5 tips to reduce no-shows at your event

Fri Jan 12

Reducing no-shows at events can be challenging, but implementing certain strategies can help improve attendance rates.

Here are some tips to minimize no-shows:

1. Keep your community engaged

Events are not just about the content presented; they're also about the connections made. Building a sense of community around your event creates a supportive environment. Pre-event interactions through forums or social media groups allow attendees to network, discuss, and build relationships that can continue and grow even after your event. This creates a richer experience for everyone involved.

Consider getting attendees involved in organizing the event itself, like an unconference or participant-driven event. Let attendees suggest talks, speakers, or discussion items. What would they like to see during the event? Or request feedback or ideas on how they can contribute to the success of the event. When you keep them engaged, they are more likely to honor their commitment.

Most importantly, make sure to keep attendees informed and excited leading up to the event. Share important information, confirmed speakers or talks, announce sponsors or other activities. But ensure to save something for during the event itself. Having fun, interesting, or unexpected activities during the event ensures people share and tweet to build FOMO (fear of missing out) and excitement for future events.

2. Set a ticket price

Free events have by far the biggest no-show rates, as they have no financial investment in your event. While free events might seem to be more accessible and attract people who would otherwise not be able to make it, the absence of skin in the game increases the likelihood of no-shows. And no event is actually free. As an event organizer, you invest a lot of time, effort, and resources. Reducing no-shows ensures those resources are properly utilized and reduces unnecessary waste, leftovers, or other unused materials.

Even a small fee increases the value an attendee gives to your event and thereby increases participation rates. It also offsets some of the financial costs for the organizers.

3. Create a waiting list

Most physical events are limited in some capacity, whether by resources, venue limitations, or other factors. If your event has a cap, make sure to establish a waiting list. This gives you a good indication when planning the event. It might be that your venue is too small, or you're underutilizing some of your resources. But it also ensures that whenever someone cancels, you can immediately invite others from the waiting list. This ensures that every spot is filled.

A (partial) refund policy for attendees who cancel ahead of time could give better guarantees for attendees to buy their tickets in the first place. This adds flexibility and may encourage responsible cancellations rather than no-shows.

4. Make it easy to refund or cancel

Receiving a cancellation or refund request is not fun. But the easier and sooner people are able to do this, the faster you can invite others. Make sure to provide the information during the ticketing process and remind people of these during confirmation and follow-ups.

Especially for free events, make it clear that you have a waiting list and that cancellations could free up a spot for others on the list. This provides a bit of an incentive for attendees to cancel registration if they're no longer able to make it.

If you're charging for tickets, you might not be able to provide full refunds, as the costs and planning of your event are ongoing already. Providing alternatives, like transferring a ticket or allowing secondary markets or platforms to resell tickets, could provide options that still ensure your seats are filled.

5. Offer incentives for (early) check-ins

The last tip is to offer incentives or perks for attendees who check in to the event, such as limited merchandise, special privileges, exclusive access, or discounts for the next events. Early check-ins can set a positive tone for the event.

Consider leveraging a mechanisms like Show Up protocol, where attendees make a deposit during registration, which is returned upon attendance. This can provide a good balance between an accessible event while still requesting a commitment from your attendees. Make sure you set an appropriate deposit fee. Too low, and attendees may still not feel committed; too high, and it might create a financial barrier, losing potential participants.

Reducing no-shows is an ongoing process. Implementing a combination of these tips will not only boost attendance but also enhance the overall event experience for both organizers and participants. Make sure that you gather feedback from attendees after the event. Understand what they liked or did not like about the event, but also follow up with people who did not show up to understand their reasons to improve future events.

Happy hosting!