One of the most frustrating parts about running an event can be getting people to fill in those seats right down at the front. It’s human nature for quite a large number of people – they feel safer, more comfortable and less awkward sitting at the back or in the middle of the pack than they do sitting right up front against the stage.
There’s a couple reasons for this, and they vary from person to person. Some people don’t care about the speaker or topic, and feel obligated to be there, as opposed to actually doing anything useful, workwise. Others don’t want to be called upon or otherwise engaged with the speaker – being forced to interact in public is many people’s greatest fear!
Obviously, you don’t want to have an event with rows of empty seats at front, so how can you get those all-important seats filled in? There are a couple ways to try to manage that.
Bribery is a big one. Offering some kind of reward for sitting up front – a handout or other bit of swag – can be a way of incentivizing people to come up to the stage. That can overcome the initial reluctance to get up close and personal.
If you find people aren’t interested in your speaker or topic, it could be a sign that you need to improve those aspects of your event! People are more likely to fill in those prime seats if they’re interested in what the speaker has to say. Make sure your topics are relevant to your audience; really dig in to resources and social media to find out what topics they want to hear. If a particular speaker continues to put the room to sleep, it might be time to move on from them and find a new keynote presenter.
Finally, create a safe environment for your audience. They don’t want to be blasted with sales pitches and things like that. There’s a line between engaging with your audience and forcing them to be part of the content. Straddling that line is often key to a successful event.