No-shows. A peculiar and difficult to manage phenomenon at business events. You aim for a full house and engaging breakout sessions, but suddenly half the seats are empty. Carefully prepared food ends up being tossed out and the networking market is at risk of becoming a speed-dating session with the catering staff. To put it simply, the consequences of no-shows are waste, waste, and more waste – of time, money, food, equipment and effort. So the question is, how can we limit the risk of a no-show and, in doing so, ensure that the intended impact is still achieved?
10 ways to prevent No-Show
The no-show percentage at business events is between 10 and 30 percent, the highest percent being at free events and most often business partnership events. But we also experience no-shows at conferences and even paid events. This is not due to factors outside of everyone’s control, which will always happen, such as heavy snowfall, traffic jams due to an accident or a cloudburst. What we are talking about is no-shows where guests register to attend, but then never show up.
No-shows have a direct impact on all cornerstones of an event: program, logistics, catering, and staff. Missed opportunities and disappointment are the result. The layout of workshops and sub-sessions is no longer appropriate, people miss out on their favorite speaker or workshop unnecessarily, an innovative idea for working with digital network groups yields extremely poor results, and the panel discussion with voting boxes is no longer representative. No-shows are also painfully visible in terms of catering, with the excess food having to be thrown out because HACCP requirements often do not permit it to be donated to a food bank or homeless shelter.
Socially responsible encounters
The battle against no-shows starts with awareness. We consider it part of corporate social responsibility and shaping a responsible attitude. You might call it ‘socially responsible encounters’! In this case, responsibility is shared by the client, event agency, and visitors. In our view, there is much talk about the financial consequences of no-shows, but there is also much to be earned by also focusing on the content and social aspects. Most people have little to no idea about all that is involved in terms of creativity, organisation and logistics when it comes to an event. And that their input, attendance, and ideas are not only desired, but missed.
Timing is everything
Fortunately, there are various ways to limit no-show rates as much as possible. Communication plays an essential role in turnout. It is important to start on time with communication – without starting too early. You can always send a ‘save the date’ notice, but the invitation itself should be sent not sooner than six to eight weeks before the event. Most people cannot plan further ahead than that, even though they are interested. With international events over several days, the invitation can be sent a little sooner since flights and hotel rooms need to be booked. Another way to keep track of possible turnout is to monitor registration during the early stages. For instance, you can ask invitees to not only register, but also to deregister when they are unable to attend. Mailing lists are another important aspect. But all too often, such lists turn out to be outdated, resulting in the wrong people being notified about the event. So make sure your mailing lists are fully up to date and in keeping with the event theme.