Something came up

Over the past few years I’ve run a lot of professional learning workshops for teachers. It’s been a joy to be part of the learning journey for educators as they discover new ideas for making a difference to the kids they teach. I couldn’t count the number of workshop sessions I’ve run, or the number of ideas we’ve shared, but it’s quite a lot. And even when I’m training on the same topics over and over again, every workshop is still different because of the collection of people and personalities in the room.

There is, however, one disturbing characteristic that too many of these workshops have in common, and that is the complete predictability of people who register to attend a workshop and then simply don’t turn up. Even when workshops are offered as part of a conference that people have paid good money to attend, you can still predictably count on a no-show rate of around 5% to 10%. There are no doubt some valid reasons that people might pay to attend an event and then not show up – unexpected things happen, your kids get sick, emergencies arise, etc – so I completely understand that expecting everyone to turn up to anything is unrealistic. 

What surprises me is how dramatically this changes when the event is free. I’ve been involved in putting together events for teachers, where we never charge anything to attend.  They are completely free. We put a lot of work into running them, we arrange and pay for catering, we book venues, and often pay for professional trainers to deliver the workshops. And we know that for the people who attend they get a great deal out of coming along and learning with us.

The thing that baffles me a bit is when people register to attend a free event and don’t show up. It honestly astounds me. When an event is offered at no cost I would estimate that the no-show rate rises to about 50%. I some cases it rises much higher, and I’ve even seen it rise to 100%.  You read that right. I’ve seen free events where literally nobody who registered turns up. Baffling. And so damn rude.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I think if you register to attend something, then you should turn up. Not just for PD workshops either, but for life in general… If say you’re going to be somewhere, then you should be there. It’s just a common courtesy to the people who put so much time, energy and money into running an event. I’m sure some people think that a “free” event costs nothing. Not so.  While it may cost nothing to them, there are considerable costs involved in making a “free” event happen, including catering, venue hire, personnel, swag, to say nothing of the time it takes to organise.  

With free events, many people feel it’s ok to register and not show up, because they simply have no skin in the game. I’m betting that people who pay thousands of dollars to attend a Tony Robbins conference all show up. Yet I could confidently predict that most free events will have about half of those who register not show up. I know it’s just human nature, but it’s a pretty disappointing aspect of human nature. I understand it’s going to happen, but please don’t be “that person” who registers for something and then vanishes with no warning.

Please, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. Whether it’s a tech workshop, a family function, a kids party or a meeting with a friend. If you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there. And if something comes up, and you can’t be there, please have the courtesy to let someone know so that the organisers know who to expect, or even so your place can be offered to someone else.

It’s just common courtesy.

CC BY 4.0 Something came up by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2 Replies to “Something came up”

  1. This is something we’ve struggled with in the past (in a few different organisations I’ve been involved with).

    We went from offering free PD to charging ($30 per day seems to be the sweet spot, with some simple catering) specifically for this reason. Average attendance went from around 50% to 90%+.

    What was really frustrating though is we then had quite a few people complain about the fact they couldn’t access stuff for free that had previously been free. But these were also likely to be the same people that didn’t turn up.

    It’s definitely more a question of value. As soon as something has a tangible value (as well as a perceived one), it’s more likely to be taken seriously.

    People are weird.

  2. And for every non-attendee, there is another who wasn’t able to attend for lack of funding to replace them at schools. 🙁

    I agree. It’s very rude, but maybe Bruce is ‘on the money’ with this. And thanks for all the inspiration you offer, Chris.

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