Celebrations, meetings, and conferences usually have presentations. The people who do these presentations are invited in advance so as to prepare because there’s so much that goes into coming up with a presentation.
But how do you decline a presentation offer?
To decline an invitation for a presentation, you should give as much notice as possible and be honest about the reasons. If possible, you can try to find another date or another suitable person as a substitute.
Communicate as Soon as Possible
If you’ve been invited to give a presentation and you feel you’re not going to make it, it’s prudent to communicate as soon as possible.
There is a reason why these invitations happen early in advance. This is for the one doing the presentation to prepare adequately.
So, after receiving an invitation to make a presentation on an occasion, you should consider whether you’ll make it or not.
The challenge that many speakers face is that they feel bad about declining offers. The truth of the matter is that you have every right to decline them.
Of course, you have your own plans and if they are in conflict with the presentation, you’ll have to do away with one. If you decide that you can’t be there for the presentation, it is imperative to decline early enough.
Waiting for too long to decide won’t be a great idea. You should show respect to the person inviting you by letting them know that you won’t be available for the meeting.
It takes a lot of preparation to organize these meetings. So, it’s expected of you to express your unavailability so that the organizers can find someone else who can do the job.
By doing so, the person will respect your decision and appreciate that you gave him time to look for another speaker.
Show Gratitude for the Invitation
Gratitude is something that goes a long way. The fact that you were considered to give a presentation shows that the people preparing for the event think highly of you.
Not every person can be invited to give a presentation. So, even if you won’t be available for the invitation, it is a great idea to express your gratitude for the gesture.
Show how sincerely thankful you are for the invitation. Let the person know that you’re honored for the consideration.
By being thankful, the person will not get offended by the decline. They will know that even though you won’t make it, you’re positive about it. Whether you’re responding via email or phone call, make sure that you demonstrate the spirit of gratitude.
Something else to consider is the nature of the presentation and the relationship you have with the person inviting you. It can either be formal or informal.
If you’re in a formal relationship with this person like a senior colleague at work, you should respond in a formal way. The idea here is to avoid being casual with this person.
You can say something such as:
“Thank you so much for inviting me to give a presentation at your event. I am honored that you saw it fit to consider me.”
On the other hand, if the person who invited you is a peer and one that you can interact with casually, the response should be casual.
You can say something like:
“Thanks for the invite brother. I appreciate big-time.”
The bottom line is, whether you know the person or not, make sure you show gratitude.
Explain Why You’re Declining
Just to reiterate, it’s not unusual to decline a presentation offer. You don’t have to feel bad about it or wonder what’s going to happen after your decline. Your acceptance is always subject to your availability. If you’re not available, then there’s nothing wrong with declining.
However, it will be important, if possible, to explain why you’re declining. It is courteous to give a short explanation of why you won’t make it.
The person choose you for the presentation because you were the best for it. So, it will be fair to let them know why you won’t be showing up.
At the same time, you should not over-explain. You don’t have to give too much detail as it will sound awkward. A brief explanation will be more than enough.
If you try to give a lengthy explanation it will come out as though you’re trying to give excuses. It won’t sound like a genuine reason.
As you explain to the person, it is also worth taking note of the relationship you have with him or her. Also, consider whether it’s someone you know or not.
If it’s someone you know, there’s no problem with you giving details since the person knows your operations. It’s absolutely okay for you to tell him or her:
“Am sorry I won’t make it because I have to rush my son to the hospital.”
If the person knows your family, you can include your son in the conversation.
Or you can say something like:
“I would have wished to be there but, unfortunately, I’ll be traveling to France.”
Since the person knows about your busy operations, it won’t be difficult to understand why you won’t be available.
For a person with who you don’t have a previous relationship whether as friends or professionally, the explanation will be brief and precise. You don’t have to say too much because you’re not familiar with each other.
In this scenario, you can choose to say something like:
“I am sorry I won’t be available for the presentation because I have other engagements on that day.”
As you can see, it is short and to the point.
It is always a good thing, to be honest in your communication. If you’re not available for the presentation for one reason, don’t give another. If you do, you’ll come out as a dishonest person and it will affect your reputation.
Whether you’re a friend or a professional colleague of the person inviting you, you should demonstrate a high level of honesty.
Don’t cook up information to justify why you won’t be attending the event. Since you have a right to either accept or decline, you can go ahead and do so in a respectable manner. There’s no need to give false excuses.
According to a 2006 article by ResearchGate, being truthful goes a long way to establishing a good relationship between persons.  The reason why you’ll be invited again is that you proved to be a genuine person.
If the person discovers that you gave false reasons for the decline, you may never get another invitation opportunity.
Be Polite in Your Communication
Another important tip to put in mind is being polite. As you communicate the decline and the reasons for it, it is paramount to do so with a high level of courtesy.
Polite language makes the people in communication think highly of each other. Don’t be arrogant as you communicate with the person.
If you’re replying to the invite through an email, take your time to write the message. Be careful of the words you use.
You may have good intentions, but the way you write the message and the words you use can be interpreted differently. So, make sure that your message comes out well.
If you’re talking to the person physically, take note that the verbal and non-verbal communication you’re using counts for politeness. The words you use should be a reflection of courtesy and appreciation for the opportunity presented to you.
Your gestures should also be in line with what you’re saying. Be confident as you decline the offer so that your message can be clear.
A good example of polite communication is:
“Thank you very much for the presentation offered at your event. Am privileged that you considered me. Unfortunately, I will be out of town on that day. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Give Alternative Dates If Possible
Lastly, now that the person knows you won’t be available for the presentation, it’s up to you to keep the conversation going further. This is not a must, but it is a good gesture.
You can ask whether there will be other opportunities. You can offer to give a presentation at a later date. Also, you can ask if it’s okay to recommend someone who can still do a good job on your behalf.
If the person is open to that idea, you may get a chance to speak at another meeting or recommend another person to go on with the presentation.
This is a good practice as it shows that you’re in support of what is happening. Despite the fact that you are not available, you’ll want the presentation to go on well and you’re willing to offer your contribution in the future. This will paint a good picture of you, which is a huge plus.
Indeed, it is important to decline a presentation offer in the best way possible. This carries a great deal of significance in establishing a good relationship between you and the person.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.