Research by Robert Sommer in the late 1960’s showed how attention and participation was neatly tied to seating positions. This was especially true for very large audiences where it’s possible to have an uneven distribution of connectivity with the speaker. His research examined classroom ecology and revealed that students sitting in the front rows participated much more than those in the back rows and those in the middle, the most.
Front and center had the highest rate of participation whereas the rear left and rear right the least. One can picture a reverse arrangement with the largest percentage of participators at the “mouth” of the funnel nearest the speaker and the “end” of the funnel at the back with the fewest participators. As one travels back in the seats, those at the sides progressively get left out. Those at the back edges can more easily ‘escape’ and find refuge from the speaker.