No-shows: the causes and consequences

I grew up with the humorous understanding that Black people do not RSVP – they just show up at events and expect to be catered for! Hence it became common practice at Black weddings to make provision for uninvited guests AND invited guests who didn’t confirm their attendance. Such guests typically sit in the section of the tent that is not decorated or they simply stand on the outskirts of the tent! Ironically, these groups of guests also tend to be the first to complain if food and beverages run out at a wedding…

I have planned various events and following numerous instances where people who confirmed attendance did not show up, I came to the following realisation:

An affirmative RSVP does not actually indicate that someone will attend an event.

Sometimes, an affirmative RSVP is prompted by the following reasons:

1) Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Some people like things and want to be seen everywhere so they confirm attendance out of the fear of missing out. Once that fear subsides (and it usually does because something else caught their attention), they forget to cancel their RSVP.

2) Pity and/ or Support:

There are certain acquaintances/colleagues and friends who confirm their attendance to an event to encourage the host but don’t actually plan on showing up. They just wanted to create the illusion of interest for the sake to boosts the host’s confidence and/or maintain friendly relations with the host. Next time you see them, expect to hear the following line (if they care enough): “How was the event? I really wanted to come but something came up”.

3) Intention to embarrass:

Remember 50 cent’s claim that he bought 200 front row tickets to his enemy, Ja Rule’s concert just to ensure that the front rows were empty? Yes, such people exist in your circles! These are the people who confirm their attendance out of spite. They are fully aware of the negative financial and professional implications their lack of attendance will hold and they don’t care. They don’t plan on coming but they hoard the reservation which in turn limits the available spaces for your actual supporters and potential investors. They either hold a grudge against you or are simply jealous – point is: they need you to be embarrassed, disappointed and demotivated.

4) Duress:

This affirmative RSVP happens when a person or a circumstance forces someone to confirm attendance but if the pressure is released before the event, the commitment to attend is not fulfilled. For example, confirming to attend an event because your line manager is a keynote speaker but failing to attend it (or cancel the reservation) after learning that your boss cancelled his keynote address.

I think there is more than financial resources at stake when one does not honour an affirmative RSVP. I think it negatively impacts one’s career and one’s personal and professional relationships.

Based on the assumption that hosts keep records of attendance registers, your unexplained absence might signal disinterest and deter others from inviting you to future events. This could result in you missing out on future opportunities to network with like-minded individuals, grow your brand and to learn! Though many colleagues and friends might not admit this to your face, if you make it a habit to not show up at events, you will end up being labelled as the ‘unreliable one’. The sight of your name on a RSVP list, will be met with snarky remarks – remarks that stem from a place of distrust and most likely annoyance.

I hope you keep this post in mind next time you have to RSVP for an event!