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I'm a graduate student and I organised a series of online lectures spread over many days. The total number of registrants was 50 but those who actually came were around 10 to 11. Now, today one of the speakers did not agree to continue because he was expecting more attendees, so it was awkward.

There is one more lecture tomorrow. Should I tell the professor coming tomorrow to give a virtual talk that the number of the anticipated attendees is around 10? I fear that they won't come to the talk or make it awkward.

What is the best thing to do now?

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    If registration costs nothing, more than 1 in 5 turning up is pretty good in my experience.
    – User65535
    Jun 7, 2022 at 17:46
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    It is always great to be truthful about such details, so you may distribute the available statistics. And if the speaker, unethically, refuses to talk, it is their own fault. It would be professional, if there is a planned event and if there is only one attendee, they deliver their session. If it was before the presentation days, and if the event was still in the registration days, it was another story, and they could apologize not to come at all! Now that it is started, refusing to deliver the talk, is indeed awkward. BTW, it is always a good idea to consult your mentor or manager about this.
    – enthu
    Jun 8, 2022 at 13:04
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    "Now, today one of the speakers did not agree to continue cause he was expecting more attendees so it was awkward." This is surprising. I think there might be some information missing here. People are usually reluctant to act like a jerk. If you have already prepared the lecture, circumstances usually have to be pretty exceptional to just cancel when you have already turned up. The audience being a bit smaller than expected is not that exceptional.
    – user9482
    Jun 8, 2022 at 14:33
  • @Roland "people are reluctant to act like a jerk" you are correct 99.99% of the times, but the academia is about carefully (self-)selected individuals :)
    – EarlGrey
    Jun 10, 2022 at 8:33

3 Answers 3

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It would be courteous to tell them, and it give you options. I think the one who refused to speak to a small group was acting badly. You can't control the number of attendees, of course.

But if they do indicate they want to drop out you might try to convince them otherwise. The ones who do show are likely the most interested. And if they don't go through with the talk you can inform the ones registered that they can free their schedule.

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It's a good idea to tell the lecturer beforehand. There's a surprising benefit of having a small group as if the lecturer is up for it, you could keep the session more interactive and personal. Instead of doing a lecture and then questions, you could consider doing something more casual and for example discussing through their content.

I believe this would be a good option as it would leverage the strengths of the online platform while giving the few participants more interesting experience while giving the lecturer an option to discuss through the content in a more in-depth way that fits the audience.

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Thing to do now: cancelling the event would be very disrespectful to the 10 or so people that registered and made space in their agenda to attend to the lectures.

Things to do in the future: never contact that speaker again.

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    I think the speaker who refused to give the talk and the speaker scheduled for the next day are two different people. I believe "never contact that speaker again" refers to the former, but the OP seems to be asking for the latter (and in general).
    – GoodDeeds
    Jun 8, 2022 at 15:50

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