One thing I love to host is live events.
One element of live events I’ve long noticed and wondered about is where people sit & why.
At the Art of Connecting Summit recently (a signature live event for us), it hit me: people sit where they want to based on numerous factors.
- Time of entry. If they’re the first in and want the first row, then they scoop up those seats.
- If they’re later to arrive, they choose from what’s available, based on where they most want to be.
- If they’re sure of the presenters, teachers, speakers and leaders, that factors in.
- If they’re unsure of the topic and maybe the presenters or both, that impacts their seat choice.
For years it’s been frankly consternating that people choose rear seats. “Why is that?” would always go through my head, especially if there were front seats available.
Now, for the record: I’m a life-long front rower. I want to be the farthest forward I can, get as close to the center of the action and information as possible. My style is interactive and it’s a much better fit for me to be as close as possible.
My epiphany at the Summit was this: people sit where they feel safe and (for lack of better words) okay.
The VIP’s were let in before the others and many, though not all, chose forward and front row seats. The rest of the guests then selected their seats based on what was open AND where they wanted to be regardless (from fore to aft).
Consternation lifted! I get it now.
It’s not about forcing people to sit forward. That’s perhaps a counterproductive tactic. What matters is to have the right number of seats – not too many, not too few. To have them ready and waiting for everyone to choose what fits for them to best engage; not for the speaker to have them all forward for their own sake.
It’s a very helpful realization for me which will guide my connecting with the audience strategy going forward. Engagement is higher and more lasting when people can sit where they want.
Make seats available. Let people pick. If you ask them to move about, be ready for lateral moves too! The back won’t necessarily come forward, the forward won’t necessarily go to the back. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that they’re in the room.
Letting people sit – and learn – as they best see fit for them, is huge.