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Time of Day Matters

Here are some aspects related to time of day that I teach about in my public speaking course.

The first speaker of the day for an early morning (7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) program should not expect hearty laughter. People are not ready to laugh a great deal in the early morning. Many won't even be awake yet. Use more information and less humor.

I was asked by a sales speaker to open up an early morning public seminar. He said, 'I just want you to get them laughing before I start speaking.' I told him that it was not a good idea, but he insisted. I opened up the seminar with some sure-fire humor to test their responsiveness and got little response. I cut my material and brought the speaker on stage. He couldn't get them laughing either. I sat in the audience and watched. By 10:15 a.m. they were laughing at just about anything.

During my public speaking course you will find  it's important for you to know when NOT to expect a lot of laughter. It would be a waste of time to use your best speaking material at a time when laughter normally wouldn't be expected. If you didn't know that early morning programs aren't the best for laughter, you could have your confidence shaken so badly that the rest of your presentation might suffer. Also, keep in mind that I am giving you general principles. You might run into a lively group sometime. Just don't expect it all the time.

Skilled presenters consider brunch to be the best speaking time of day to expect a responsive audience. It is late enough that the folks who sleep late are now awake, but not so late in the day that early risers are starting to get tired. Lunch is generally a time for good response for the same reasons as brunch.

In the afternoon people are already starting to get tired. Audience members will retain less because they are not listening as closely as they did in the morning. You can use more humorous speaking and less hard information, but don't expect laughter to be as intense. Knowing your audience and how best to connect with them is part of what you will learn during your public speaking course.

The last presenter of a long afternoon or evening program should not expect a great response, again because folks are too worn out. Keep your presentation short and crisp and acknowledge the lateness so that the audience knows you care about them. One time I was the last speaker on a long program in Baltimore, Maryland, for a food service management company.

I was being introduced at 8:35 p.m. on a Monday night in the fall. What do you think the mostly male audience was thinking at 8:35 p.m. on a Monday night in the Fall? Of course! MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!

So I got up and said:

"There are three things I would never want to be:
1. a javelin catcher;
2. the scoop man at a Donkey Basketball game; and
3. the last public speaker on a long program. (I looked at my watch.)
It's now 8:40 p.m. I'm going to limit my remarks to 15 minutes.
I guarantee you will be in the hospitality suite in time for the kickoff."

I kept my promise.

Do you think I had more of their attention than if I had not made the comment? You bet I did!

Even though it had been a long day, they all had a good laugh during my talk. A little care for your audience will go a long way. They liked that I cared and so showed care by listening. We connected, and that is the public speaker's job.


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