Yesterday I wrote about some of the behaviors we must exhibit with respect to the convention of RSVPs.  Once again, I know that you already do what you are supposed to, but you may know someone who might benefit from this information.

RSVPs come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Some require more attention than others.  Whatever the situation, good networking behavior dictates that you must deal with each on a case by case basis.  Remember, an invitation is not intended as an imposition, but rather as an acknowledgment of your value as a person.

  1. Paper Response Card with Stamped, Addressed Envelope. These are the ultra-formal, traditional RSVPs usually associated with wedding receptions and other formal occasions.  They will sometimes have a meal selection associated with them. You absolutely must return these as soon as you know that you are available.  Do not wait until the “respond by” date (or a week after, or never).  An event of this type requires a lot of planning and you will make good points with the organizers if you respond immediately.  If something should come up which prevents your being able to attend after you have responded in the positive, you must let the organizers know immediately.  Don’t be casual about this kind of RSVP.  They are inviting you to a Big Event in their lives and you should be treating it accordingly.
  2. Paper Invitation with “RSVP” Phone Number or Email Address. Often used for more casual affairs, including children’s birthday parties, showers, or holiday events.  While not as formal as #1 above, respond to this one as soon as you know your availability (you’re probably starting to notice a pattern here).  Again, if something disturbs the plans at the last minute, it’s polite and expected that you will let the organizer know.  They won’t yell at you. They will understand.
  3. Electronic Invitation. There are a number of online services now, such as Evite, which allow the organizers to email out the invitations and provide a very convenient service for RSVPing. All you have to do is “Click” and you are done.  You can even specify a “Maybe” response, though if you do choose this option, you should add a short explanatory note.  As soon as you know for sure, you should change your response to either “yes” or “no”.
  4. Event Notice with Pre-Registration Required. While this isn’t specifically an “RSVP”, it still functions the same way.  In this case you are securing a spot for yourself at the event, perhaps one with limited seating. Letting the organizers know that you have to cancel your reservation will allow someone else to go.
  5. Event Notice with Pre-Registration Optional. This is often the case with a variety of networking events such as a Chamber of Commerce lunch or breakfast.  You don’t have to pre-register, since they will allow you to register/pay at the door.  By doing so, however, you make their jobs easier and also may gain some benefits such as a discount on admission or access to the list of other pre-registered guests before the event.
  6. Event with “Regrets Only”. Technically, this means that you only have to respond if you aren’t coming, but it never hurts to let the organizers know your plans.
Remember, it only takes a moment or two to respond to an RSVP.  Those few moments, though, will make a big difference to the planners and they will remember your courtesy. Yes, sometimes you need to check with your spouse, or need to make sure you have a babysitter, or need to make sure that you’ve got the DVR set up to record your television programs while you are gone.  Do whatever you have to, though, to make sure that it doesn’t slip through the cracks.
It’s the little things, after all, that build the strongest relationships.