“Come speak at our organization. We usually have about 60 people.”
That’s the invitation one of my authors recently received. She eagerly agreed to speak at the event, ordered some additional books to sell – 60 people, surely she should have at least 30 books on hand, she thought.
She spent some additional money on postcards advertising her services, and arrived early the morning of the event to set up a table with her poster of her book cover, her books, her charge card app, her postcard – and then she sat and waited. And waited. And waited.
Slowly a few people straggled in. “Is the group meeting today?” they asked her. “Where is John (the group president)? Has anyone heard From him?” was their next question. My author was wondering this herself.
By 10 a.m., about 10 people had shown up. They seemed to expect her to know what to do, so she took out a piece of paper and asked everyone to write down their names and email addresses so that John, when he did arrive, would know who had attended.
“Where is everyone? I thought you usually had 60 people,” my author asked.
“Oh we never have that many people in June,” and “Lots of people show up late,” and “By the way, John just texted to say she had an emergency and would be about an hour late,” were the responses she received.
Has this sort of thing ever happened to you? If you have been in book promotion or your services for very long, I’m sure you have had a similar experience, although I hope it wasn’t this bad. What did you do?
You have two choices.
- Leave early in a huff, either without speaking or with a very short talk; or
- Stay and be gracious and give you speech as enthusiastically as if there were 100 people in the audience.
I hope you chose the second alternative. Because the end of my story is much better than its beginning. We left my author beginning her speech with 10 people in the room. As my author began her talk, late arrivals kept straggling in. By 10:30 a.m. there were about 30 people in the room. Maybe not the 60 she had been promised, but respectable, nonetheless. They listened and asked questions and that’s what really counts when giving a presentation. I know I’d rather speak to a small group of interested people than a large group where everyone is reading, texting, or filing their nails. In the end, my author sold several books and made some excellent future contacts.
The moral of the story? Not every book event turns out successfully – no matter how hard you work for it. There can be rainstorms and snow storms that keep attendance down. We booked an event at a restaurant a few months ago and on the day of the event found that the street in front of the restaurant was under construction. To get there you had to park several blocks away and walk.
Things happen. But no matter what, you need to be gracious, to be present, to act as if you are speaking in front of a large crowd. You never know how much lemonade you can make with a few lemons.