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That Time I Hosted a Networking Event…and No One Showed Up

As difficult as it was at the time, I consider it to be both the best and worst experience I've ever had.

It took me a really, really long time to hit publish on this.

Although I managed to muster up enough courage to share my (failed) attempt at a networking event on Instagram back in July…sharing it on the Do Well Dress Well website and any other publications felt like a whole different ball game.

Here’s the very honest truth: I was terrified to share this moment in front of my entire professional network and international audience of readers. I mean, how could I say that I’m an “expert” in creating and hosting events but yet, no one showed up to one of mine?

How embarrassing…or at least, that’s what I told myself at first.

This moment was and will likely continue to be one of the ‘scariest’ moments in my professional career.

But, you know what? I’m tired of allowing that experience have control over me. I’m tired of the mere flashback to sitting in the restaurant giving me instant anxiety. Sure, I could have just let the whole experience go and never mention it again, but it’s important to me that I share both sides of my entrepreneurial journey — the good, the bad and the terrifying. It has now been just over 3 months and I’ve had an ample amount of time to process the experience a.k.a. I feel comfortable enough to share without getting teary eyed.

Photographer: Keidi Janz

So, here goes nothing:

In July, I decided to test a “dinner and a movie” event concept and it was a complete flop.

Even though a number of women RSVP’d, no one showed up to the meetup. NO ONE. Even after reserving a whole table, it was literally just me and my amazing friend and co-partner for ideate networking, Jovita.

We waited…and we waited and eventually, it became kinda embarrassing as of course, the waiter kept coming by to ask if more people would be joining us. Would you laugh if I told you we kept the menus and cups at the empty seats just to make us feel better?

The sad thing is that I could have posted photos from the event with some fake caption like “THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CAME OUT LAST NIGHT” and no one would know any better. But, what if we started showing the reality behind these “fun” photos? Can you imagine how different Instagram and society as a whole would be?

*takes a HUGE sigh of relief*

I consider that experience to be on the of the toughest moments of my professional career. As I made my way back home with tears streaming down my face, I thought about throwing in the towel — for the first time ever. I know, I know — it may sound a bit dramatic but what scared me about those thoughts is that I had never once thought about putting all of this behind me until then. But, here I was — thinking about shutting down the site, deactivating my social media profiles and heading back to a 9–5 job with my tail between my legs.

However, with time (and a much-needed vacation), I began to realize that this moment has had a profound impact on who I’ve become since then — as both a leader and simply as a human being. On a recent application, I was asked this question:

What has been the most significant moment that has shaped you as a leader?

Right away, I knew the answer.

It’s not necessarily the specific experience itself that has changed me the most, it’s how I handled it. I literally had two options — I could post about the event as if it was this huge resounding success or I could admit that it didn’t pan out the way I hoped. I would never feel good about myself if I went with the former.

Sharing my experience publicly was such a freeing experience — for both me and for many people that follow me. By embracing vulnerability, I encouraged others to do so as well. What amazed me during that time is how comfortable people felt reaching out to me to share their own stories…stories that they haven’t yet had the courage to share publicly.

In essence, I’ve never felt more empowered. I’ve truly recognized the power you gain through sharing your truth and since then, the words haven’t stopped flowing. Additionally, I’ve given into this pull to write freely and candidly — weaving in my own insights, experiences and thoughts. No more scheduling months and months in advance and sticking to rigid topics and ‘listicle’ type posts. Sometimes, I may not have 4 or 5 perfect bullet points as takeaways in my posts — and I’m ok with that.

In a podcast I listened to recently, they said: it’s not failure, it’s data.

Although I may still get an uneasy stomach at the thought of sitting at that restaurant table, my palms and armpits soaked with sweat as I wait impatiently for people to arrive, it gave me important data on who I am as a person and what I’d like to use my platform for. I simply want to be an authentic leader, dedicated to empowering people to become the most honest and remarkable versions of themselves.

So, here’s an announcement you don’t see every day:

I’m so thrilled to announce that I hosted an event in July that no one showed up to — because it made me who I am today.


Originally published at www.dowelldresswell.com

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