What it Means When You Don’t Show Up

In Blog, Opinion by Rachel Murray

You might find this a bit ironic given what I do for a living, but I’m an introvert and would much rather spend my time with my cats, watching something in the Marvel universe. Yet here I am, a co-founder of She+ Geeks Out, hosting two or more events per month in Boston, and now expanding to do more in other cities. I used to be a chronic no-show kind of person. I would say ‘YES I want to do this thing!’ and then as the date loomed closer, I would start to dread it and instead would just flake. No one cared, right?


Things have changed for me; there were several catalysts for this and ways that I dealt with it. First, I want to talk about ClassPass (yep, any chance I get I’m going to talk about it). ClassPass has this super cool feature where if you cancel within 12 hours of a class, you pay a fine. If you’re a no-show, you pay an even greater fine. Talk about a motivator to show up. It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve been on it and it’s definitely changed my exercise habits. I can’t go two days without working out, and I think it’s because of this built-in incentive. I always feel better after a workout, too.

My husband is a super extrovert (high E on the Meyers Briggs scale). This has taken some adjustment, but because of him I end up going out so much more than I ever did before, and it’s (almost ;)) always great. So, same deal, I feel better after going out.

Finally, She+ Geeks Out events get me pumped! I love the women who attend these events, the companies who sponsor are so wonderful and the energy is incredibly positive. Again, I always feel great afterwards!

Showing up matters because:

  • I feel better, happier, more alive and present
  • I’m helping to create community (in any situation, not just SGO!)
  • I’m showing that I value the other person/community

Committing to something and following through is meaningful
When you say you’re going to do something and then actually follow through, when you’re done with whatever it is, there’s an enormous chance you’ll actually feel better about you/the event/the world. Remember this when you’re on the fence about going. Even in the worst case scenario, if it ends up being a flop, or a terrible experience, you’ll know that you showed up and, well, maybe you’ve got a story to tell that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. On the flipside, you could have an amazing experience or encounter that could be life-changing.

Canceling at the last minute or no-showing is inconsiderate of the other party
When you cancel at the last minute or are a complete no-show, barring any sort of real emergency (though these days, lets face it, unless the emergency also includes your phone, you can still probably text), you’re indicating that your time is more valuable than the other person’s. They’ve set aside their time, made the effort and, very likely, planned their schedule around this meeting. No amount of apologies are helpful if 90% of people start to not show up for meetings. This can happen when we all start thinking it’s okay to not show up. Think about it this way: if you’d made the effort and the other person didn’t show, how would that make you feel? Would you want to reschedule? How likely would it be that you would make a real effort next time?

Canceling at the last minute or no-showing is a reputation burner
If you don’t care about the other person, at least care about yourself. Not showing up to any type of one-on-one or small group planned meeting can kill your reputation. Imagine if someone asked another person about you and the only thing that person could say was ‘well, I’d love to tell you more about this person but they never showed up to a meeting we had’.

Being super late is the same as a no-show
Traffic happens, trains get delayed, you run into someone you haven’t seen in 20 years. I get it. Life happens. But remember the other person has no idea that this is happening if you don’t tell them. So, if you find you’re going to be more than 15 minutes late, please text or email and let the other person know as soon as you realize you’re going to be late (not at the time the meeting is supposed to start). If you find you’re going to be more 30 minutes late, offer to reschedule. You can suggest that you meet later if the other person is possibly free, but don’t expect it.

Let’s go through the types of commitments you can stick to, and what to do when you don’t:

Committing to a professional meeting in person
When you make a professional appointment/meeting with someone and either cancel last-minute or are a no show, you’ve very likely pissed the other person off. Time is precious for people who like to get things done and when someone agrees to take time out of their busy, scheduled lives to meet with you, they’re serious about it. Assuming that it’s okay to cancel because you do isn’t cool. How do you recover? Honestly you might not be able to. But things happen, calendars get messy, etc. A true, deep, and sincere apology as soon as you’ve realized the mistake is critical. You may never get another meeting, but you may at the very least avoid the other person telling people that you’re a flake.

Committing to a professional meeting on the phone
You may think this doesn’t matter as much because it’s just a phone call, they’re probably at their desk, and they can work and do other things anyway. That’s not always the case. Many times people block off time for you when they could be meeting with someone else. Or have made a doctor’s appointment, or whatever. Don’t assume because you’re sitting at your desk doing work, the other person’s doing the same. Again, mistakes happen, so apologize honestly and reschedule as quickly as you possibly can. Immediately suggest alternative times/dates and you should offer to be the one to call. Don’t put the burden on the other person to do that.

Committing to a small group/volunteer event
Large group events are usually less critical to attend. But if it’s a volunteer event or a super small event (let’s say, under 10 people expected), attendance becomes a bigger deal. This is where people are relying on you to show up to make an impact. Don’t assume that others will pick up your slack if you’re not there. Imagine if everyone did that. The volunteer event would be a flop. The organizer of the small event would sit there talking to themselves or maybe one other person, instead of having a more collective shared experience. Put yourself in the organizer’s shoes. Would you want to be ditched? If something does come up last minute, apologizing probably won’t make too much of a difference, as sometimes this may be your only opportunity to participate. So, saying sorry might be nice but not helpful. Showing up is key. If you can’t make it, or changed your mind, tell them as early as possible. And, this should go without saying, but don’t sign up for this type of event just to make yourself feel good. Only sign up if you are 100% certain you can attend and participate.

Committing to a personal meeting/activity
Ahh friends. They’re the best, right? So they won’t mind if you can’t make a last-minute thing. And that’s probably totally true, until it’s a common occurrence. If you constantly flake or are a no-show, they’ll likely think you don’t care about them. Can you blame them? It may not be intentional, but it’s still hurtful. Apologize, but don’t make this a habit or you could lose that friend forever. And remember, reputation matters in personal relationships as much as professional ones these days. People talk.

In sum, remember:

  • Don’t commit to something if you think you’re not going to do it.
  • If you know you’re not going to be able to show up, tell the other person/group immediately. The longer you wait, the worse it is for the other person.
  • If you cancel last minute (within 24 hours), text/email/call and apologize profusely.
  • If you need to reschedule, offer other days/times ASAP so the work to set up a new meeting is on you and not the other person.
  • If you’re a no-show or more than 15 minutes late without any communication, remember that people are waiting for you and might be wondering if you’re okay, or if something terrible happened, and also frustrated because they don’t know what’s happening and they could have been doing something else with their time.
  • Apologize sincerely and quickly. A mistake can be smoothed over with a genuine apology. Understand that the other person may not be receptive to it. It’s important to remember to be considerate and thoughtful in the future.

Do you have any other advice or thoughts? Tell us!