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How to avoid last-minute cancelations?

Jen T.

People in my Meetup group have been pretty good so far about updating their RSVP for an event, but often it is last minute (within 1-2 hours of the start time). Any ideas on how to reduce this? It would be nice too if Meetup had a feature where people have until, say 30 minutes before the event to cancel?

Up -10 rated Down
Teresa Jun 24, 2013 02:11PM EDT
Smartphones/texters have a bit of an advantage over those that phone. I know it's the best way to reach me on short notice!
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Gary Jun 25, 2013 01:12PM EDT
We usually charge $2 per event using Amazon. That way people are more serious about making their choice. They have some "skin in the game" as they say. I've noticed that some members will sign up for multiple events on several Meetup groups, then pick and choose at the last minute. Or worse, not cancel at all. We have a 3 strikes and you're out policy.
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Jen T Jul 08, 2013 09:57AM EDT
I think that this is just going to happen, regardless. If they weren't able to cancel less than 30 minutes before an event, then they'd just no show. Instituting a policy on no shows and late cancels would be the only way to regulate this. We have a policy, though I don't strictly enforce it. I rarely have someone who offends more than once. But at every meetup there is someone who cancels after I leave my house on the way to the event! I count canceling within 2 hours of the event the same as a no show.

This is my policy:

*Attendance Policy:

*Respect and consideration for others are Top Priority; be considerate by refraining from being a "NO SHOW" (Not showing up and leaving your RSVP a "yes", or changing RSVP to a "no" within 2 hours of an event and not communicating with the organizer) or a "LATE CANCEL" (Cancelling out of an event within 24 hrs of the event).

*Events take work for organizers to coordinate, especially those requiring RSVPs. Make sure you are able to make it to an event to which you RSVP and if you anticipate a conflict or being late, give us a heads up. We understand that things come up and life interferes, but please do your best. ;)

*If you find that you can't make it to something you've signed up for -- CHANGE YOUR RSVP as soon as possible, or call/text/message an organizer/event host if it is within 2 hours of the event. Events take time & energy to plan. If you don't show up AND make no effort to let the Event Planner know what happened --- that's a "NO SHOW".

*No Show/Late Cancel policy: If you have a history of doing this (we keep track of attendance on your profile), we won't be able to count on you to show up when you say you are going to. Out of respect and courtesy to others that DO show up, we may bump you to the waiting list for meetups with limited space in favor of those with a positive attendance history. If you make a habit out of no showing or late cancelling, we may remove you from the group.
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Ed Aug 05, 2013 10:14AM EDT
Disclaimer: No one policy will guarantee a cure toward no-shows, the purpose of this article is to reveal to you different ways of dealing with no-shows in a meetup group. Which policy you choose is dependent on what kind of group environment you and your leadership team decides to build.

No shows can be managed at two levels:
1-Strategic level with well designed no-show policies reflecting the vibe of the group
2-At an event level with mitigation tactics

The no-show policies a group implements are set upon by the senior organizers based upon their vision of the group's environment. Some groups desiring to have an 'everyone is welcomed' environment may have a very lenient no-show policy while other groups where dedication and loyalty is key may play a "one strike and you're out" policy. Below is a list of common no-show policies
-Don't have a policy at all
-Have a 3 strikes and you're out
-One strike an you're out

Having a stricter rule does require extra time from the event host from preparing a guest list, auditing attendance and removing no-shows from the group. From a strategic level, a stricter rule does keep the group pure of no-shows in the long run (like having good genes).

Dealing with no-shows at an event level:
-Avoid events where the organizers have to pay first
-Require payment to RSVP
-Payment as deposit which is given back (or credited to purchases) at the event- You lose out on transaction paypal charges.
-Give lots of reminders & warnings and follow through with no-shows to set an example (People may fear you as an authoritarian)
-Budget no-shows as an event expense, order 12 tickets and expect 2 will be unclaimed.
-Positively reinforce those who came out (email and thank them for coming out)

As mentioned in the beginning, there isn't a one method fits all. In the end it comes down to the vibe you want your group to have.
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Val Aug 13, 2013 12:22PM EDT
Depending on the no show
Being held to work late
Sick child or No sitter
Car trouble or traffic
The amount of no shows you have within a certain time frame (6 months) either you are in or out. We provide 2 can be reach numbers for all events No call, no show, you're out after 3 times .We have no refund policy in place for some of our events.With the exception of "The dog ate my homework", trust me when I tell you I have heard my share of poor excuses Those folks are no longer in our groups
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Nicole Aug 13, 2013 03:41PM EDT
The group that I help organize has in place a 3 strikes your out policy on No Shows. It does help, but there are still people that don't grasp that concept of it.
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Darrell Aug 29, 2013 09:57AM EDT
I organize a large foodie group of over 4400 members and 20-40 events per month. When it is important for whatever reason that members who rsvp honor their rsvp, I will require a reservation deposit which is refunded if the member attends the event. Our deposits vary widely... from $2.00 to $50.00. Obviously, the higher the deposit, the greater the likelihood the member not be a no show.

However, even the $2.00 deposit works miracles and with any size deposit, our no show rate is probably around 2-3% or less when a deposit is utilized. People rarely no show when a deposit is required. I have a 2 strikes in one year and you are out policy... but if they forfeited a deposit, then I don't count it against them as they will usually email me with an explanation and apology... truthful or not... We simply have too many events and members for me to be an Attendance Monitor.

Many of our events, it doesn't matter if people no show... i.e. County Fair, picnics, comedy show... etc. So, no deposit is required and if people no show, it doesn't bother me and I don't count it against them. Some dining events requires a specific number of people at each table, so it is vital everyone shows up, so a deposit is required and if the no show significantly impacts the event or group, I might even boot them for one strike...

Meetup groups are not a democracy... they are a dictatorship...
Up 24 rated Down
Digne Sep 23, 2013 02:14PM EDT
I consider "no shows" a sign of poor manners. It depends on how you were brought-up and it's not the organizers duty teach people good manners. "No shows" can destroy a once vital group, if the behavior becomes acceptable, so I just have a policy of banning those that do not show especially when there is a waiting list. Also, as much as I work to organize an event, I make sure the RSVP's put in "work" such as paying a fee, then later confirm with their cell#, emergency contact person and tel.#, submit post-meetup photos and a brief review of the meet-up. So far reviews have been positive and the quality of the members are excellent.
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Marty or/and Nomi Sep 30, 2013 10:11AM EDT
My policy is the following "frequent no shows and last minute cancellations are grounds to be dropped at organizers discretion" I also have as part of the initial questions whens omeone joins the group "if you are unable to attend a "yes" rsvp, would you please amend your rsvp or call the host as soon as you can?" that way, they know the policy.

If they do get a no show, or frequent last minute cancellations I send a friendly reminder of the policy,
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Paul Ikeda Dec 06, 2013 05:31PM EST
Here's a tip to help cut down on cancellations.

As the hosts, we tend to think in terms of clearing the calendar for an event so a lot of RSVP lead time seems to make more sense to us.

The problem is that most members probably won't put as much of a priority on attending a meetup. They may RSVP early but if something better comes along, they will end up clearing the meetup date for something else, not the other way around.

Also, if you have a limited number of spots available and a member isn't sure if they can make it, once they see the event will fill up before they are sure they can make it, they will RSVP while they still can and cancel later if they need to. This is not the fault of the member. It's the fault of the host because they were given no other choice.

1) You can post the meetup well in advance but you should not open RSVP until a few days before the event. You can send out reminders when RSVP opens at a later date. A member who RSVPs 2 weeks ahead of time is much more likely to cancel than one who RSVPs 3 days before the event.

2) Schedule your RSVP to open at a convenient time such as 8 PM on a week day. This will allow your members to cluster on the site during the opening and create a rush of RSVPs as opposed to having them trickle in over a couple weeks. When members who are just curious or on the fence about attending witness this, they decide to attend as well. It's similar to the line for a popular night club which attracts more positive attention.

3) I use a point system where the first couple RSVPs will earn a point. More on points later. The point is that you need an incentive to get the ball rolling when the RSVP first opens. No one likes to be first and if members see hesitation to RSVP at the opening it's negative feedback that must be avoided.

4) Reserve a certain number of spots for a 2nd RSVP to open on the day of the event or evening before. This is needed for members who aren't sure they can make it as I pointed out earlier.

Another great benefit from splitting your RSVP into to times is with fewer spots to fill during your first RSVP, it will fill more easily and quickly. Again more positive feedback.

With a 2nd RSVP you can now give your point system some teeth. I award points for the first few RSVPs and showing up on time to the event and deduct points for cancellations, late-shows, no-shows. When members are negative in points, they will be ineligible to use RSVP1 and may only RSVP during the more limited RSVP2. It's only appropriate. Now problem members who cancelled before won't cancel when they've RSVPd so close to an event. I record members points in their title. This self enforces the rule because if a member tries to cheat and use RSVP1 when negative, it will show up in their title when on the attending list.

5) A very nice benefit to having scheduled RSVP openings is you can more easily track the interest for an event by looking to see how many members are on your sight during the openings.

6)Always try to limit supply just short of demand. You can use the information you gained from point 5 to accurately gauge how many spots you should allow for your meetup. The idea is to create a musical chairs type situation so RSVPs always fill fast which is more positive feedback. If you actually meet demand, the last spot will always be slow to fill which is negative feedback. We've all seen this tactic used to great effect many times before when trying to buy the hottest toy or game console during Christmas time.

7) All of this positive feedback is actually a feedback loop. Each meetup will fill faster and faster until your RSVPs literally fills in an instant. Seriously, mine fill in the time it takes to refresh the page (less than a second). When this happens you can now create value for the points members have earned by allowing members to spend their points to Pre-RSVP before RSVP1 for a limited number of spots. I only allow members who have 4 points or more the privilege to purchase their Pre-RSVP for 1 point which they get back when they show up on time.

8)Also when a member gets shut out of an event despite trying to RSVP right at the opening, you can award them a voucher which will be good for a Pre-RSVP to their next event so it can't happen to a member twice in a row.

I will follow with my results in another post.

Paul Ikeda
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Paul Ikeda Dec 06, 2013 05:44PM EST
My Results:
I run a meetup group for legal home poker games in California so my seats were limited to 9. I started with posting games early and opening RSVP as soon as they were posted. It worked for a while but last minute cancellations increased each game for the reasons stated in the earlier post, until a game finally cancelled because of this.

I came up with the system shared in the previous post and used it the following week. Nothing changed but the RSVP system. The RSVP1 filled in 10 minutes and RSVP2 filled in a couple minutes with no cancellations. The next game took 4 minutes for RSVP1 and less than a minute for 2. The third RSVP1 filled in around 10 seconds and RSVP2 in 2 seconds. After that nearly every RSVP has filled in the time it takes to refresh the page! This is the effect of the positive feedback loop which only increases with time. My meetups are small for only 9 spots so I can't say a larger one will fill instantly but as long as demand is greater than supply, it should always be the case regardless of size. Think of online ticket sales for a popular concert.

My cancellations, late-shows, and no-shows have been reduced to nearly being non-existent. As of right now I have maybe 5 or 6 members who are negative in points (all inactive now) out of 143 members 80 of which are active members.
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Luke Bonner May 21, 2014 02:45PM EDT
Umm, Meetup does have a feature to only allow RSVPs until a certain time.

I just set it to a day or two before the Meetup, so there's a sense of urgency.
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Kathe Kline Briney May 27, 2014 11:29AM EDT
I utilize the question feature for RSVPs and I ask for a phone number. Just the fact tht they have to give me their number cuts down on no shows considerably.
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Natalie Jun 24, 2014 01:47PM EDT
I like the idea of scheduling RSVP times. What if the events include hotel and travel accommodations that need to be made before hotel rooms sell out? How do you suggest one schedules RSVPS for such events. Looking forward to your feedback.
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Jen T. Jun 26, 2014 10:36AM EDT

There are features with event planning where you can charge a fee for an event. It might be worth asking people to put down a deposit to confirm their spot. (Some require you to pay in order to even RSVP).

I think, simply set deadlines and send out reminders. Drop anyone who hasn't paid the deposit.

For something like this, it might be worth creating event pages for each activity so you can better keep track of everyone. I will do this sometimes if my group is going for dinner and then going somewhere after. Rather than having people say "oh, I'll come meet you after dinner", we create two separate events so we can get an accurate headcount for dinner. Set a deadline that RSVPs close. I actually track it for dinner RSVPs that if anyone cancels after the closing period, they are marked as a "no show".
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Susan Sep 10, 2014 02:15PM EDT
We drop members from the group after 2 no shows. After the first time they get a friendly email reminding them of the policy. If it happens again it's probably just how they do things & we really don't want people like that in the group anyway. Of course somethings are excusable so there are exceptions.
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Roo Oct 06, 2014 09:04AM EDT
I run a group that primarily does weekend mountain bike camping trips, typically limited to 6-8 people. When I first started the group, many people signed up in advance of the trip (full, waitlist), and then canceled a week or so out from the trip. This was annoying, and some trips cancelled because everyone backed out.

I tried doing a refundable deposit. Sign up with a $10 reservation, refunded when the participant attend the trip. If the person cancelled without a really good reason, forfeit the $10. This made me feel a little like a jerk if someone cancelled for a semi-valid reason like they decided they needed to work that weekend, or had something else come up. I had a couple people leave the group after I didn't give them a refund.

Then I hit on what appears to be a good solution all around: We have trip planning meetings, and it is mandatory to come to a planning meeting before going on a trip. I have a digital projector, and go over the trip and map; we discuss water stops, gear, likely temperatures, camp sites, bear safety, etc. We have some members who are not local, and we will set up Skype participation in trip planning meetings. At the end of the planning meeting we typically set up the carpool based on who lives where compared to our destination (many trips are 2-4 hour drives).

If someone has been on a real-life trip before, then the planning meeting is still recommended but not required. If someone hasn't been on a trip before and can't make the planning meeting for the trip they want to go on, I am sometimes flexible about letting them on the trip anyhow if they either have experience doing similar trips on their own or have been to other trip planning meetings in the past. This limits the RSVPs to people I have met in person, and also gives me a chance to assess participants preparedness for our wilderness-type camping trips.

This has been working great for a little over a year now. It also helps with making sure that we don't get people in on backcountry camping trips over their heads.

This system would not work as well for one-day events but for other groups that run camping / backpacking / bikepacking / weekend trips, I highly recommend this approach.
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Steve Baslow Dec 30, 2014 11:40AM EST
When my group signs up there is a question asked of them;
By signing up for this or any event with use you have read and agree to the CANCELLATION Policy. Yes/No (answer required)

Plus a statement of Cancellation and my group disclaimer;


****All Events with less than 3 confirmed is CANCEL****

****No-Show, Cancellation, Disclaimer Policy****
I believe when putting your name on a list you committed and took a spot and said “YES”. We are expecting you to show up timely to begin the meeting. DO NOT BE A NO-SHOW!!

Anyone with an attendance record of constantly NO-SHOWING or being late for meetings will not be allowed to attend limited group meetings. We as a group must be aware of others group members and the trainers that set time aside to be there. Be considerate of others and their time.

When joining DSLR Photographers – Portland or event, workshop or clinic you are agreeing to the Cancellation Policy. By signing up to any meeting and joining DSLR Photographers – Portland you agree you will make every effort to attend all meetings you sign up to and cancel in a timely way if you can’t make it so we do not wait or worry about you.

By RSVP'ing to this NEW DSLR Photographers - Portland event, you are accepting all liability for yourself. You agree that you alone are responsible for the safety of you, your guest(s), and your equipment and that you are attending at your own risk. The organizers of NEW DSLR Photographers - Portland are not liable for injury, theft, damage to equipment or anything else at any of our events.

Thank you,
Steve - Founder
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Kirstie Kawana Jan 15, 2015 10:00AM EST
I find that RSVP limits work wonders. It's become a running joke that newbies don't turn up for events - this isn't true. We do ofcourse get newbies, as evidenced by our sky rocketed attendance. However the track record for newbies not showing up is much higher. However at our most sought after events we have to set an RSVP limit, and we honestly don't get no-shows at these events. People un-RSVP to allow the next person on the waiting list to attend. I reinforce this behaviour by reminding people in the newsletters that I send out (yes, I do newsletters) to un-RSVP to allow someone else to join the fun.
I agree that it does also build up momentum for the events having a waitlist. I have people messaging me trying to get a spot and it possibly creates more activity on the group page.
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