You’ve planned the class. You’ve marketed it like all git-out. The early-bird deadline has come and gone. You’re five days out, and you’ve got 3 people registered. The big question:
Do you cancel?
Some will tell you it’s a business decision. If the people registered don’t cover your costs, you should cut and run and not go into the hole.
Others will tell you to stick with it. You never know if one of those three people will be some miracle connection or dream client that will make up double for everything you might have lost in money and pride.
I have a different take on things here. Of course you don’t want to just burn money. But, for every story of some miracle client showing up, there are plenty of stories of one, two, or three-person seminars that went as well as they could go. And that was that.
And that’s just the start of why you shouldn’t cancel. Let me tell you a story first from my days running a magazine.
Five. Then three. Then one. Then none.
We had contracted with Big Top Media distributors, and they were doing a darn good job getting our magazine into a lot of stores. But, our circulation numbers went up and down. I was talking to Tom, and he was just shaking his head.
“I can’t get it through the heads of these independent store owners. They don’t understand strategy.”
“What do you mean, Tom?”
“Well, they order five copies of a magazine, and then they sell three. So, then they order three, and sell one or two. So, then they figure they’ll just order one copy. And then it doesn’t sell. So they cancel.”
Get what Tom was saying?
People hate taking the last cookie. Or the first one.
But, that doesn’t mean they didn’t want it. Similarly, many more people were considering coming than actually registered for your workshop.
If you cancel it, people know- either because you told them, or from the ominous silence in your newsletters and other communications about the class that wasn’t. And, that starts the consideration clock over for them. “Hmmm… he cancelled that one, maybe I better wait even longer…”
Go ahead with the class, full or not. It’s helping to fill the next one you offer. But not always. There are a few things you should do to help the situation.
What to do? What to avoid? And, when should you cancel an event?
Keys to a Mostly-Empty Class
* Give it your all, and get testimonials.
Really get cookin’ with the folks who do show up. You don’t need to overdo it by juggling fire and swallowing knives. But show up 110% and really take care of them. Deliver the goods.
And, when they are in the glow of the class, take time during breaks or afterwards to get testimonial interviews. Take photos. Follow-up two weeks later to find out how they are doing, and to get another testimonial interview. Document their experience as much as possible, so you can show others that your class is safe, fun, and effective, and that it’s okay to jump in.
* Repeat your offering.
Now, you may want to enhance it, tweak it, improve it. But don’t change it so much that it becomes unrecognizable. You want those folks who have been running their ‘consideration clock’ to keep ticking, and not start over at zero because you’ve completely changed the name and the subject of what you’re doing.
This isn’t about manipulation, it’s about consistency. It’s a big commitment to show up in a class with you. If you keep changing the circumstances on them, they’ll never catch up with you.
* Cancel if it will sink you.
There’s no need to bankrupt yourself with a failed event. I’ve heard of folks who have spent literally thousands renting hotel rooms, only to have no one show up, except the hotel manager with the bill.
There is a balance between commitment and insanity. We always try to keep expenses on our events as bare-bones as possible, without being Scrooge-ish about. But, if it’s going to put you at real risk financially, cancel the event if you can. You can make it up to the folks by holding a more intimate event, perhaps in your living room, or in some other way.
Holding an event can create long-term ripples for your business, and so can canceling one. Instead of panicking and pulling the plug, take some time to see the big picture, and remember that you, and your business, are moving into the future.