This isn’t a “this might happen” issue, this will happen if you speak or perform: You will have to perform for an uncomfortably small crowd at some point. 

Sometimes people just don’t show up. 

Sometimes you have an awkward time slot.

Sometimes you were booked at the same time as the big-name keynote speaker.

Whatever the reason, you will have times where you will have to give your talk or do your thing for a handful of people. It’s a part of speaking they don’t tell you about because it is not at all glamorous. 

In December, I was booked right before Christmas to talk to a job search networking group. I asked the organizer about the date because I thought the timing would not work for people. She insisted that the publicity had already started and it would be fine.

In fact, I was filling in for another speaker who had to back out because they would be traveling that day. I wasn’t going anywhere so I was happy to fill in. Sort of…

Signups were low, but that isn’t unusual for free talks. Generally, people show up the day of the talk – but not this time. One (1) person showed up. I expected us to cancel the talk, but no, they made me do my whole presentation.

I have been speaking for over a decade, so I sucked it up and gave it my best. The organizers and attendee (singular) were very happy and sent me lovely thank-you notes. 

This was a webinar, so it was not that big a deal, but I have had to travel to speaking events to speak to five people. That wasn’t fun. 

The reason I am sharing this is because you need to know it will happen to you, and also because I had an experience recently where I went to a festival to see a super-fun band and they had to suck it up and go on with the show. 

The weather all weekend had been great, but on Sunday the temperature dropped 20 degrees and there were strong winds and cold drizzle. Like my webinar, the festival organizers didn’t care. The band was booked and the band was going to play unless there was lightning. The plastic bags were over the speakers. 

I live in Chicago, so bad weather happens – a lot. I dressed appropriately, threw an umbrella in my bag, and went anyway.

My friend who was going to meet me there wimped out. 

The band was under dressed for the weather and looked like they were freezing. But they are professionals, and instead of complaining, they pumped up the energy and gave an outstanding performance for the crowd that did show up. 

And what an enthusiastic crowd we were! We hollered and clapped and danced and had the time of our lives in the awful weather. It was an absolute blast. 

So, my advice to you, should you find yourself in a situation where very few people are in the audience, is to try even harder. Give them a performance that will make them smile every time they think about it. 

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash