Is the end of an event important?

end event importantIs the end of an event important?

It’s complicated.

9 years ago, I wrote about how to create especially memorable events. Including many different kinds of short experiences during our meetings, allows us to hack the peak-end rule to maximize the impact of an event on attendees.

Here’s what I said…

…the peak-end rule suggests that we judge experiences largely based on how they were perceived at their peak and at their end. This implies that we should concentrate on making sure that our events end powerfully. That’s because the peak-end rule implies that we’ll better remember an event with a peak and then a powerful finish than one with two peak experiences sandwiched in the body of the event.
Hack the peak-end rule to maximize conference impact, April 2013

So, clearly, we should ensure that events end with a “powerful finish”, so they’ll be especially memorable.


Well, maybe not.

What can we learn from professional speakers?

Think about good professional speakers for a moment. They know about the peak-end rule. Professional speakers invariably include one or more peak moments during their presentation, and end powerfully. They do this to be memorable.

Good professional speakers have an emotional impact, which makes them memorable. But, as I’ve written elsewhere, there’s no guarantee you’ll learn anything more from them than a “poor” presenter covering the same content.

The danger of focusing on a powerful event ending

There’s nothing wrong with employing a powerful event ending to make it memorable.

Unless—we do so at the expense of making the entire event not only memorable but also useful.

Because memorability is great while it lasts. But it actually isn’t usually important in the long term.

What is important is that the entire event ends up satisfying stakeholders’ goals and objectives as much as possible.

Here’s Seth Godin’s take on the danger of what he calls the focus on the last thing:

“…We focus on the thing that happened just before the end. And that’s almost always an unimportant moment.

Things went wrong (or things went right) because of a long series of decisions and implementations…

When you get to the thing before the last thing, don’t sweat it. It’s almost certainly too late to make the outcome change. On the other hand, when you’re quietly discussing the thing before that before that before that before that, it might pay to bring more attention to it than the circumstances seem to demand. Because that’s the key moment.”

—Seth Godin, The focus on the last thing

So, is the end of an event important?

The answer is yes.

And, so is everything that leads up to it!

To make an event maximally useful and productive, concentrate on its conference arc rather than a grand climax.

That’s the way to create a truly memorable event for everyone involved.

One thought on “Is the end of an event important?

  1. Smiling.

    Groups still save a major speaker for last believing that THEY will keep people around – regardless of timing to get to and get through airports to flights, regardless of cost of another night of hotel. I’ve found the logic odd.

    That said, one of the best capnotes I’ve ever experienced was at an IACC conference some years ago. Loretta LaRoche was the closer – and her message about mental health AND her style and her delivery that have you doubled over in laughter was simply healthy! It felt good. It gave us something to use (“No more Global Whining”) and a sense of camaraderie as we all laughed and felt that sense of community.

    I’m a serious person and want substance. And I want to leave feeling not guilty bec the closing speaker or session was someone/thing who overcame great challenges to do more than I feel like doing or can do daily! Each meeting, each audience is so different. We need to ensure that timing and substance and feeling match the circumstances and needs.

    Will we do that well in the future?

    I continue to work as you do, Adrian, and others do, to get ther.

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