Getting attendees to arrive on time

I find that when I hold events, a lot of attendees arrive either late or at the very last minute, which is disruptive for everyone else. Any tips on how to encourage people to arrive early, or at least not all at once 5 minutes before the start time?

I find incentivising can help. E.g. coffee and pastries will be served on arrival 09.00-09.15 - the event starts at 09.15 sharp.


Was just about to reiterate what @KtMcPhee said! Not sure what kinds of events you host but for the last morning conference I organised, I did networking from 8.30am - 9.30am before the talk started. This meant that school/work traffic (which gets busy around 9am) had died down by 9.30 and made it easier for people to travel and park up :+1:

@clairedibs do you ever publish a time at which check in closes for your conferences? E.g. “Check in is from 8.30-9.30, after which we will not be able to let attendees enter?” - I know this is a strict line to take but it would definitely encourage people to be on time, but is surely preferable to having the first few speaker sessions half empty as is often the case.

I haven’t done that for any conferences but it’s not a bad idea. I mean, you know you’ll let them in anyway but it gives them “the fear” so should encourage people to be on time :slight_smile:

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I’d completely agree with what’s been said above. We always say, for example, our event times are 07:30 - 09:30, but the actual welcome isn’t until 08:00. On the agenda we label it as registration and networking time, and give them tea/coffee so they’re ready to start the event by 08:00. A call to be seated is usually done about 5 minutes before the start time.

You could also consider adding a ‘last registration time’ to your agenda.

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But if registration is open till 9.30am but the event starts at 8.00am surely you get people wandering in during the sessions? I’d be interested to know if any speakers find this distracting at all?

What a seminar company I sometimes partner with does seems very effective.

They normally have 3-4 famous speakers (to drag in the crowd) speaking at their 2-day events… the second hottest one has the first slot on the first day (and sometimes the last slot of the day too). Then the 3rd hottest starts the second day and they end with the hottest one. This makes people arrive early on both days and stay until the end so they can hear all the seminar speakers that are allocated in between these speakers.



I tend to have the exact opposite problem - my customer base is generally older people and they like to get to places early. This is a huge bugbear at times because I like doors to open as late as possible to allow for maximum set-up time, staff briefings etc. I worked at an event a month ago and we had guests turning up almost two hours early, which really interfered with set-up. If anyone has figured out a polite way of saying “Please don’t turn up early” without sounding unwelcoming, I’d be very interested.


Wow, two hours, that is keen! Have you tried giving a doors open time (maybe 15/20 mins prior to registration)? I think it’s reasonable. You wouldn’t turn up to a shop before 9am and expect them to open for you.

I too have this problem sometimes. Depending on the venue we sometimes arrange a separate holding area for early arrivals. I know this isn’t ideal or possible in all venues, but it’s worth checking.


I’d suggest you ask your audience. There is a regular event I run where people were arriving later and later each time, purely because they know we are friendly and laid back. But it was getting too much and so I contacted everyone explaining ‘we’ve noticed a lot of people struggle to make it for x time, would you prefer we start at y time?’ The replies were overwhelmingly that actually they would rather start on time and so they made the effort from then on. It helps to know you are doing it for your audience not your schedule iyswim.

For the early ones, we give them a bright and cheery welcome and explain doors open at x and if they are at a loose end “whilst we are getting everything set up ready and safe for you here” there is a lovely cafe down the road/nice park/free museum/whatever or a couple of seats in the foyer. Of course once the first early person has gone to the suggested place, other early people are happy to follow!

Great tips!

Yeah, exactly. Unfortunately we’ve set something of a precedent for our guests by doing so :expressionless:

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Excellent shout on the cafe idea. Will definitely be using this.

Oops, thought this was a thread I had set up, hence replying to everything.

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This also works well for the team and I, we usually plan for a buffer time of 30 minutes.To make sure the event starts and ends at the prescribed time.

However, event start times are heavily dependant on the current traffic situation in my city.

Do the people who have arrived on time become frustrated if you don’t start on time due to traffic?

These are all great tips in my opinion. Another good way to ensure they arrive in time, if you have the means, is by providing them corporate transportation. That will not only guarantee that your guests get there on time, but leave them impressed and more likely to enjoy and recommend your event!