I Dare You To Sit In The Front Row

I must start with a confession: I did not follow the challenge in this article for 2/3 of my life. If I had, I’d be a multi-gazillionaire writing this article from my beach house in Costa Rica.

Here’s the challenge: I dare you to sit in the front row every chance you get.

I deliver keynote presentations and workshops all around the country. Almost without exception I speak to an empty front row. And rows 2, 3, 4 & 5 usually have a lot of butt space as well. It doesn’t seem to matter if there are 15 or 1500 people attending the event, it’s just me and the dust bunnies up front.

As far back as I can remember, the back row seats have always been in high demand. In school, it puzzled me how the slackers who had zero commitment to anything somehow showed up early to class to grab those back row seats. Dang it if they didn’t usually beat me there, so I usually ended up in the middle. Now I wish I had sat in front more often.

Do you remember the “losers” who sat in the front of the class? Today you know them as CEOs, heart surgeons, and multi-gazillionaires writing books from their beach houses in Costa Rica.

I started sitting in the front row (ok, sometimes in row 2, 3, 4 or 5) about 10 years ago and I’ve been happily amazed by the difference. Here’s what happens when you sit in the front row:

– You see more.
– You hear more.
– You focus more.
– You connect with the presenter, speaker, meeting leader, etc. more
– You engage more.
– You take better notes.
– You learn more.
– You absorb more.
– You snore less (yes, I can see you nodding off, even in the back row)
– You…get the point.

I like to have people in the front row when I speak, but this isn’t about me. You see, I get paid either way so it doesn’t really matter to ME where you sit. But it does matter to YOU and your organization.

I almost laugh at the “protestors” that lay claim to the back row in meetings. You know who I’m talking about — the people who “protest” every mandatory event by sitting in the back, arms folded, face reminiscent of a a pissed-off fifth grader. If that’s you, it’s time to graduate from the fifth grade. Or move on to another company. I’m ok with either option, really. If you’re one of those people, you’re not contributing much here anyway.

Why not look at every meeting, every workshop, every “mandatory” event as an opportunity to learn something, or contribute something, or at the very least to show some support to the poor schmuck standing up there running the show? If you think you can do that as well from the back row as you can from the front, you are mistaken, my friend. There might as well be an ocean between you and the presenter. And a room full of people is an ocean full of distraction.

When you sit up front, it’s just you and me. And I came to this life to get stuff done, how about you?

I’m turning into a bit of an extremist on this topic. I’m going to make my kids sit in the front row in school. And I’m gonna talk to their teachers to make sure they do it. Sure, they’ll hate me now, but when they graduate from Harvard Law School or become CEO of some company that hasn’t even been invented yet, they’ll thank me I’m sure. I just hope they invite me to their beach house in Costa Rica once in awhile.


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