How to reduce no-shows at meetings and events?

We sure have all been there: a full day of preparations but now finally the dinner table is charmingly set, that roast smells amazing in the oven, the candles are lit, the champagne is in the fridge for the welcome drink and that 2009 Brunello di Montalcino is in the decanter, waiting to be served. With your amazing roast. And the starters. And the sides. And you? You are just looking wonderful.

And then the phone beeps. A message. ‘Sorry, dear, but we’re unable to make it tonight. Mike has not been feeling well and I am exhausted after a whole day at the office. Hope you didn’t go through too much trouble. See you soon!’ Oh, the feelings and thoughts going through your head! If you could only honestly voice them! ‘It’s ok. Hope Mike feels better and don’t worry, it was just a small get together anyway. Talk soon!’ Get the picture? One can only imagine the frustration. Unfortunately, this is what happens so many times when we fail to understand the work that goes behind the organisation of any kind of event, be it a private, intimate night with friends, or the launch of a new product, a seminar or a convention.

It is arguably in ‘fashion’ to sign up for an event and if something else comes up, we fail to consider that our ‘Sign Up Here’ has actual consequences. We might not think about it, but food and drinks are calculated based on the participants, the meeting room was chosen accordingly, not to mention that staff busy with the organisation, the speakers or performers invited with the prospect of a full and vibrant room, the goodie bags prepared, the possible security in place and the list goes on. A big disappointment for all stakeholders involved if the number of attendees dramatically drops.

So, if you are reading this, the first thing to do is to put ourselves in the shoes of the organisers.

While that responsibility to participate rests with every one of us, as the event organiser, there are a few steps you can take to prevent no-shows

  1. People may have the intention to attend but are accidentally double-booked. What to do? Send a kind reminder regularly and intensify the frequency of the reminders as the date approaches.
  2. How about taking the ‘airplane’-approach? As the date closes in, open an online check-in, for example, 24 hours prior to the event. It will give a clear indication of how many people will be attending, and you will still be in time to remind the ones who have not ‘checked-in’. Besides, you will have less queue on-site the next morning, as the majority will have registered online. And, like at the airports, participants can just pass by the counter to collect their badges.
  3. Make it appealing to register. As in so many instances, communication is the key: if it’s ‘just one of those company events’, attendance might not be what you have estimated. It is your responsibility as the organiser to make it appealing, at all times. Early birds might lose interest, keep the excitement going, at all times. The truth is, if you can’t sell properly, nobody will buy.
  4. Set a date after which it will not be possible to register. Make it clear that the ‘late wakers’ can be added to – another airport classic – a stand-by list, but that, of course, doesn’t mean a place is guaranteed. Participants will be more willing to come, knowing they will be the first in line.
  5. Play it on the feelings: If nothing else helps, portray the situation at the beginning of the article and hope for the best!

Keep Your Meetings at the Most Optimal Time