How to Deal with No Show RSVPs

Posted: October 23, 2019
By: Mike Zornek

Nothing can be more exciting for a new group organizer than seeing a bunch of “Yes” RSVPs fly in as events are posted to the group calendar. Then the day comes, you’ve picked a venue that can hold the 50 people, ordered food that can feed the 50 people and then 20 people actually show up. It can feel demoralizing and sadly it’s all too common amongst meetup groups.

In this post I will share some pointers on how to improve your RSVP accuracy and regain better attendee estimates.

Understanding the Problem

In my experience as a group organizer, people become event no shows for a few reasons:

  1. They forgot they said Yes weeks ago.
  2. They think their no-show will be overlooked and/or have little impact.
  3. They like to keep a fluid calendar and there is no penalty to say Yes and be a no show.

Personally, I feel like if you are old of enough to attend these kind of events you should be mature enough to understand these problems and your personal impact. That said, this article is about changing behavior and not ethics.

Educating Your Attendees

To help stem this problem you need to educate the attendees as to RSVPs importance to you and thus the group as a whole.

I usually recommend a section at the opening of an event where a host goes over the common things. It is here I would insert a slide and a few words, reminding people to keep up-to-date their RSVPs and why this is important (for food ordering, wait lists, etc). If things get desperate enough, start a sign in sheet and say that if you are found to be a no show more than once you’ll be put on probation list from group events.

After doing this spiel for a few months, most regulars will get the message.

You as a group organizer can also do pre-meeting reminders. I find it’s helpful to email the members a week before the event and then the day before, asking for RSVPs to be updated. If your group uses a Slack or Twitter account, post on those channels too. Automation can help with this if you are tech savvy but a good event checklist can help remind yourself to post these messages get the RSVP accuracy you need.

In one of my past groups this problem hit us, as there was a hard cap on people in the room, and after instituting these we had a much more favorable RSVP list.

Update: October 24, 2019

I was reminded by Tom after posting that charging a nominal fee for your event is a great way to filter out no shows pretty easily and I agree. I think this works better for more one off events more so than monthly events but depending on your audience and context could be something to consider. Also, if you already have sponsorship for food and drink, putting the door money towards a local charity can be a nice thing to consider. Thanks for the feedback Tom!

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