Whether you run free or paid for events one of your biggest worries as an event organiser is whether everyone you expect to turn up is going to. No shows have a huge impact on an event and its profitability. Over-order on catering drinks, printing etc., and you can wipe out the tight profit margin you’ve got. In fact, as I write is blog post, I’m sitting in a noisy hotel room. I’ve got my fingers crossed that everyone who’s booked a ticket for a training course I’m running tomorrow turns up.
The big free to attend events I organise are even worse. Free events are notorious for drop-outs. I wanted to share with you some approaches that I think have led to fewer drop outs at the events I’m involved with.
Free events always have a much higher drop-out rate than paid for events and the main reason is that they don’t value your event enough. This doesn’t mean that paid for events don’t lose attendees too. When someone decides not to attend an event they’ve done some simple arithmetic in their head. Is the thing that takes precedence over the event more important than the value they get from the event. If there’s a monetary figure event it’s much easier to make those sums. If you’re event is free you’ve got to make do all you can to increase the perception of the value of the event. One of the easiest ways to do this is with scarcity. By making your ticket hard to get hold of and sought after then they will value it more. Now when weighing whether to attend your event or not they’re more likely to come.
Foresee the potential issues
One conference I’ve organised had a simple but easy to overlook issue that had a real impact on the number of attendees. When scheduling your event avoid clashes with competitors and public holidays. I think you can go a level deeper.
The particular event in question I scheduled to run, was the same day as the local elections in the UK. This didn’t mean we got more no-shows because everyone was desperate to vote. When there’s an election in the UK certain schools act as polling stations and close for the day. Our attendees who were parents (of these children in these schools) had to stay home and look after their kids. I won’t make that mistake again.
So when scheduling your events, widen your net and think about more things that might take priority over your event.
Drip feed reminders
I try to include the date and location of my conference in every single email I send out to attendees. The logic being, every time they get an email from me they’re prompted to check their diary to make sure they’ve not got a clash. Which brings me onto my next point.
Get it in their diary
A lot of event management platforms and ticketing solutions will now have links that prompt your attendees to add your event to their diaries. I’m a huge fan of this type of functionality.
If you’re running a small scale event don’t be afraid to send a meeting request out. It’ll help avoid those situations whereby an attendee knows the date of your event, but they don’t put it in their diary because they know they’ll remember. A colleague looks in their diary, thinks they are free and double books them.
Another hacky approach I quite like is creating a calendar event, saving the file, uploading this to your website and then linking to it. Then when they click the link they download the calendar item and get it in their diary.
Understand your ratios.
Drop outs aren’t an issue if you know about them and overbook accordingly. You need to know all about the drop-out rates of previous events. Are some events more prone to drop-outs compared to others you organise, does day of the week matter? How long ahead of the event do you announce dates – does it have an impact? Until you can answer questions like this you can’t confidently overbook.
Make it easy to drop out
This might sound counter intuitive. You want to decrease drop outs by making it easy to drop out?
As I said above it’s not drop-outs that are my problem, it’s anticipated drop outs that are the issue. By making it easy and obvious how to cancel tickets or change attendee details you make it much easier for you to keep track of who won’t be attending your events. Allowing you either to overbook or scale back your commitments.
Kelvin Newman is the founder and managing director of Rough Agenda, a company with the lofty ambition of helping Digital Marketers do their job a little better, the main way we do this is through the free to attend specialist digital marketing events BrightonSEO, Content Marketing Show, MeasureFest and Biddable World.
Written by: Kelvin Newman