7 Strategies: How to keep the no-show rate at your next business event under control

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to prevent no-shows completely. But, with these strategies, you’ll keep the number of participants who don’t show up at your next event as low as possible.

Is there any event where 100% of the registered attendees actually show up? Then we’d love to hear about it. Maybe Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was one of them. But even there, a few people didn’t come... for example, the father of the bride.

In the realm of business events, the reality usually looks very different. The no-show ghoul haunts all of us on a regular basis and leaves rows of empty chairs in its wake... and that’s disadvantageous for many reasons.

For one, you arrange the infrastructure (rooms, catering, electronics) based on the number of expected participants. If it isn’t clear how many people will actually participate, you can waste a lot of money this way.

Aside from that, you promise your partners, sponsors, or exhibitors a certain number of contacts at your events. If fewer people come than expected, you’ll have issues with these stakeholders.

7 topics to minimize the number of no-shows

1. Monitoring

The essential task is to get an overview of the situation as it unfolds. Is it a particular group of participants that like to register but then don’t show up? What characterizes this group? Is there a particular point in time when the participants cancel their registration, or do they just not come?

Of course, there will be great differences here depending on whether we’re talking about paid conferences, free invitation-only company events, industry trade shows or public trade shows. It’s important that you develop a good understanding of how significant your no-show problem is and which patterns can be recognized.

2. Recognition through clear visual branding

With a communication strategy that really emphasizes recognizability, you will stand out from the crowd of other events. This allows each touchpoint that you have with your target group to leave a lasting impression — and reinforces the importance of your event for the participants.

Many event organizers underestimate the extent to which they can anchor themselves in people’s minds with a communication consisting of a greeting across /all channels (print, social media, email, service emails, etc.).

3. What is really important? Finding the right focus of communication

A well-considered and well-timed content strategy picks the participants up and supports them - without being annoying. Make use of short snippets of info rather than long-winded, endless emails. Which speakers will be there? Who can people meet? Which topics?

Put yourself in the participants’ shoes. What information will help them at which point before the event? How can you make this dialog not just informative, but also entertaining? How can you create FOMO (fear of missing out) in your participants — the feeling that they need to be there? That has a great deal to do with good timing.

4. Reminder strategy

Once a participant has registered, many event organizers make the mistake of ending their dialog with them. She’s already committed now, why should we keep communicating with her?

Think carefully about when you should send additional service info (information about the arrival and hotel, a detailed program, program updates) to participants, and summarize their entire booking again at the end. That way, they have all the info at a glance.

Ask the participants to check in online 24 hours prior to the event and confirm their attendance. This will give you an idea of the no-show rate you should expect.

5. Personalization

The more a participant feels that you are speaking to them personally, the lower their no-show risk.

You can personalize communication by, for example, giving participants a personal contact with a photo and direct contact info, rather than an impersonal project team. Personalized text modules in emails or a personal login area on the website can also grab participants and connect them to the event.

6. Interaction

How can you best involve participants in planning and carrying out an event? How can you ensure that the participants see themselves as an important part of the event?

The more interactive elements you use in advance, the stronger their connection to the event will be. That can happen with user-generated content on social networks (don’t forget intuitive and unambiguous event hashtags!) or by having them participate in designing the event (for example with BarCamp elements).

7. Scarcity and pricing policy

"What costs nothing is worth nothing” — this saying is also true for events. So if you are advertising a free event (e.g. an event for customers), try to create a certain urgency with artificial scarcity. In addition, you could stipulate a fee for non-attendance in the terms and conditions for participants.

For paid events, tiered pricing is a good option. Super early bird, early bird, normal price, last minute, super last minute, two-for-one — there is no limit to what you can do. But: it needs to suit your event, without creating the impression that anything is being sold off too cheap.

Summary

No-shows are frustrating for everyone because they disappoint partners, sponsors, or exhibitors — and they can cost us a lot of money.

With these seven strategies, you can give participants a stronger sense of connection to your events, increase their anticipation, and avoid empty rows of seats

  1. Monitoring: How do your customers behave? Which patterns can you recognize?
  2. Recognition through clear visual branding: This will anchor you in your customer’s minds.
  3. What is really important? Timing is everything. What information do your customers need, and at which point in time?
  4. Reminders: Not too many, not too few.
  5. Personalization: The more your customer feels that you’re treating them as an individual, the fewer no-shows there will be.
  6. Interaction: Involve your customers in design and planning early on.
  7. Pricing strategy and artificial scarcity help to create a sense of urgency.

FOMO is the magic word

If customers think that they’ll miss out on something if they don’t show up for your event, then you’ve done everything right!

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