I received a call from a meeting planner this week asking if I would rather be an opening or closing humorous motivational speaker. Usually, I don't get to chose so it was an interesting question.
To decide if I should open or close the event, we reviewed the following considerations:
The rest of the guest speakers and conference agenda. If directly following the opening keynote speaker, there is a technical guest speaker ( which there was) than an opening humorous motivational speaker would be a good choice. Humor is your greatest opportunity to build rapport and camaraderie in a group. Laughter also lighten people up and makes them more eager to learn.
The conference theme. Ideally a theme should be weaved throught the entire event. In this case, the event theme was about reducing stress.
The event the night before the closing keynote speaker. When people attend receptions with an open bar and are up late, than you naturally see audience attrition for the closing keynote speaker. Sometimes a well known motivational speaker will be the impetus to get people to stick around for the closing keynote ( that and the draws where you must be present to win, or manditory attendence to get CE credits).
The location. Hard to reach locations that only have several commercial flights a day ( one being early morning) will pretty much guarantee the closing keynote will be sparse.
Generally the opening keynote speaker will have the most audience members. The audience is excited and ready to learn and have fun.
The closing keynote speaker may have fewer audience members. Plus, after days of intense learning (recognizing some guest speakers, although experts, are dry and hard to listen to) partying and networking- audiences are tired. Add to this, they may be distracted by flight, transportation, and family/work agendas.
It could be argued the opening keynote speaker has an easier job. As an opening keynote speaker, you don't have anyone to follow. A fabulous motivational speaker lifts audience expectations for the next keynote speaker.
I was hired as the closing humorous motivational speaker. We decided that to end the conference with humor was a way to send people off on a high note. Because of a good location ( lots of flight options) and a good guest speaker agenda 90% of the audience was in attendance.