I know that you already know about the etiquette of RSVPs, so just pass this along to someone who needs to hear it.

So, the story goes that not long ago I gave a small party where I had invited a number of friends.  I made use of the Evite service, so responding to my RSVP was a matter of two or three clicks.  Of those who were invited, eight said they would make it.

Three showed up.

Now one of the absentees was ill and sent me a message to that effect. He’s excused from the following Rules of Networking RSVPs.

  1. If you receive an invitation to a party, reception, lunch, coffee, soiree, breakfast, round table, seminar, conference, confab, meeting, etc and the invitation says something to the effect of “RSVP”, you must respond. Please note that the RSVP might also look like “regrets only”, “pre-register”, “registration required”, etc.
  2. The only time that would possibly be acceptable not to respond would be if you receive the invitation after the event.  In that case it would behoove you to contact the event planner anyway to apologize for not responding.
  3. If you respond in the positive, you have created a covenant with the event planner.  At this point you have one of two choices.  You can attend or you can contact the planner to apologize to them that you cannot make it before the event occurs.
  4. If you responded in the positive and neglect to go either intentionally or accidentally, you must contact the event organizer and apologize profusely.

Remember, good networking is largely about follow-through. The other person wants to see if you will do what you say you are going to do. Let’s look at what happens if you break any of the Rules above:

  1. If you do not respond, the planner has the choice to contact you in person to ask, wasting their time, or they just assume that you aren’t coming. Either way, the message you are conveying is that you don’t care about their time and effort. If you do then show up without responding, you may cause a lack of food or seating.  This will not endear you to the event organizer.
  2. If you don’t let the planner know that you didn’t receive the invitation in a timely manner, then they may assume that you did and then all of the issues associated with #1 apply.
  3. If you say you are going to be there and don’t show, then you are telling the planner that they can’t trust you to follow through on what you say.  You may also waste their money if they have to pay for a meal or seating for you.  Now, of course, the organizer will understand if it is something serious like illness, but that will be the exception, not the rule.
  4. Finally, if you don’t apologize after the fact, then the organizer will assume that you blew them off and all of the downsides from #3 will come into effect, but tripled.

Every event organizer understands that sometimes we mess up and forget.  Still, the better we are at the simple task of responding to an invitation, the higher we rise in their estimation and the more likely it is that we will be included in future events.