Ideas to increase the attendees/registered user ratio at free Meetups

As many other Meetup organizers I am also frustrated by the low attendance / registration ratio.

Recently I had an event where 50 people registered, 35 were on waiting list and only 13 showed up.

Earlier I had an event where 180 registered and 60 showed up.

Many times when I attend Meetups I see that only 20-30% of the people who registered actually show up.

It is especially problematic if the venue has a small space or if you need to make some kind of a commitment to the venue. For example if you go to a restaurant, 10 people register and your make a reservation for 10 people then having only 3 can be a real problem. The restaurant might charge you for the extra seats or they might not accept your reservation the next time.

If you have a meeting room that can only have 8 people in, how do you make sure the number of attendees is close to that 8 seats? Would you limit the registration to 8 or 26. If you assume 30% will show up then you probably need to set the limit to 26 people. But what if in this specific case 15 people show up? You are in trouble.

This happened to me once. I allowed 12 people to register when I had an 8-person meeting room.

Only 3 showed up.

It was sad.

A few ideas various people had

1) Charge a small amount of money (e.g. 2 USD or EUR) It is a deterrence for the people who just register but don't attend and it is not too much for most working people in most "western" countries. The money can go to finance the refreshment or it can go to some charity. The drawback is that the organizer might need to handle invoices and might need to deal with tax authorities.

2) Charge money and refund it to the people who actually attend the event. I like this idea because it still keeps the event free for those who actually attend. Unfortunately this creates even more work to the organizers who now need to deal with the refunds as well.

I have not tried either of the above as I am afraid the reaction will be either too negative or it would make people postpone their registration to the last minute. That would mean the organizer still has no idea in advance how many will show up. It still makes it hard to organize.

3) Meetup provides a way to mark each registered person as a "no-show". If the organizer keeps this information up-to date, s/he will be able to remove people who are notorious no-show people.

I've started to mark people as "no-show" in my events. It worked at an event where 13 people showed up, but not when some 30-40 showed up. At that point I lost track. I have the list of attendees, but I am quite sure some of them have not added their names to the list. I don't want to penalize them for that. Moreover I doubt I am going to remove people from the group just because they did not show up once or twice. Maybe if they do it 5 times.

4) There might be other ideas, I'd love to hear them.

What could Meetup do?

A few ideas that might (or might not) help. Meetup could experiment with these features.

1) Instead of "Attend/Not attend" also allow people to "Express interest" in an event. They would keep getting the notifications, but won't take up a slot until they make up their mind and switch to "attend" or "not attend". Currently many people mark themselves as "attend" even if they are only "interested" and would like to be reminded of the event.

2) In addition (or instead) of allowing organizers to mark people as "no-show" have a more positive aspect of the same idea. Let organizers mark people who did attend. It is probably also much easier as the organizer can ask the people at the event to put their name on a list or the organizer can print out the list of registered people and could ask each participant to mark their name.

3) As this is now a positive thing, the information could be made public (the no-show mark is AFAIK only seen by the organizers). It could be even used as an automatic filter for being able to register. e.g. an organizer could configure an event to be available only to people who have attended at least 80% of the events in the last 3 months where they were registered (and where the attendance was checked.) This would also give and incentive to people who attend to mark their name on the list of attendees.

4) Introduce some virtual currency for people to use in order to register at the free events. Let them earn more of the virtual currency every time they attend an even. Refund the virtual currency if they cancel the attendance, but only if they do it a few days prior to the event. (The organizers might want to be able to set the virtual price of their event and the date where the virtual money would be refunded.)

Others about the subject

Yeah, so I am definitely not alone with the frustration nor with the suggestions.