Work Life

Third Row Chick: Strategic Seating


So when we were in high school, my homegirls and I always sat in the back of the class or in the back of the auditorium. The idea was to be so far removed from sight that no one could find us or ask us to “participate.” We found comfort sitting in the shadows, giggling and pretending like whatever the presenter was presenting wasn’t important. As adults, we continued this behavior at work.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

When faced with a large conference room setting, we opted for the back row or the seat closest to the door. Now that we were all grown up, we all needed to rush out to hair appointments, date nights or childcare. Then one day we noticed that we weren’t being noticed in the office. There were meetings that we weren’t invited to and there were new players in the office that seemed to be on some kind of trajectory and we were getting nowhere. I had become the Queen of playing the middle when I had the opportunity to work with a businessman who had led several Fortune 1000 companies and was considered a key figure in leadership. I’d spent a few weeks working on the fringes, trying not to be noticed and being polite/cool peeps. One day, he walked over to me and said, “You are going to need to raise your profile if you want to continue working here.”

Sitting in Ambiguity

It was his voice that was in my head last week as I went into a large conference meeting in New York City. The room was cavernous yet I avoided the urge to sit in the back near the door. I spotted a Sistah Girl planted firmly in the second chair from the aisle in the third row. I approached her and I almost sat down next to her until I realized that she was playing the middle. She was being a Third Row chick! She didn’t sit in the back because she didn’t want to give the impression that she was professionally immature but….she didn’t sit in the front which says, “I’m here…I’m invested in the conversation.” She chose the Third Row…the row of ambiguity. It’s where you are there but not really there. I walked past her, took a deep breath and I promptly sat in the front row. I “raised” my profile.

As the room filled, the presenter sat next to me and shared some thoughts and ideas for her next book. My initially empty first row was now filled with Senior Executives and other esteemed guests. As I exited, the presenter was sure to shake my hand and announce that she would be checking out my blog.

Top 3 Reasons to Sit in the Front Row:

1. He/She will almost always call on you and answer your questions first.
2. The presenter will recognize your face that day and in future days.
3. Your profile will be raised and others in your business/company will notice you.

Try sitting in the front row at your next business conference. It could change your life.

7 thoughts on “Third Row Chick: Strategic Seating

  1. I spent my whole life sitting in the front row. Being a smart sistah girl, who knew the answers, studied hard & wanted to show off what I had learned was my mission since elementary school. Also my mother wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    In turn…you tend to get ostracized by other “sistah girls” who aren’t as brave as you to sit in the front, who get mad that you raise your hand and can be seen & heard.

    They are intimidated by the fact that you are not shy about showing off that fact that you actually opened up a book. They want to fight you because you do what they are afraid to do.

    Being a front row chick who was faced with adversity because of it, made me stronger, wiser, and fearless to all. In turn, the gifts I received for being seen & heard by those who could elevate my game and see my worth has been priceless.

  2. I love that you talked about this! I have often been bewildered to walk into an empty auditorium and find people entrenched in the back of the room. Pen and paper poised. Looking nervously around the room. And while my need to to sit in the front of every meeting and class first sprouted from my vain attempt to function without my glasses, hearing the whole story and being engaged in the fast pace conversations and asides that happen in the front row and are never repeated for the back row taught me countless and priceless lessons about being close and never missing a message that maybe tailored just for me!!

  3. I hear you sista girl! This is a message for the broth as too. We keep playin da back when ALL he activity happens on the front. It’s so easy to make ourselves invisible but when we do we limit – actually eliminate – our opportunities. Here’s an advancement tip “People promote who they know”. If people don’t know you they won’t feel comfortable enough to promote you. But when you’re respected for your work and known by your superiors your chances for advancement are greatly improved.

    So how do you get known? A good way to start is by sitting in the front of the room. At your next meeting enter the room, stoll down the center aisle, nod at the third row chick and plant yourself firmly in the front row!

    Food for thought.

  4. When you sit in the first rows you get the deposited into. You get your blessings when you are upfront. Yes I know about the high school back row attitude it was fun. Now I make it my business to teach others to move ahead you have to be in tge front. You can’t lead from the back.

    Thank you for your golden nuggets and keep shining Diamond!!!

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