Drop-outs, No-shows And Last Minute Cancellations

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Anyone who runs meetings, events or workshops knows that there is always the risk of 'drop outs', 'no-shows' and last minute cancellations.

Social or business, free or paid.  If it's free it's more likely to occur - there's no financial penalty for not attending.  It's just as likely to happen for paid events.  Whether it's a few pounds or hundreds, there will always be people who just don't turn up.

For a business running events with a limited number of places, this is annoying and frustrating.

You've turned people away from the event because it's full, only to have people drop out at the last minute.

You've planned and budgeted based on numbers attending - last minute cancellations and 'no-shows' mean you still have to pay for the places booked.

Expect it to happen and plan accordingly:
  • Keep a waiting list - so you can fill any last minute places that become available.
  • Get full payment or a deposit upfront and have a cancellation/refund policy.  No refunds within 24hrs, 48hrs, a week before the event.  At least you won't be out of pocket.
  • Invoice them for the missed session - make this clear upfront.
  • Send out reminders before the event - a week, a few days and the day before or on the day.
  • Overbook - allow for the inevitable cancellations and no-shows and book a few more places than your 'maximum' or have some leeway on numbers.
  • Mark their card as 'unreliable' or as a 'no-show' and take some of the above steps to ensure they turn up next time, if there is a next time.

So what are the likely causes of these no-shows and cancellations?
  • They drop your session when something 'more important' turns up (usually pressure of work).
  • They've double-booked .
  • Lack of planning means they don't really know what's happening from one day to the next.
  • They realise at the last minute they can't make it - often due to a work-related issue.
  • They say yes or book up with no real intention to attend.
  • They just forget - it does happen (probably due to pressure of work, stress, lack of planning, poor organisation).
  • Overcommitment - people will often say yes to several things and realise later they've overcommitted.
  • A genuine emergency comes up and they can't make it or can't get there in time.

Avoid becoming a 'no-show' or being labelled as unreliable.
  • Check your diary before you commit to an event.
  • Look far enough ahead so you know what's coming up.
  • Be realistic - don't overcommit.
  • Set reminders in advance - one week, one day, so you're less likely to forget.
  • If you have to change your plans, give people as much notice as possible.  Better some notice than no notice.
  • Send a substitute - if you've already paid, can someone else attend in your place?
  • Have the organiser's contact details with you, include them as part of the diary entry - if you get delayed or have a last minute emergency, let them know.
How have you been impacted by 'no-shows' and last minute cancellations?

What reasons, if any, have you been given when people cancel or don't turn up?


Photo by ashleigh290 via Flickr

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