Monday, May 21, 2007

What's Wrong With Front Row Seats?

The most coveted seats at a concert are the front row seats. So why is it that in other settings nobody wants to sit in the front row? You have seen the empty front row at any big company meeting. The leader calls out, "Plenty of room up front," and nobody moves.

We want the front row at a concert because we value the performance. Apparently we don't share the same value for the speakers at a business meeting. Mostly they bore us. What would it take to become a front-row-worthy presenter? It's probably out of our reach.

On the other hand, we can lead by example and sit in the front row ourselves. Research has shown that students in the front row of class learn more. So, by taking our place right up front, we show how we value the presentation and we might learn a little more.

5 comments:

James Todhunter said...

Hi Ken,

While we may say we don't sit up front because the speaker is boring, the reality is most people who avoid the front row do so because they don't want to be exposed. But why is that, and what does it say about those people? People who pass up the opportunity to get engaged and be visible are risking more than they realize.

Cheers,

Jim

Norman said...

I do wonder, what I should call someone who does not sit in the front row, but sits at the front of the group?

Or are our leaders not friendly enough, so we need protection from some empty seats?

And maybe some people just find it impolite to sit in the front row. As if they want to say: "Look at me, I am very important. I can choose to sit in the front row."

The strange thing of course is our fear of the front row in contrast to our need to get lots of attention. And our wish not to stand out.

And maybe we think that sitting in the front row is threatening towards the speaker. As we ourselves are most of the time afraid to speak up in public.

Nathan said...

Research has shown that students in the front row of class learn more.

I was very intrigued to read this, but I'm not able to substantiate it. A colleague had a quick scan in a range of educational databases without a result.

Are you able to point me to the research you refer? I think this is a very interesting finding!

thanks! :-)
N

Ken Flowers said...

Good question, Nathan. I must admit that I was taking something a teacher told me at its face. It also matched my intuition based on my own observations.

I did a little digging. The Google search that worked for me was "learning seating location."

The first result:

http://www.montana.edu/kalinowski/KalinowskiReprints/2007_Seat_location_JCST.pdf

Suggests that this effect comes because stronger students prefer the front.

The next result:

http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=PHTEAH000043000001000030000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes

Addresses the preference question, but also showed a positive impact from seating location.

I guess the jury is out on this question. That said, I can confidently say that I pay more attention when I'm sitting in the front.

Anonymous said...

I think it is an interesting comment....
But the front seats in the movie theatres are most of the time also empty....
Soo... The middle seats are usually the best...