December 17, 2007

What do you do when no one shows up?

If you've been speaking for any length of time, you've experienced an occasion when fewer people showed up than expected.

Like Peter Delmar in this article, I've had speaking engagements where I expected many more attendees than actually appeared. In fact, I think it's quite common for organizers to inflate the numbers in order to attract speakers.

I have a client who was told to expect 500-750 people at a seminar he was giving. When he arrived, there were 50 people in the room. I recently heard from another speaker that the conference organizers had given him huge attendance numbers and only 14 people actually came to his talk.

Here's the question: How do you handle this?

Here's one way:

"They obviously think I'm going to be boring, since no one showed up."

"I'm not important/distinguished/famous/big-cheese enough to attract an audience."

"These conference organizers are really unprofessional for leading me to believe more people would be here."

"Why bother even trying for just ten people?"

"They clearly didn't market my talk enough."

"I'm such a sucker for falling for this."

Here's another way:

"Oh well, it's a bummer that only ten people are here to attend my awesome presentation, but I'm going to give them everything I've got anyway!"

And then you ask everyone to move closer so you can have a nice conversation with them right in the front of the room.

Yes, it's disappointing when it feels like you've been hung out to dry by conference organizers, by why punish the people who DID come?

Has this happened to you? How did you handle it?

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8 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

This is something that happened to me this year. I was giving a presentation at a conference at the same time two other very popular sessions were going on. Consequently my session was a little empty.
I invited everyone to sit at the front of the room and gave my talk. It think it went better because I was able to be more personable, walk around a little and everyone got a chance to ask questions or make comments.
(I was also a little less nervous with only a few people so I was secretly happy)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Good solution, Jacki! I like bonding with the audience like that - and I always feel like those people really deserve my best because they chose mine over the other sessions!

Jeremy Jacobs said...


Lisa Braithwaite said...

Nice, Jeremy! I just had a good laugh. :-D

Anonymous said...

We never speak to people who are not there. The people that showed up are the most important group at that moment. Give em all you have. The preparation is already done. Those sitting in front of us are worth our best effort. And those that showed will no doubt report to the others. Better to have a great report going around about what others missed!

By the way, thanks for the button. My son tried to steal it from me. I told him to make up his own slogan and earn it like I did!!!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

You make an excellent point about word of mouth and your audience sharing what the others missed. They won't want to miss you again!

I still owe you a magnet, with your own saying on it, of course!

Anonymous said...

It happened to me once - only 7 people arrived for a conference that I was speaking it. I was way oversold on expectionions on audience numbers.

Yes - scream!

However, it is an opportunity to really get your audience involved in a manner that you cannot do so with a large audience.

At the end of the day, we had a great and really interactive session!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

If your expectations aren't too high to begin with, it's much easier to enjoy the way it *really* turns out. :-)

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