, whether it be for work or pleasure, such as a comedy club – I always remember the first person to present. They don’t even have to be the best or most interesting – but if they were atleast equal with everyone after them – I remember them as being the best. I find this interesting. It’s not really fair, but to be remembered you have to be better than the person who went before you. If you are just as good – no one will remember, but they WILL remember the first person who really wasn’t any better than you.

  2. Frank Damelio Says:

    Hello Bella!

    You are correct – it isn’t fair, and indeed a prime slot in the line-up is no substitute for speaking skills. Your comment made me consider that if one is a weak speaker, people will remember that quality more if that presenter speaks first or last. As always, thanks for your enlightening comments.


  3. Bella Nox Says:

    Hello Frank,

    Now that you brought it up – I do think that people would remember the weak speaker more if they were first or last. If they are somewhere in the middle – they won’t stand out as much as being weak.

  4. Frank Damelio Says:

    This is why we have these convos – they are always eye-opening!!

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