Reduce no-shows at free conferences

Any alternative or innovative solutions to reduce the cost impact of no-shows at events?

I’m an advocate for analysing past delegate no-shows to understand and identify behaviour and of course, targeting a higher registration to achieve desired numbers but the core issue boils down to impact on the budget and managing catering efficiency etc

I’m contemplating alternative catering options (i.e. less of a fixed lunch proposition and more of grazing through the day option) also moving away from free lunch to charging or subsidising lunch etc

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Would it be feasible to contact your guests the day before to confirm their attendance? Another way to get the attendees to pay more consideration could be asking them to make a small choice related to food at registration, such as whether they want a chicken or fish meal (even if you’re serving a buffet). This will help to make them realise they are being personally catered for and should therefore let you know if they cannot attend.
Charging for a ticket that includes a reasonably priced meal is certainly a good idea.

I recently ran a free conference for 550 people and had a 20% no show rate. This is despite delegates having multiple reminders and having to select breakout sessions in advance, so any advice would be great!

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That’s actually quite low - I think up to 50% is not unusual, but obviously it’s still more than you want. What do you do about catering? Could you keep the conference free but charge people in advance for lunch?

You might find some useful ideas here:

Hi Belinda,

I’d agree that 50-60% is usual. 20% would be my expectation for a paying event!

I’ve considered

  • a ballot list
  • charging a nominal fee or ‘contribution’ for catering & refreshments
  • a mandatory 48 check-ins before the event
  • charging for no-shows (administration and resource intensive and far from fruitful)

I’m also considering grazing food rather than a full catering approach (essentially bringing in Festival food stations - bite-size rather than plate etc)

Analysing past data for past trends is also a must

Looking for inspiration for something new and different!

(apologies for abrupt sentences - typing on the go!)

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Could you offer those who turn up some kind of reward? Maybe a voucher to spend with one of your sponsors or desirable free gift?

Perhaps you should also have a policy that if people fail to turn up and have not notified you, they will not be able to register for future events?

No-shows is a massive problem in the restaurant industry and increasingly they are turning to pre-payment/ reservation fees. You could think about adding a premium paid ticket option, where attendees can reserve better seats or get entry to a drinks reception with the speakers?

The check-in idea seems strong. Have you tried it?

Its tricky when the events are often public sector supported - gifts and freebies frowned upon! But i may consider a prize this year - we could explore some training options etc

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I saw an event organiser charging a refundable £5 deposit for a free event (see below screen shot) and thought that was a pretty good idea - what do you think?

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Interesting, I wonder how they administrate this?

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I know the organiser so I will find out!

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