Opinion: Five Types of No Shows

Dr. Mozelle Martin

Tired of No-RSVPs & No-Show Attendees?

The nice weather is upon us and that means you will likely receive many event invitations.

Event hosts are consistently concerned about the increasingly fewer RSVPs they receive, and even more so about those who say “yes” but won't show up anyway.

What does RSVP mean anyway?

Well, it stands for répondez s’il vous plaît, which roughly translates into ‘please just bloody let me know’ (can you hear the sarcasm?).

It was first adopted during the 18th century under the court of Louis XIV. At that time, those invited were only given one week to reply, but many didn’t make the deadline.

Emily Post, the American etiquette expert, generously declared in the 1920s that you could RSVP or reply ‘within a month of receiving the invitation’.

Can't you just hear it now... a very zealous hostess loudly demanding a more timely response saying, ‘répondez vite s’il vous plaît’ ?

RSVP'ing used to be a very prominent part of social etiquette.

For example, I grew up in a wealthy family where it was seen as an honor to be invited to any RSVP-requested event. If my parents hosted, attendees would often say, "I was so honored to receive your invitation".

Responding promptly to an RSVP was also considered an act of integrity.

If one did not respond promptly to RSVPs, the other community leaders considered them untrustworthy and of questionable character. Back then, guest lists were hand-picked and the invitation list was heavily scrutinized to assure that only the most desirable people were invited.

Nowadays one doesn’t have to look too far to see that everybody is invited to everything.

As a result at least in part, society is now filled with many who lack respect and follow-through for nearly all commitments... and it's not getting better.

But let’s not focus on the questionable, undesirable manners society allows today. Instead, let’s focus on character, specifically YOURS.

First, there are typically five main types of people (or reasons) why people flake:

(1) Runners

These individuals feel suffocated by current responsibilities, and even thinking about adding one more thing to their list feels like the onset of a panic attack. They are running on empty and feeling so overwhelmed that they tell themselves, “I’ll RSVP or respond later when I can finally take a breath”. Unfortunately, later never comes. So, your event is quickly forgotten about. These individuals are just one teardrop or scream away from a total emotional meltdown.

(2) Gamblers

These individuals don’t want to commit because “the next invite might be something more fun” - like sitting at a slot machine in Las Vegas all day waiting for the big win… (after all, the next spin could be the one!). They hesitate until the last minute but like to keep their options open. So, they usually RSVP “yes” to all of them.

(3) Ghosts

These people are often friends of yours but never become paying customers. They will be one of the first to download the freebies on your website, but won't ever purchase anything no matter how many times they intend to. Deep down, they either think of you as only a friend, don't see you as a professional, do not value your skills, or think they have no problems in their life which need improvement. So after receiving your invitation and a request to RSVP (especially if it's a paid event), they become a ghost.

Remember those days in middle school when we demanded our parents drop us off a block away so our peers didn’t see us with them? Well, we all know that peers can cause anxiety. So for those potential attendees who are paralyzed with social anxiety, I will include them in this category. While they may truly want to attend your event, they may not be comfortable around their peers. In fact, their heart pounds, and they break into a sweat just thinking about it. They are excused.

(4) Airheads

These people put the "dis" in disorganized, and often can't tell they are upside-down even while standing on their heads. Many of these folks also struggle with symptoms of ADHD, laziness, and old-fashioned procrastination. This means that the invitation you sent to them has likely been accidentally deleted, or lost under a pile of old mail or dusty books. These individuals probably have no clue how to find or recover the invitation either. In fact, if asked why they didn't RSVP, they may claim, “I couldn’t find it.” Instead of trying to get in touch with you - such as asking a mutual friend, going to your website, calling or sending a text or email, or searching for you on Facebook, your invitation is completely ignored.

(5) Liars

These are the ones who will say they can't go and make up some elaborate reason why, instead of just saying "no" (more on this later).

Anyone who has hosted or attended an event in the past knows that it can be difficult to make a commitment but... every single time? Perhaps there are those people who host events that you legitimately are not interested in. If that's the case, see tip # 7 below.

Whether you want, don't want, can, can't, will, or won't... there are about 5 seconds between you being considered an honorable RSVP’er or an inconsiderate jerk with a questionable character.

You see... after RSVP'ing “YES”, the host counts on you to attend. She makes sure that the right amount of food is ordered, the right amount of handouts are copied, there are enough chairs, etc. While the food or paper may be free to you, they are not free for the host.

As you can imagine, RSVPing with “maybe”, “I’ll try”, or “interested” is almost worse than not responding at all. RSVP’ing in these ways is a complete waste of time because a host cannot plan accordingly or accurately.

It’s actually very simple… if you cannot say “YES” then please-oh-please just say “NO”.

Tip: next time you are on the toilet, shut down that game app on your phone for a few minutes and RSVP "yes" or "no" to every invite.

Etiquette does not have to be a thing of the past!

If you ignore the invitation completely, the host doesn’t even know if you received it. If she asks you again, it could come across as desperate or pushy. On the other hand, event sites, and even Facebook, now allow the host to see that you have seen the invitation. If you then keep ignoring the RSVP, you just come across as an inconsiderate jerk.

Things do happen.

If you have replied “YES” with true integrity, and at the last minute a legitimate emergency prevents you from going (not chocolate cake and Netflix), then please contact the host and say, “I’m so sorry…” because doing so is much better than a no-show.

Whether a phone call (best), a text message (acceptable), or email (frowned upon)… tell the host right away, as soon as you know.


It is complete nonsense to think that in today’s technological society we cannot respond to an RSVP in a timely manner. It takes about 2 seconds to respond via text, or click an arrow on Facebook, less than 30 seconds to make a phone call, and less than 60 seconds to reply to an email. Even snail mail - to include handwriting a response (usually a checkbox), sealing the envelope, adding a stamp (most are pre-stamped), and tossing it in your outgoing mailbox - still can take less than 3 minutes.

It is all very quick and easy yet… many don’t do it.

Keep in mind that event planners have all kinds of lists and spreadsheets and logistics are filled with challenging deadlines and contracts that must be completed in a specific timeframe.

Regardless of whether you are invited to a small, in-home karaoke party or a huge red carpet launch, the host needs specific and honest RSVPs sooner than later.

But there is hope... you can still save your reputation!

TIPS TO HELP YOU reinvent your RSVP etiquette:

1. RSVP “YES” or “NO” within 24 hours of receiving or reading the invite. Yes, that’s fast... but in doing so, your character says "I'm happy and excited for you".

Even if it’s a “no”, the host will also appreciate your efficiency (a triple character boost).

2. It is worse to flake just before the event than to say “no” initially. If you decide to say "no", do so without offering an explanation. Something simple like, "Thank you for the invite, but I'm otherwise committed. I hope you have a great time." is great and your honesty will be appreciated by the host. Don’t give crap excuses as that shows a deceptive character.

It's better to say "no" initially and then show up last minute than to say "yes" and be a no show.

3. Remember, “maybe”, “I’ll try”, “interested” and similar are not acceptable answers. I can guarantee if it was your event, you would want a quick and definitive response. Tell yourself that you only have two options… “Yes” or “No”, and there are no others.

4. Not responding at all to someone’s hospitality toward you is purely insensitive. Your social duty is to be appreciative of the invitation and honest with your intent to attend. Besides if you are being invited to something it is because the host is personally requesting your presence - what a great compliment.

5. Fifty-plus years ago it was considered rude for hosts to even request an RSVP because it showed that those invited should not be trusted to attend. Society has gotten faster which means people also forget things faster. Today it is strongly advised that you diligently follow these steps. If you don’t, it could reflect on you as one of dishonorable character.

6. If you truly do not know if you will be able to attend, call the host (not email or text), and ask if it would be too much of an inconvenience to wait with your RSVP until you can confirm your availability. Then be sure to immediately set a reminder on your email, phone, and calendar to contact the host and finalize the RSVP. The last thing you want to do is not follow through on doing what you said you would do. Yep, that would be another character strike.

7. I know Facebook and other event websites can get very annoying with constant emails, texts, and pings demanding your attention. However, as it says in tip #1 above, it is important to your character that you RSVP within 24 hours of every invite.

Getting too many? Talk to your friends and be honest about your desire to attend their events.

Most people respect honesty, even if they don't like it. However, if they don't appreciate your directness, you can always take advantage of the site's "unsubscribe" or "block" feature. That way, when you claim you could not attend because you did not receive the invite, you are actually telling the truth.

Have you experienced this as a host or hostess?

Are you one of the five types?

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. This content should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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35-Year Forensic Handwriting & Body Language Expert @ ColdCaseFoundation.org

Lubbock, TX

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