I’ve been doing a lot of meetings and events lately, ones where I am the host.  And I’ve noticed that lots of people cancel last minute, or just don’t show up.  I’m talking about PROFESSIONAL people, people who ARE their brand, who need to network and meet other people to drive their own business growth.  The lack of response and follow up has become surprising and disappointing.  People have also lowered their expectations of how many people will actually show.  They are happy with 20% RSVPs, happy if half of those actually show up.  So what gives?

I spoke to a colleague of mine and we commiserated on this shared problem.  He is from another country, and he is convinced it’s cultural, that it’s just become acceptable business culture to cancel and dodge commitments.  I couldn’t retort, as I don’t know what to compare it to, but I can say it’s an unpleasant epidemic.  Are people overextended?  Probably.  Are they just rude?  Not on purpose, at least I don’t think so.  Do they not think it’s important to actually do what they say they will do?  I say yes.  And it’s a big mistake.  Here’s why.

  1. Managing expectations is probably the most important concept in business, and frankly, in life. If you say you will do something, somebody or a group of somebodies believe you and expect you to make good on your decision, your commitment, to be there.  They look forward to the meeting, they probably prepare, and of course, they are ready to be there.  When you cancel or you just don’t show up it indicates a complete lack of commitment on your part, and often a lack of respect.  The impression you leave is that it is not easy to work with you.
  2. When you break commitments, people begin to assume you cannot handle them. You appear to not have it together, which is the complete opposite of the impression most of us intend to leave with others in business.  Frankly, unless you are a physician on call or somebody you are in charge of has an unavoidable emergency, people are going to think you do not have your stuff together when you consistently dodge commitments.
  3. A lack of commitment, when compounded over time or over the course of a relationship (in business or otherwise), leads people to question your integrity. Can this person REALLY have this many emergencies in his or her life?  Probably not.
  4. The perception of cancelling, and rightfully so, is that the meeting or event just was not important enough for you to finally attend even after you committed to it. Is that the impression you want to leave with potential business affiliates, partners, or even clients and customers?
  5. People are already skeptical of each other, especially when a business relationship is brand new and untested. Lacking commitment and follow up only makes it worse.

Add to these, that it takes 20 repeated positive impressions to overturn one bad impression.  That is a lot of payback for not honoring a commitment.  It pays to commit.  You may think that it is a small thing, but people are paying way more attention to your behavior in this regard than you realize.  You should get it right.  Commitment is the tiny ticket you need to buy to open all the doors.  It’s worth it to be conscious and fully on board.  So, here are some tips:

  • First of all, be willing to say no. People appreciate honesty more than they do false commitments.  If you do not want to do it, don’t do it.  If you want it, commit fully.  It’s rather simple.
  • If you are overcommitted, decide how many meetings and events you can comfortably do in a week or in a month. Plan accordingly.
  • Strategize (yes, we ALWAYS get to strategy) regarding the objective and action that accompanies each engagement. What do you hope to achieve?  Why is it important?  What is the desired outcome?  What follow up will be required?
  • Show up FULLY and make a real connection. Develop rapport, listen, learn, explore, enjoy.  This is the really good stuff.
  • Follow up is crucial. Otherwise, don’t bother committing to a meeting.  ALWAYS have next steps and follow ups within a week of meeting.  That is the only way great business relationships develop.
  • Enjoy yourself! This one is self-explanatory.  Remember that you never know what amazing opportunity exists right around the corner with the next meeting.  You would not want to miss it.