You are planning an event or putting together a party, and you have a speaker or an entertainer planned, but everyone seems to want to sit in the back of the room. Here are some ideas to encourage your guests to sit closer to the front:
1. If it’s theater seating, you can rope off the back rows until the front fills up.
2. If it’s banquet seating, put reserved signs on the tables towards the back of the room until the forward tables are full.
3. Close the back doors so that your guests have to enter towards the front of the room.
4. Put gifts/incentives for the attendees on the seats in the front.
5. Have greeters escort people to their chairs. You can even use a senior person or a featured speaker or entertainer to do this for more impact.
6. Set up less chairs than you will need, and once they fill up, have the rest of the chairs ready to be set up immediately.
7. Have an usher greet everyone by saying, “We have a full room today, please fill in the seats at the front.”
8. In the case of an informational presentation, such as a corporate event or a convention, put power strips for laptop and cell phone charging in the front rows.
9. Make a game of it. Hide the speaker podium behind a screen in what appears to be the “back” of the room. Once everyone is seated, bring the podium out and tell everyone to turn their chairs around so that now the back has become the front. The gasps will be heard for miles, but it will create excitement and energy, which your speaker or entertainment can build upon from the very beginning of their presentation.
10. If you’re having entertainment for your event, have the entertainer start their show by moving people towards the front. I’ve personally done that from behind my piano, sometimes using a flashlight to direct attention to the folks in the back. If the entertainer is good, it can be pretty painless.
11. Make it fun! Hire a fake paparazzi corp that will photograph only those in the seats you want to fill; or, hire impersonators to interact with guests in the front of the room; or, put signs on some of the rows, “For Diva’s Only”, “Pretty People Only”, or something else that is fun and interactive.
12. Tie helium balloons to the chairs on the back rows. People will get worried that they will have to do something with the balloons, and will gravitate towards the chairs without the balloons, the ones up front!