When the interested don’t show up

A week ago now, Jenett wrote a good post about seeker responsibility and follow-through, discussing interested seekers who disappear, either by never showing on their first meeting or failing to follow through on later RSVPs. Back when I was trying to do any sort of local Pagan networking I did run into occasional no-shows myself when someone would want to meet one-on-one before coming to the coffee-shop get-togethers.

Now, ADF orients itself toward open events, so I do not frequently try to meet people one-on-one these days. At the same time, not everyone who says they will come shows up. I’ve occasionally learned mild tolerance for PST is useful (which is why I announce the start of the pre-ritual briefing; if you show up late, you wind up a bit more clueless about what is happening) — but it can be easy to delay too long because there were five more people who said they were coming, but haven’t shown up yet, and then don’t. I sometimes forget that delaying for stragglers only encourages the behavior.

As Jenett points out, the reasons why vary widely — you can come up with many reasons they didn’t show, and it’s not worth worrying about except in terms of keeping a person’s reliability in mind for the long run.

At the same time, some possibilities can be minimized. One possible Beltane attendee got lost along the way to the site. There wasn’t any cell phone reception around the Beltane site due to the local hills, so a cell phone call for directions would have been useless. One thing I’ve been contemplating is building some folding sandwich-board signs with a large “ADF”, an arrow, and perhaps a logo as well  that can be placed to point the way on the last two or three turns.

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7 thoughts on “When the interested don’t show up

  1. Thanks for the link and the lovely commentary!

    I definitely agree with you that some slack can be reasonable (especially in a public ritual setting.) My previous group had good luck with announcing a gather time, too.

    I think it also depends on context: we had guests for the new group’s Beltane (2 of us, 3 guests, one of whom rode with one of the others.) Those two hit *horrible* traffic, and of course, we waited for them. In that kind of proportion, and from people who are normally reasonably reliable, I’m a lot more inclined to give lots of leeway. (It doesn’t hurt that they called and left a message, either.)

    But in an open ritual where you don’t know for sure who’s coming? Gather, wait a reasonable duration, and then start, in my opinion. Otherwise, everyone gets the idea that it’s okay to be a little later every time.

    Your sign idea is a great one: various groups I know have had good luck with a metal trellis thing that goes into the ground up to about hip height, with signs on it: they’re fairly solid when in the ground, but easy to put in and remove.

  2. I´d by interested in your hints: this winter I´ve offered (free!) study groups, 2 types (general Pagan and ADF), prepared programme, and advertised on a local forum and our website. Nobody ever inquired and even members of the group didn´t appear. With the turnout rate of 1-2 (besides me and my boyfriend), I had to cancel it. And every time somebody came VERY late.

    What do you do in such a case? There´s not much point in “keep going on, just the three of you (i.e. the core)”, when there is no third person reliable enough to come once on two weeks.

    I was thinking the problem is advertising, but I´m not sure about posting leaflets in the coffee shop… these New Agers, they only come for entertainment .

  3. Noira,

    I see two sides. One side is giving people the sense of continuity. Back a few years, I was running the local Pagan Meetup. Few people came to the first few, even if they said they’d come — but after a while people knew when to expect it and started planning for it. How long did it take for it to feel like people were planning on attending? As I recall, about four months of light-to-just-me turnout. Eventually people realized that if they didn’t show up reasonably on time, I might leave, denying them the change at contact with another Pagan, and suddenly we started having six people. Obviously, this works better with a more social approach (we met in a coffeeshop) rather than a study group.

    The second side, advertising, is important — but, as you indicated in your
    article
    , your situation is different from that generally found in the US — there isn’t the same overarching sense of community. I actually started the local-area Pagan networking list, but there are also two for my state. I do advertise on WitchVox, even though ADF events aren’t Wiccan, because they seem to be the major online networking center — but I see you already have the Protogrove on there. Most of my advertising is Google-tailored — so make certain Google brings up your pages readily when someone looks for Pagans in your area. Posting in coffee shops has been a mixed thing for me, so I’m not certain what to say there.

  4. Yep, we are the ONLY local Pagan group on Witchvox…doesn´t help. Also, as a computer geek I know what SEO is etc. I think nothing else can be done as to online advertising.

    There is a networking org already (Pagan Federation) and various forums with real life meetups. So nobody needs us to get to know other Pagans.

    Except perhaps those who are really totally new and older, and prefer to stick to one group/person they trust… also a lot of the inquiries I get is from people who are seriously in trouble (domestic violence etc.) and they seek pastoral counselling more than anything else.

  5. I do fear I lack real suggestions for you, but in reply:

    My SEO comments were more a general suggestion, since I don’t know any Czech to see if your Protogrove seems easy to find.

    As for networking, I was more trying to indicate that it helps to advertise via various overarching lists. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone directly come from advertising on state-wide lists, but I get referrals from those who have seen the regular posts and meet someone who says they don’t know any Pagans around my area — who, being aware of the Protogrove, put me in touch with them.

    Another thing that has helped in my case is giving presentations to the local college Pagan society and to the local Unitarian-Universalist (UU) Fellowship. I’m not certain if a truly analogous group exists in the Czech Republic — over here, at least, the UUs are a non-creedal religious group, such that there are UU Secular Humanists, and UU Christians, and UU Pagans. UUs generally fit the profile of the sophisticated seeker.

    I have seen a number of people seeking pastoral counseling as well, so that is at least one constant.

  6. I am seriously thinking about cooperating with the UU too here. If I am extremely lucky the English-speaking pastor might even be Pagan. I already wrote to one other UU pastor, but he never responded :-/ Our UU is relatively small (300 people) due to schisms and general ageing of the local Unitarians.

    As there is very high secularism here, there´s not much sense in joining liberal groups to oppose the fundies, ya know :-) I want more fundies here!

    There is a rather new (04/2008) Pan-Pagan forum growing here, which might eventually become an open platform useful for advertising, I hope so… as the article says, there´s much exclusivism and each group badmouths the others or better yet, has no knowledge about other forms of Paganism apart from their own.

    I have an ambitious plan of creating the best and most comprehensive website about Paganism, the only truly cross-traditional one, and this might be the best place for promotion eventually ;-) The current website gets some 2000 visits monthly, which is not bad. It grew from 1000 after upgrading to PHP. An upgrade to a CMS might rocket it even higher.

  7. Catching up on past comments – how’d I miss this? (Oh, right. End of May is busy).

    Noira: one of the things that you might find useful would be looking at how small college groups get started. They often face some similar problems (people are very busy, aren’t sure what they want to do, etc.)

    Some things that can help:

    1) A combination of meetings with specific announced topics (which may draw people who might not normally come), and general discussion evenings (which might attract people who think they don’t need to cover the basics again.) One of each a month might be a good place to start.

    If it were me, I’d go for one new-to-Paganism friendly meeting a month (like free classes, but maybe not, to start, in a series, maybe just a topic at a time, like “What is Paganism?” or “Why ritual?” or divination, or whatever makes sense . Series are hard, because if someone misses the first one, they probably will think they shouldn’t come to the others.

    And I’d plan one general discussion or social event (networking, a Pagan-friendly movie night, an outing together to a local exhibit or performance of something relevant, etc.) too. Pick stuff you’d be interested in going to or doing anyway, and again, if no one shows up, you won’t be out anything.

    2) I think anyone trying to get something like this off the ground has to plan for sitting around waiting for everyone else to show up for a bit. As Arthur suggests, a lot of groups seem to take 6-12 months to really accumulate enough people that there’s a reliable core group.

    Advertising in different ways/trying different topics of focus can be a good thing – as Arthur says, you get a lot of people who aren’t interested themselves, but then run into someone who is.

    3) Using an email list/online forum/etc can help – both getting people connected, and helping you figure out if you’re just picking a bad time for all the people who might otherwise come.

    Do your fliers have a little tab at the bottom with your website? (people tear off the slip and bring it home: don’t know if this is common there, but it’s common in the US. They don’t have to find pen/paper then.) Or some places may let you put up a little pocket of quarter-sheet slips with basic info on them. Basically, anything that makes it easier for people to bring contact info home with them works. Printed bookmarks can work too.

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