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08 Jun 10

3 Tips For Alleviating “No-One Wants To Come To My Party” Pain

I invited a lot of people to my birthday party. About a week before the event, I received a flurry of messages: “I can’t make it after all”, “There’s a clash”. A quiet, scared voice started tugging at me: “But… what if no-one turns up??”

If you’ve ever thrown a party, organized a work do or put on an event, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to identify with that feeling of growing panic. No matter how organized you are, how far in advance you make preparations or how brilliant the event will be, ultimately who turns up is out of your control. Even if your event is fully booked, things happen: People get sick, snow falls, cars break down, other priorities show up.

Of course it’s inconvenient. It might involve a financial loss. But why does it hurt SO much?

Here’s a little illustration…

At age 13, I was stood up. I’d been asked on a date and made my way to the cinema, full of nerves and excitement. I waited… and I waited. Time passed. In these days before mobile phones, all I could do was wait outside the cinema, watching everyone else going in, with the growing realisation that my date wasn’t turning up. I cried the whole way home, burning up with the shame and embarrassment of rejection.

Teen self-esteem can be tender and vulnerable, often built on others’ approval. People show up = we’re approved of, we’re okay. People don’t show up = we’re not. Although as adults, we may have dismantled this equation and grown in confidence, putting on an event can trigger that teenage pain.

So what do we do? Should we avoid putting on events?

Here are three tips:

1) Set yourself up for success

There are certain practices which stack the odds in favour of your event being a success. I put the word out about my birthday party a long time in advance and then didn’t really mention it until the week before. In my experience, there’s an optimal time frame between too lengthy notice and too short notice. Experiment and find what works for the people you want to invite: How far in advance do they put events in their diaries?

You’ll see below that I’m promoting a workshop and I’m using a three-tier pricing structure which encourages early registration. I know that people want to come to these workshops so my aim is to make it as easy as possible for them to commit – and ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ makes for a stronger commitment. For me, if I’ve paid for something I’ll go, whereas with a pay-on-the-door event I may opt out at the last minute – even though it would be more beneficial to attend the event. Can you identify with that for yourself? What pricing or promotion strategy could you adopt that would support your invitees in committing to themselves?

2) Know that you might fail

Despite your best efforts, the people you want to attend might simply not turn up. Be present to your emotions around this – perhaps you’ll feel grief, anger or despair. Know that these feelings probably aren’t just about how this particular event is turning out; they have unearthed some old wounds that are now available to you for healing.

3) Take a new perspective on ‘failure’

How do you know what is a failure and what is a blessing in disguise? Choose to adopt a perspective of trust where you believe that whoever shows up is who is meant to show up and that you cannot know the bigger picture. It turned out that 50 beautiful people showed up to my party which felt just right; we enjoyed a wonderful evening of dancing, laughter, good food and great company. When has an event not gone to plan – and that turned out to be even better than you intended?

The World Needs Your Passion, So…

1) What event would you like to put on? Would others benefit? Use these three tips and commit to making it happen.

2) Leave a comment on this blog post and let us know: What events have you put off, for fear of no-one showing up? How do/could you set your events up for success? How do you manage fears of failure as they arise? What unforeseen pleasant surprises can you inspire us with?

Are You Fearful No-One Will Turn Up?

Do you have an idea for a great event… but haven’t told anyone else about it?

Have you designed a fabulous workshop… but haven’t booked a venue or date yet?

If fear of failure is blocking you, book a Clarity Session > >

“If people had told me that four coaching sessions would have such a major impact on my life, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’ve now lost count of the number of people who stop me to tell me how well I look and that my old sparkle has returned. More importantly, I’ve rediscovered who I am and truly amazing things are beginning to happen.”

– Liz Gatheral, Architect & Project Manager, Preston

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  1. Katie Rose

    Thank you as ever for this Corrina, wise and comforting words!
    Having run events from 1 person to 100 plus – I am so familiar with the small child who gets that who is coming to my party feeling every time I do it!
    And its important to acknowledge that in this world where we are constantly encouraged to measure ourselves by numbers – our waist line, our bank balance, our popularity – that we have to acknowledge the part of us that judges a small turn out as a flop.
    But size is certainly not everything and the inherent quality of an experience is not actually quantifiable by numbers. I have had some exquisite experiences with just a very few people and some quite wierd ones with large groups and vice versa. And what I have learnt is that it is not the number of people – it is the energy of the experience – which is something I am partly responsible for creating within myself. If I can hold my nervousness and excitement (two sides of the same coin) and allow them to be present, if I can let the inner commentary run and trust I will be able to jump beyond that into a meditative experience of connecting with whatever the moment brings… then I am empowered .. whether its just me in an empty hall singing to myself or 10,000 people cheering me on!
    What I am learning though is that it is important to set up support for myself with events – eg by preparing and setting a strong intent for my energy towards it – and by inviting at least one trusted friend there each time so that even if no one else comes, you can hang out and have fun 🙂
    And having a coach and friends who are coaches is also an amazing form of support so I highly recommend Corrina – and her parties for that matter – she is an infinitely perceptive, inspirational lady to have around!

  2. Corrina

    Katie – Ah you are so beautiful. Thank you for the generous acknowledgement and thank you for your comment. I love what you say about numbers; I remember reading one of those illustrative stories which described a society which had no concept of numbers. How different the process of assessment would be! Your point is powerful about being co-responsible for creating the energy of an experience. If we think “Huh, only five people turn up, this is rubbish”, we’re negating the value of each of those five people in the room. I like your back-up plan of having a trust friend with you and choosing to turn the experience into one that you both can enjoy, at the very least! You are one of those brave souls who continually puts yourself out there, offering, offering, and trusting that who turns up will benefit. I’ve always admired that about you and I have certainly benefited from being able to participate in those events. Thank you.

  3. Sarah Turner

    This is really helpful to read. I have been putting off running a series of workshops on different subjects ranging from stopping smoking, weight loss, depression and anxiety and stress. I keep procrastinating on it worrying that I won’t get the numbers. The last one I was due to run in Jan 2010 – only had 2 people so had to cancel. When I think about it, why should I let this put me off!! I could have run 5 workshops since then. I forget that Jan was all about snow and people were hiding away in their homes!
    My partner came up with a great idea and that was to run it from home. Its perfectly set up to run it here and so if no one turns up, no money lost. I can set a number of 8-10 which is achievable and use your idea of 3 tier system. How many weeks in advance would you suggest promoting it? In the past, I allowed 4 weeks – eek!

  4. Corrina

    Sarah – Thanks so much for your comment; I know lots of people will identify with your experiences.

    FABULOUS that your home is an option. One support mechanism, like Katie says, is that you have ‘filler’ people (!) on hand – so if you have two people booked, two of your friends might like to come along and make it a workable event so you don’t have to cancel.

    I think a lead-in time of 6 weeks would be your minimum – ideally more like 8-12 weeks. You want your ideal participants to hear about it a number of times, so they move from “Huh that sounds interesting” to “Hmm I must find out more about that” to “There’s that workshop again – what are the details?” to “OK – there’s that workshop happening – can I afford it and am I free?” to “Yep, I want to go ahead and book” – plus all the stages in between 🙂

    You might like this blog post about procrastination:

    Do keep us informed! 🙂

  5. Anastasia Mount

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers

  6. Corrina

    Anastasia – Welcome here! I use WordPress which is free software and you would then pay for hosting. There are free templates you can use or you could do as I did and get a web developer to customize one, or you could buy a paid-for template. The best resource in terms of how to get started with a website is Laura Roeder – here’s a link: Enjoy the journey!

  7. Katie

    Hi Corrina

    I know this post is about 2 years too late but I really need some help.
    I decided to have a big party for my 16th, and I gave out invites 4-5 weeks in advance, and still I got the rush of messages in the last week with declines. Out of 75 people, only 25-30 are coming and I know that is just short of half, which is not that bad a response rate, but I cant help but feel slightly let down. I wanted this to be a big deal and I thought everyone would want to come, and my mum spent quite a lot on the party and the food etc…and not even half the guests are coming. I understand there is not much I can do, and I know its really not that bad and I can still have a good time without 75 people, but I really need someone to just tell me it will be alright. My mum said that those who really cared and wanted to be there were the ones who replied by the date requested, not the day before (the party is tomorrow and I have at least 6 replies today) and they would be there, but I cant help but feel it wont be worth the effort or the money because I have a strange feeling that some of the expected guests will not come and so there will be only 20 people at a party meant for 60…please help me.

    1. Corrina

      Katie – That sounds painful. It’s really normal that less people turn up than invited and you know what? It genuinely will be alright. Wishing you a happy sweet 16th.

  8. jason

    Ahh what a nice read, you know I never realised that all my emotion was housed in my childhood, and i kept reliving it over and over throughout my life. As i trained as a psychotherapist and started to understand, and heal my own inner child, learn to self sooth and address some of the painful experiences i had as a child, i started to invite less people to my party! 🙂 for my 40th I invited 45 people and 30 confirmed down to 14 on the actual day, the day of my birthday was horrendous as i was in child rejection feeling all day with text after text, and my last birthday I invited 12 people, 12 people came 🙂 I stopped looking for recognition from external things, and i stopped inviting people into my life that did not value me, that doesnt mean everyone i invited would come, but there was a good chance of it 🙂 life is different today, thanks for your inspiring reminder 🙂


  9. Neera K Sinha-Frazer

    I know this article is older, but I would love a response. This happened to me in November. I sent out reminders & followed up with people. I cooked for 3 days. Had the house cleaned, carpets & furniture steam cleaned. I decorated. We spent $100s. We don’t have kids, but bought toys & kids games. I hired my niece & friend to babysit. Came down to 3 families coming. One flaked on the day of. She had been sick for several weeks. I understood. Another person literally cancelled 5 minutes before. One couple came. They had a 2 year old who skipped his nap. They left after an hour.

    I want to hold the party again & ask people when they’re available. My husband says I shouldn’t put so much into things. But that’s who I am. I don’t know if I should try again or if I’m just an idiot who will look pathetic.
    Neera K Sinha-Frazer´s last blog post ..Why I’m Not Here Any More

  10. Sophie

    Hi Corrina!

    I just celebrated my 24th birthday, and sadly only 9 of the 50 people I invited turned up. This same year I had less than a third of the guest show up to my housewarming party, This is very upsetting to me because I consider these friends close friends that I’ve known for a long time. I feel like I’m becoming more and more bitter as people don’t show up to my events. I often end the night teary eyed with childish thoughts that “nobody loves me” or “nobody cares. Hopefully these tips will help me get over the disappointment, perhaps I just have really flakey friends! Thanks for the article.


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