Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pick a seat, any seat

It amuses me to see how some habits never die, even as we mature.

I was at a PR conference in NY this week. As I walked into the room, I naturally searched for a seat towards the back but that was still in the center of the room. Of course, all those seats were taken. I found a seat (smack in the middle of the room, not too close, not too far). I then proceeded to watch the latecomers trickle in.

What I noticed was interesting: they all exercised the same seat-finding ritual that I did. Everybody tried to snag the seats in the back first, then relegated themselves to the front of the room, but with reluctance. It was at this point that I realized that this ritual stems back to grade school. After a few misguided years as a 6th, 7th, and 8th grader (when the teachers finally let you pick your own seats), you figure out which seats you like—whether you were in a high school classroom, a large 300-person lecture hall, or a 10-person discussion. I always preferred the middle of the middle, which in a high school classroom or a 50-person lecture, would be the middle row in the 2nd or 3rd seat back. This allowed me to be close enough to see the board, but not too close where the instructor could scrutinize my notes or, worst of all, call on me. Also, this let me be close enough that should I decide to raise my hand, I wouldn’t have to yell across the room to the teacher to be heard.

And, here at this PR conference, I witnessed the same ritual taking place. Here we are, in our 20s, 30s, 40s, even 50s. We are successful PR practitioners and marketers at all different levels—coordinators, managers, senior managers, directors. We’re not being graded. We paid for this course; hell, we could fall asleep or walk out if we wanted to, without being penalized. Yet, we all kept to our old grade school ways in seat selection.

Old habits die hard…or just never die at all.

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