300 Empty Chairs


One week ago I drove over 200 miles to give my keynote presentation for a first of its kind event in a small city in my home state: The Inaugural Business EXPO put on by the economic development of the city.

Entering the ballroom of the beautiful conference center, it was wonderful to see 300 chairs perfectly set and ready for a big event the following day.

Sound check lasted 4 hours that evening due to a glitch out of everyone’s control, but I was grateful to be working with an AV Team who lives The Promise and kept at it, cheerfully, until we came up with solutions to tricky challenges.

I barely slept in my comfy Marriott hotel room bed, as I tossed and turned over an entirely new segment regarding The Promise Institute and our work in Kenya I would be presenting.  Yes, we are finally beginning to book expeditions in conjunction with the incredible organization 100 Humanitarians, all under the banner of The Promise Impact, and I was overthinking how I would say everything.

The life of The Speaker!  hahaha

Arriving 2 hours before attendees, we completed the sound check and all was set.

And then we waited for the room to fill.

Clock ticking down to go time, 300 seats still sat empty…

10 minutes before I was to begin my 8:30 AM presentation, the event planner came up to me and was as confused as I was with the turn-out.  This event, having been promoted well throughout the region, didn’t appear to have anyone coming!

I offered to wait an hour or two if that was needed, in order to see if people were just running late.



The client said thank you for your willingness to be flexible, considered my offer, ran the thought by a few team members, and then determined they needed to stick to the day’s schedule, with breakouts, vendors, and food all waiting their turn.

Introduced to the stage, with apologies from the wonderful event planner embarrassed due to the amount of people in my audience that morning, I stepped into the spotlight and saw:

7 people staring back at me in a 300 seat ballroom!  

(I believe they were the EXPO vendors that had been asked to fill in the front section…)


As I took the mic, I addressed the obvious right away –

“My friends, I’d like to Thank You for being here.  And I truly do, Thank YOU.  

Years ago, I performed at an amphitheater that was filled to capacity at 3,000 attendees!  It was incredible! 

And so we decided we could do the same in an adjacent city the next year, the demand was so high, and we figured we’d have the same turn-out as the year before. 

At that event, we were stunned that only a couple hundred attended, compared to the thousands we expected.  

After the show I asked my Mom – who always supports me and is amazing – how she felt I did despite the challenge of not performing to a full house, of which I am accustomed.  

She stated the following to me that changed my perspective forever on every performance

“Son, you were wonderful as always in your performance.  However, you mentioned multiple times how disappointed you were that it wasn’t sold-out, and it seemed you were upset with us as an audience.  

My son, NEVER punish those who show up.  Never appear disappointed to those who support you.  Never make them feel “less than” for those who didn’t come.”  

And so, my friends in this audience today – it appears the challenges we face in the pandemic, the hesitancy of attendees to participate and show up, and putting on an event for the public at this time has perhaps won out.

That means today, because of my Mom, you’re in for it! 

My Performance Promise to you is that all 7 of you are about to enjoy a performance and presentation as if 10,000 were in front of me, and I am SO, SO grateful you are here and showed up. 

You are the most important people to me, and I can only Thank You properly by giving you the most and best I’ve got. 

And of course, you can leave here at the end of the day and tell all your friends and peers they missed out on the best presentation you’ve ever seen! 

Let’s get started.”


My view from the stage just prior to my presentation


By the time my presentation was over there may have been 30-40 in the room.  And you could tell, there was a good amount of laughter that could be heard, which was nice after going 14 months without hearing any from my Zoom Virtual Home Studio.


Photo by Darlene Reiley


Why would I share this “tragic” experience with you?

Social media, public persona, the perception that all is perfect, simple, and smooth is a lie.

This one was tough.  Not just for my ego and hopes to showcase in front of potential clients for my new business endeavors, but especially tough on the event planner, expo vendors, and everyone involved who was hoping for a successfully attended event.

Events are coming back, and some will succeed, and some will be ill-timed.

What is important is that we Keep The Promise To The Audience who shows up.

No matter how hurt our pride might be, no matter how terrible it looks from any perspective…we give 100% because that is what people who LIVE The Promise do.

I had to talk myself into sharing this story in a blog post because none of this “looks good”.

I’m not worried about looking good at this point, I’m focused on making a difference.

And when I saw the local paper published this story and talked about the reality of the situation, then I realized they weren’t hiding it, so why should I?

Here’s the STORY if you want to check it out.

I have to applaud the event team, vendors, all involved in this event:

They Kept The Promise to remain Positive even when all did not go as one would hope.  I like them even more for that.


Your Promise Prompt This Week – 

Share in the Comments about an experience you’ve had recently where the expectation wasn’t met, yet you still delivered despite the odds, inconvenience, or challenge, because you always show up and Keep The Promise!


~ Jason Hewlett

The Promise Institute Co-Founder

Promise Culture Keynote Speaker

* Speaker Hall of Fame

Author of “The Promise To The One”





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14 thoughts on “300 Empty Chairs”

  1. WOW! Great story with important points Good for you! I want to know more about the 100 Humanitarians and the good work you are doing in Kenya. Your vacation with family looks fun – Beautiful scenery!
    You are a good man, Jason Hewlett!
    Blessings, Louise

    1. Thank you Louise! The work we are doing in Kenya is incredible, I will be sharing much more in future blogs, thank you for asking. Here is a web site that tells some of the story, and we will be putting together a web site that explains further how The Promise Institute and 100 Humanitarians are working together. https://100humanitarians.com/

  2. I am in that moment right now. My Global Dream Maker Summit starts online Tomorrow. We have 10 stellar talks scheduled online to discuss “Embodying the Intangible: Leadership Is More Than An Inside Job” – time to Be it and Live it!

    So far, I have a Handful registered, though a few hundred have visited the registration page. And it’s Free to attend!

    Disappointing yes…. and… We will show up for those who show up!

    1. Oh wow, I know so much how this feels with so many events. I applaud your perspective and the good you’re offering. I’m sure it will lead to many great things that you weren’t anticipating! And congrats on keeping The Promise!

  3. I saw you perform just before the pandemic at Workman Success’ Leverage, (and got your book) so I know how amazing you are and just feel sorry for all of those who misssed out on seeing you live and in person! You are funny, fabulous, fantastic!! Can’t wait to see more about The Promise Institute and 100 Humanitarians!

    1. Thank you so much Cindy for the kind comments. I loved that WSS event and have remained close to Verl and Bri as mentors. Thank you!

  4. Judy and steve Hansen

    HJey just read your story so sry no one showed up they dont know what they missed out on ,hey if we knew about the situation if possible we would have driven to come support you if possible, if it was me i probably would have broken down, but it sounds live you kept a positive attitude wsy to go you r awesome

    1. Thank you Steve & Judy, you’re very supportive always! It was a fun event! Thank you for the always kind words.

  5. Jason I’ve been a fan of yours for years. I wrote that “Piano Man Parody” you liked. But this event has inspired me more than a lot of posts you have put out there, and they are all amazing. Why? Because I have been jaded in the music industry more times than I can count and overtime it can bring out the negative in me. You reminded me “It’s about the one”. I’ve held those events myself with few showing up, no matter the amount of advertising and I know that sting, but I remember an amazing (and now a world wide known artist) perform his heart out at a small event in a small city I had helped organize with few attendees. Like you, he was used to “bigger crowds”, but he gave his all and his all made him a world wide phenom. So keep it going. You are a great positive force in the world!

    1. What a wonderful comment, this means a great deal to me. And yes, I loved your Piano Man Parody! It really is interesting how we learn so much in the moments that don’t go as planned. Thank you for sharing your insights about this artist at the small events, it really leaves an impression on us when we see it happen!

  6. Jason,

    Thank you for your perspective and wise words!! Greg’s first event since Covid is coming up as well… and as you know “WE” cannot control or make people show up… but for those who DO, we owe it to them to give our all! We are grateful for your example!!! Greg and I don’t know what will happen on the 24th… but we are excited that things are getting back to “normal”!


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