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Event orchestration | 29 February 2016

How To Ensure RSVP’d Attendees Show Up

JJ Bennett

For event organizers, no-shows are a major pet peeve. Whether it is a free or paid event, having people that registered for an event not show up to your event has several consequences. Not only does it leave empty seats, but it is also detrimental to speakers looking to build their network and can make for quite a few upset sponsors. Lastly, having attendees not show up can also negatively impact the networking opportunities your event can provide.

But what exactly can be done to overcome this all too common obstacle for event organizers? Well, the purpose of this guide is to show you just that; how to make sure, or at least significantly increase the probability, that your RSVP’d attendees show up.

Before we get started with discussing this issue, it is important to realize that it is almost impossible to completely eliminate no-shows at your event. Whether it be an attendee’s family emergency, an issue with travel, or another of the many unpreventable reasons for no-shows, your job is to focus only on what you can control. With that in mind, let’s begin started:


Understand and Analyze Your Statistics

Whether you are hosting a free or paid event, it is going to be difficult for you to fix the issue of no-shows without knowing exactly where these no-shows are coming from. For this reason, it is imperative that you put an event registration system in place to figure out what methods of signup are most responsible for attendees not showing up.

This system should be setup to allow you to determine, the following about no-shows:

Option 1: What source drove them to the event registration page in the first place?

Option 2: What type of ticket did they purchase or obtain?

Option 3: What are their demographics?

Option 4: When did they signup?

Implementing a system like event registration software, to develop these statistics will then allow you to better understand which areas require action when it comes to decreasing no-shows. Without doing so, knowing what issues need to be resolved and how to go about resolving these issues will be next to impossible.

Another great part about understanding and analyzing statistics is that this information can also be used in your efforts to obtain partners, sponsors, media, and other key stakeholders that make for successful events. Having predictability through data can be extremely effective as you look to obtain these stakeholders for both current and future events.

Once you’ve located a common source among the majority of your event registrants who didn’t actually show up, consider taking specific action based on the data.

Option 1: If you notice that a common source drove many people to register for the event, and many of those registrants didn’t show up, consider whether or not it’s worth investing time or money in that source again.

Consider this example: Perhaps a paid ad attracted people to register for an event, but since the ad was displayed mostly to people outside of the country hosting the event, many couldn’t make travel arrangements to show up. In the future, it would be better to invest in ads targeting potential registrants who live or work near where the event is taking place.

Option 2: Perhaps a specific ticket type caused many people to register, but many of the registrants didn’t actually attend. This is most common when event planners offer a free or heavily discounted ticket. If attendees don’t feel bad about wasting money on a registrations, they might be less likely to attend an event.

If this is the case, consider only offering heavily discounted or free tickets to those who attend the event in previous years, or to people who are true evangelists of your event brand.

Option 3: It could be that many people working in a specific industry, or with a specific job title decided not to attend your event.

This could be for many different reasons. One of them might be that a particular urgent turn of events impacted a specific industry. For example, if your marketing event suddenly sees a lack of startup founders attending the event, it might be because these founders were wary of investing in travel and hotel expenses during a period where fundraising was challenging.

If this has happened to you, consider sending a tailored communication to those in a specific industry to dissuade them from missing the event.

Option 4: Perhaps a number of event attendees who RSVP’d for an event soon after registration was open, failed to attend. This could be because event communications identifying the value attendees would receive for attending were weak. In the future, try sending a series of emails communicating what attendees will get from the event if they show up.

Or it might be that attendees who registered right before the event occurred, didn’t show up. This could be because of a number of different factors. One of which might be that attendees were unable to find hotel accommodations at the last minute.


Continually Communicate With Those Who Have RSVP’d

If there is one thing that an event organizer can control more than anything else, it is the communication that they have with RSVP’d attendees. Far too many organizers get so caught up in the process of increase event registrations that they do not set up a proper line of communication with those people that have already signed up.

This is especially necessary when you have people signing up several months in advance of the date of your event (as discussed in the previous section).

In these instances, their enthusiasm for what is to come will begin to diminish as time goes on. Therefore, continually creating excitement and intrigue is essential.

One of the best ways to do this is by creating a separate email list for individuals that have RSVP’d to the event. At that point, you can develop an email series that regularly reminds and excites these members about your event.

When doing this, you want to be sure that you are not simply reminding them of the event. Instead, you can use this email series to distribute useful and relevant content to your audience. Creating content that is informative and relevant to the upcoming event will help you to develop trust with RSVP’d individuals whose excitement may be weening.


Make it Easy for Attendees to Drop Out in Advance

While it may seem to be counter intuitive to your goal of filling your event, making it easy for attendees to drop out before the event will allow you to fill those seats that are being left open.

For most event organizers, the problem comes down to not being able to track potential no-shows. This then prevents you from being able to take the appropriate action to fill those seats prior to the event. Helping RSVP’d attendees understand that you would rather have them tell you that they will not be coming rather than simply not showing up will make it much more likely that surprise no-shows do not become an issue.

One of the best ways to do this is to set up an easy-to-find page on your website where attendees can go to let you know if their plans have changed. Creating a page for those who want to declare they won’t be attending is a good idea specifically for organizers planning for events.

For those planning paid events, allowing attendees to declare they won’t be attending might invite them to request a refund – something that most event organizers would like to avoid.


Fill Last Minute Tickets

When you put yourself in a position where you know people will not be showing up shortly prior to the event, you then need to have methods in place for filling those seats. Interestingly enough, the way in which event organizers go about filling last minute tickets does not differ much between free and paid events. For each type of event, there are a variety of different methods that can be used. 

Using Social Media: If you have a strong social media following, one of the best ways to get rid of tickets that have recently become available is by creating specials for those tickets and offering them through your social media accounts. If your event is paid, you can offer your tickets at a discount and give users a link to where they can immediately purchase those tickets.

If your event is free, you can simply offer the tickets as a giveaway. This can also be a great way to create further buzz around your event to raise the likelihood that those attendees currently planning on going will follow through.

Media Giveaways Another solid option for filling last minute tickets is to offer them through a media giveaway. This has multiple benefits as it can boost PR while also helping you to fill your event. The media you choose can include anything from influential bloggers and social media personalities to local radio and TV stations.

Reach Out to Those Already Attending If you have an efficient way of communicating with your attendees, such as an email list, reaching out to them and letting them know there are still a few tickets available can be effective. Being that they are attending your event, they will more than likely have a network that includes individuals that would be interested in what your event is providing.

If possible, consider using a double-sided event registration tool that can help to incentivize current and potentially new attendees to share and register an event by offering a small discount to both parties.

Create an Online Check-In Prior to Event Creating an online check-in prior to your event can provide you with an extremely accurate gauge of how many no-shows you will end up with. Making this check-in mandatory and doing it 24-48 hours before the event will give you time to utilize your chosen methods for filling some last minute open registration spots.


The Final Word

At the end of the day, it is impossible to ensure the attendance of every single registrant. Utilizing the methods laid out within this guide, however, should provide you with a much better chance of decreasing your no-show percentage.

It should be noted that not all no-show prevention strategies will work equally well for every organizer. Taking the time to develop an understanding of the statistics surrounding your no-shows will enable you to continually improve upon the methods you use for decreasing your no-show percentage and will set you up for successful, well-booked events in the long run.

Want to design an event experience that no attendee will want to miss? Download this free 40+ event design eBook by clicking the button below!

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