Not sitting at the front is a trait that is ingrained in you from childhood. In school, sitting at the front of the class marks you out as:
a) Too keen on learning to fit in with societal norms.
b) Not cognizant enough of societal norms to worry about it in the first place.
c) Vulnerable to surprise attack from the rear, and indisposed to retaliate.
The results can vary: from mild cheering, to outright social ostracism, to having your shirt set on fire (I went to a Church of England school, by the way).
So in school, not sitting in the front row for anything makes a lot of Darwinian sense. And by the time you leave, you’ve spent anywhere up to ten of your most plastic-brained years doing it, so it’s ingrained into you. And so nobody sits at the front.
But here’s the thing: if you’re a grown-up, and you’re in reasonable control of your own life, then hopefully the sort of functions where you’re listening to someone speak are ones you’ve gone to of your own volition: places where you’re interested in the subject matter and maybe the speaker, and where, instead of sitting on your hands and hoping nobody asks you the Gross Domestic Product of Norway, you hope to engage with what’s going on. And by sitting at the front, you show that. You’re better placed to ask questions, and if you want to talk to the speaker afterwards, they’re more likely to remember you. You don’t have to be obtrusive or over-keen, or even talk – unless you want to.
Recently, I went to a seminar with Dan John, and when I walked into the room, everyone had arranged themselves in the second and third rows, or to the periphery of the front. So I sat front and centre, and Dan remarked on it – he mentioned that when he’s at a seminar run by Dave Tate, or Pavel Tsatsouline, or any of the other fitness scions in his circle, he’ll sit in the same spot. Later, he gave me his email address, and later he forwarded me some Oly lifting suggestions that have nearly brought me up to a bodyweight snatch – one of the goals on my Physical Bucket List. Would he have done that anyway? Probably: he’s a lovely guy, and wants to help everyone. But sitting at the front probably helped. And nobody set fire to my shirt. Nobody even tried.
HOMEWORK: Next time you get a chance, sit at the front for something.