Preparation and data key to limiting event no-shows

No-shows at events are a reality, and one that is unlikely to disappear soon. But, while frustrating, conference and event organisers can use no-shows as an opportunity to improve their own services.

Ceo of SAACI, Rudi van der Vyver, says that 30% to 40% of people won’t arrive at free events. He says that this number can be reduced, if the conference objective is clearly defined, and the audience targeted carefully.

“Plan for no-shows,” Van der Vyver says. “Take advantage of statistics, and make use of data. Use this to establish exactly what your client wants and needs, and link this to the objective of the conference. For example, research for our own events has shown that for networking events in Cape Town, we get a better turnout if we host it in the evening. In Johannesburg, morning events are better attended. That’s useful to know.”

Megan McIlrath md of Event Affairs, says communication should not stop once the invitations have been accepted. “Send a reminder to those who have RSVPed a week or so before the event, which should highlight the ‘draw factor’, such as prizes or entertainment.”

But what happens when all of the above are done, and the numbers of no-shows remain high? Should delegates be punished in some way?

A recent travel industry event held in Sandton highlighted the dangers of putting the blame of no-shows on to the delegates. A photo showing the name-tags of those who had not arrived at the event was posted on social media. It later turned out that human error in the RSVP collection and collating process had led to duplicate names, names of people who had not RSVPd, and the names of people who had cancelled appearing among all the other names.

For this reason, McIlrath advises organisers to be cautious when it comes to ‘naming and shaming’ or levying a fine on no-shows. While a lot of time and effort, and cost, are involved in putting a successful event together, making delegates too aware of this does not send out the right message. “It’s almost like telling someone that you bought them a gift, and then reminding them of how much the gift cost,” she said.

Van der Vyver adds that organisers can adopt a tiered drop-down system when it comes to blacklisting. “Send the delegate a follow up email after the event, and flag them in your customer relationship management (CRM) system.” If it happens again, he says that delegates can be bumped down to cheaper events, so their financial cost to the client is limited.


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