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Ask an Organizer
How do I encourage people who've RSVP'd to actually attend?
Sometimes lots of people RSVP to a Meetup, but not very many will actually attend. How do I encourage people to show up when they've RSVP'd, especially in a positive way?
I'm a Co-Organizer of the NYC Lean Startup Meetup. Here's what I've learned...
My Meetup used to have a problem with flakes. We cut that down by charging a nominal fee ($5) to RSVP for our Meetups. When people have some skin in the game, they are much more likely to attend.
We still have some people flake, so we set our RSVP cap at about 10% higher than the room can accomodate.
I recommend the pre-paid deposit or PIAGRA (Pay In Advance, Ret Refunded when you Attend) system, you can refund in full to those who attend. And deduct event fees if you want. Or, you can charge a few dollars as a non-refundable fee, and also require that payment to RSVP. Same thing
Some groups instead count the # of strikes (how many times a member flakes out of events or doesn´t show up, and remove people who do that. It is more work to put it in practice and it is kind of based on fear of being removed. I prefer the deposit system and only use it if I really need an exact count. For most events you don´t need it
As the organizer of Pursuit Of Happiness social club, we:
* Remind people that Late Cancellation, NO SHOW would make the organizers NOT HAPPY. Being the Pursuit Of Happiness social club, you want to make sure that EVERYBODY is HAPPY especially the organizers.
* Remove people who has a LOT OF NO SHOWS from the club.
* DO NOT DO events that require financial commitments.
* Manage your own expectation, i.e. expect X% NO SHOW.
* Have INTERESTING EVENTS.
Kenneth Fung, AKA Captain Woo-oh!!!
Organizer, Pursuit Of Happiness social club.
I run the London Cultureseekers Meetup Group in the UK. I think you have got to expect some people who RSVP Yes not to show up for an event. If you have just setup your group, you have got to persevere, so don't be disheartened if you don't get the numbers at first.
1) For those people that do turn up, doing things like taking group photos of your members at the event enjoying themselves and having fun works, as you can then post these on your group page after and it will encourage others to come along. You can also tag people in your photos.
2) Encourage those that turned up to post feedback on the site afterwards, as this again will be read by others and encourage them to come along to your next event if they know it was a good event.
3) Maybe send a follow up email afterwards to those that attended the event, thanking them for attending and informing them of your next few events.
4) Most importantly, keep putting on events and word will spread around the meetup community in your town. People from your event will go to other meetup group's events and tell others what a great time they had! Word of mouth is the best recommendation.
We have a winetasting group and everyone chips in for the wines in advance. We say we don't give refunds, so people have a real incentive to show up. (As a practical matter, we do try to refund money to people who cancel in advance and we try hard to fill their spot. No-shows do not get a refund) Also, our events are small, intimate gatherings (10-12 people) so people know it matters if they show up or not.
I've found it to be about 50% participation overall. When previous Organizers tried to charge a nominal fee, no one signed up (our events are mostly hiking, so they never cost money). I just plan on people not coming, and don't wait around for the no-shows. I've sometimes contacted the no-shows after the event and asked what happened to them- in a nice, friendly way of course. I also send out my phone number to people a couple of days before the event, and let them know it's better to text and cancel than to no-show.
Some groups have a zero-tolerance policy, but that's a tough call as you want to encourage people to participate.
It was a difficult decision, but I instituted a 3 strikes and you're banned for 6 months policy. I have way too many people RSVP for an event "just in case they can make it" - since ALL my events have large waiting lists, this is very annoying.
I thought abut a deposit or fee per event, but the hassle with refunds for legit cancellations, etc. was not worth it.
No-shows were averaging 30% - not acceptable. Now it's down to 20% and dropping. Because all my outings fill up fast, people RSVP to hold their place, even if they have no intention of actually attending. This banning policy has already eliminated several of the worst offenders.
I've been organizing Meetups for two years in the Seattle area. I've watched the No Show problem become extreme. I've seen emails from other organizers to their groups that say "The No Shows have got to STOP!" and "32 people RSVP'd and only 12 showed up".
I started charging for ALL events two months ago. So far so good. Light attendance, but at least I can plan on people showing up. If the subject comes up, I simply say that the group has to have just a little bit of money to be able to do these great activities. Even a laminated sign is $10. I also casually mention that Meetup organizers have to pay about $150 per year to be organizers. Someone told me to call it an administrative fee. I think that's a good idea.
I know of three Seattle organizers who have quit in discouragement over this issue. It's time to do something about it.
I run a hiking group. It is just 8 months old with 106 members, so I'm still experimenting with marketing techniques. Although I don't have too many no-shows, I took action before it became a problem by doing the following:
* I wrote an attendance policy that first talks about respect and appreciation for the work that a Host puts into creating the event, then talks about the consequences of no-shows. A no-show history will get a person bumped on events that have limited space. The attendance policy is posted in the PAGES and was sent to all members.
* I followed that up with a couple of events that DID have limited attendance. This generated a feeling of exclusiveness and reinforced my management of the RSVP list.
* I turn on payments for events at $1.00 and call it a donation toward the group website expense. It is non-refundable. Once a person commits even $1 they have some skin-in-the-game and a much more likely to show up. (I don't charge dues, just event fees.)
* Other events with fees greater than $1.00 have a cancellation date that is several days in advance - thus eliminating last minute cancellations. Cancellations under the cutoff window do not get refunded unless the individual finds their own replacement.
Stated in a positive way, my members do understand that this is necessary. (My core members are amazing.) Anyone who is so narrow minded to not understand really doesn't belong in my group. I'm not so desperate for members that I need to put up with whiney people - my group is just a hobby, not a business - so I want everything about it to be positive. I drop and/or block negative personalities. I also drop people who have not even looked at the website for over four months.
We have a no show police. We was having a large group numbers of people saying they would come but they don't show or rsvp. We write them a kind letter and let them know that 3 no shows and their membership was canceled to the group. Just one letter has stopped almost all no show problems. We explaint also that the host goes through all of the trouble for exnumber of people expecting 28 people and only 9 shows up. It really inconsiderate to the host.
I run several language exchange Meetup groups. Probably a couple of months before a language exchange event to which only 1 person (aside from me) honoured a "yes" RSVP, I posted the details of that event.
I looked forward to practicing my Spanish, and being able to give non-native speakers of English the opportunity to practice the Germanic language, too. For that event, one of the members mentioned she would be very late, but she was the only one who, among "yes" RSVPs (aside from me), who bothered to do anything more than simply RSVP'ing "yes". That event was the last one, within any of my accounting or language exchange Meetup groups, for which I didn't hand out suspensions to no-shows.
Given the above, I significantly toughened the no-show policies applicable to the accounting and language exchange Meetup groups, by including suspensions of event-attending privileges. After events in November and December that saw more than enough no-shows that my ability, to put on those events, was severely crippled, I toughened the no-show policies such that any suspension will last, after a:
- 1st no-show: to the end of the 5th month following the no-show
- 2nd no-show: to the end of the 10th month following the no-show
- 3rd no-show: forever
My main focus is on encouraging members without no-shows to honour "yes" RSVPs even before they RSVP "yes" for the 1st time. Hopefully, the new, tougher no-show policy will help do the trick.
I had a strict three-strikes policy when I was running my group, and I did abide to it. It required to keep attendance at each event and edit RSVP lists manually afterward which is extra work particularly if you have 50+ people on the RSVP list.
My policy cut down on the no shows of about 20-30% but I still had too many no shows for my taste.
If I were to run a group again, I would charge $2.00 to RSVP. No money given back.
I've read the above answers, but the one thing I've learned is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. I've started a group in October of 2013 and haven't had a no-show yet. The secret is to letting you're people know from the very beginning that no-shows will not be tolerated. There's no polite or easy way to convey this. We have a by-laws page, and one of the by-laws is that no-shows are not acceptable. First offense is a courtesy call, the second offense within a 12 month period is immediate removal from the group. If it's a group that they truly want to be a part of, they won't commit the offense. If people no-show, it means they don't value their membership in the group and it isn't a major loss when they are removed. Our rsvp's run about 70% if the group, and everyone shows up because they love the group.
No-shows can be a real problem but I've found it unnecessary to actually kick people out for spacing out. That's the declared policy and I'm not averse to enforcing it if need be, but I've found that personal email saying that's imminent or under consideration is effective in inspiring offenders to stop RSVPing, which isn't the ideal solution (actually showing up would be) but it's better than having an angry ex-member out on the street. Rehabilitation is preferable to alienation, and private admonishment leaves open the possibility of a better outcome, eventually, than public punishment.
Of course, some people are too clever by half. I monitor several groups and occasionally notice people RSVPing to simultaneous events, preserving the option to decide among them when the time arrives. I always communicate first, but I'm not shy about changing people's RSVP for them, and if the pattern continues dropping them altogether. That sort of me-first-ism is tough to cure.