November 26, 2020
By Mike Fletcher

In this hyper-connected world, while we’re never more than a ping, ring, tweet or beep away from conveying a new piece of event-related information, why do planners still suffer with no-shows?

You don’t need a degree in psychology to accept that in cases when the event is free-to-attend, no-shows most often occur when the ticket holder weighs-up the perceived value of attending against the value of say, spending time with their family or staying in the office to work.

When a financial commitment to attend hasn’t taken place, all the assurances in the world will turn to dust if the attendee doesn’t hold your event’s content or anticipated outcomes in high enough regard.

Enhancing the perceived value of attending your event, whether the ticket is free or not, will help reduce no-shows and create word-of-mouth excitement and loyalty. Here are our eight tips for how to do it.

tips and tricks

Photo by Sam Dan Truong on Unsplash

1) Introduce a paid ticket option

A limited paid ticket option for free-to-attend events, helps to frame the perceived value of the free ticket option. For example, by giving people the opportunity to pay say, £20 for reserved seating, a pre-event breakfast networking place, or a post-event ‘meet and greet’ with the speakers, free ticket holders will subconsciously place a value of up-to-£20 on their attendance.

When the limited paid ticket option sells out, the value of having a free place to an in-demand event increases further in people’s minds.

2) Create FOMO (fear of missing out)


By building a real sense of community and anticipation around your event, it compels people to show-up or miss-out (and nobody likes to think they’re missing out).

Have a social media content strategy in place, which features video testimonials, facts about the business outcomes, speaker engagement and other promotional assets.

Make it easy for registered attendees to share their excitement across social networks, using an event hashtag or through joining a dedicated LinkedIn group or Facebook Event page.

Providing an option to request meetings or send messages to other registrants via the dedicated event app also helps to build a broader commitment to attend.

3) Don’t devalue attendance

Personalise every bit of event communication so that no one ever feels like they’re just a number. “Numbers” don’t feel an obligation to attend. If you tell people that by registering alone, they’ll receive access to live streams or speaker presentations, it’s more likely there will be empty seats. When you devalue attendance, your invitees will as well.

4) Maintain contact

Free staff up to focus on attendee relationships and FOMO-inducing marketing before, during and after the event. Financial adviser group Tenet, uses the CrowdCompass event app, tied-into their Cvent registration system, allowing staff more time to speak to each registered attendee to answer any questions they may have.

Crowd Compass

While on the phone, they explain the benefits of using the app and make sure the attendee has installed it and logged in. This extra personal touch has resulted in 100% attendance at over 70% of their events and reduced their overall no-show to an average of 3%.

Any registrants that still fail to attend should be followed-up with to discover why they couldn’t come, what they may need, and how you should direct your marketing efforts in the future.

People who know their non-attendance is being monitored are more likely to show up next time.

5) Pre-event online check-in

A mandatory online check-in process before the event will provide registrants with their downloaded badge (a psychological confirmation of intent to attend).

It also speeds up the on-site registration process and provides planners with a picture of who may not be attending well in advance, allowing them to follow-up on potential no-shows with targeted calls and messaging.

6) Personalised event content

Involve your audience when planning your event content. If last year’s attendees feel more invested, having helped shape the content for this year, they are more likely to return and tell their friends and colleagues.

Focus Group

Host focus groups, create steering committees, run social media polls and use your opted-in email database to help shape content and to book those speakers that will result in a must-attend event.

7) Educate people on what non-attendance actually means

If you truly considered that your non-attendance at an event would have an environmental impact, result in food wastage and incur a potential cost for the organiser, would you still fail to show up without a valid reason? We’re all human so find ways to let people know the impact of failing to let you know that their plans have changed.

These days, there are a lot of webinars and events that encourage people to RSVP just to be eligible for the recordings or videos and to get them onto a marketing list. This has conditioned people into believing RSVPs don’t count for much. If you are serving food or paying a per person cost, ensure your audience knows that you need an accurate delegate count.

8) Issue certificates / CPD points

For educational events, offer a certificate of attendance or get your event accredited to offer Continuing Professional Development points for those that attend the full content.


Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.
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