Optics and the Eagle Court of Honor



If you’ve been following news of the 2016 presidential race, you’ve probably heard discussions of “optics”–how appearances affect the way people judge a candidate’s strength. A few weeks ago, for example, there was a minor kerfuffle when a media outlet ran a photo of a Donald Trump rally in a room that looked three-quarters empty. (The Donald, of course, said the room just looked empty because everyone was crowding the stage to get closer to him!)

The issue of optics affects Eagle courts of honor as well. Guests (and the honoree) will feel better about the event if the room is nearly full rather than mostly empty–even if the size of the crowd is the same in either case.

When our church built a new sanctuary a few years back, I learned an interesting rule of thumb from the architect: A space like a sanctuary or auditorium seems full when 85 percent of the seats are filled. Go higher than that, and people will leave because they can’t find a seat. Go a lot lower than that, and the space will feel empty.


If you’re holding the court of honor in a room with movable chairs, it’s easy to control the number of seats. (Be sure to keep extra chairs close at hand.) If you’re holding it in a room with fixed seating, you may need to rope off the balcony or sections in the back. Either way, your new Eagle Scout will be able to look out over a sea of smiling faces—not an auditorium half full of empty seats.

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