Who wouldn’t want to come to a free event? Lots of people, it turns out. You build, they RSVP — but they don’t come.

Even the most successful events have no-shows. Things come up; people can’t make it. But for free events, there’s no financial consequence to skipping the event. So free events tend to see much higher dropout rates — up to 50%, according to a survey of free event creators.

If you’re an organiser of free events, the high numbers of no-shows can be discouraging — not to mention damaging to your budget. After all, you stocked the bar, snacks, merch, and other goods in accordance with how many people you expected. And you booked a venue to hold them all.

The success of your event depends on decreasing the number of no-shows at your event. Use these seven tactics to increase turnout.

1. Register twice as many people as you hope will come

The golden rule of free events is to register twice as many people as you’re hoping will show up. Gear your marketing strategy around this number. This might mean stepping up your marketing efforts substantially so you reach more people. (More ideas on that below.)

2. Plan an event with an air of exclusivity

One of the best ways to inspire people to show up is to make them think it’s their only chance. Perhaps it’s one-time event, or a rare guest speaker, or an opportunity to demo and buy a product that’s not available to the general public yet.

If they can’t get it elsewhere, and they can’t get it later, they’re more likely to show up now. Frame your event as “invite only” or “exclusive” to increase turnout.

3. Invite the right people

When people RSVP to free events, they know no one will hold them accountable if they don’t make it. As event creator, your job is to make them want to make it! And the easiest way to do this is to appeal to the right audience in the first place.

Audience targeting is made easier with digital advertising options that allow you to target your ads to specific types of people. On Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google, and other ad platforms, you can choose exactly who should see your ad.

So if you’re planning a B2B workshop called “Sales Strategies to Sell More Books,” you might target, for instance:

  • People in a certain geographic radius from your workshop venue
  • Who have a job title of “bookseller” or “book store owner”

Pro Tip: If digital advertising intimidates you, choose a ticketing partner like Eventbrite who integrates easily with automatic marketing tools.

4. Survey people and find out what they want

Sometimes the best way to get inside the heads of attendees is to ask them exactly what they want. Use digital survey tools like SurveyMonkey to send easy, short questionnaires to people who’ve registered. Probe for things they’d like to see at your event.

Another way to connect with your audience is to use the polling function of Instagram Stories. Not only is it a quick and easy way to gather responses from your followers, but the whole conversation is public. Now, everyone’s engaged in the question. As an event business, with Instagram Stories, you can also link directly to your ticketing page.

5. Entice them with goodies

People love a good takeaway, and we’re not just talking ideas. Mention that you’re putting together swag bags featuring certain irresistible brands, and help lure those who can’t resist fancy chocolate or one-of-a-kind t-shirt.

6. Offer a paid ticket

This might sound counterintuitive, but selling a certain amount of paid tickets to a free event can help guarantee that the free ticket-holders show up. Here’s why.

When you assign a ticket price to an event, people instantly attach a value to the event. If you’re charging $25 for a certain type of ticket (like guaranteed seats or access to guest speakers), those who opt for free tickets now think of your event as being worth somewhere just under $25.

Now, free ticket-holders have to consider whether bailing on your event is worth that much to them. A night of Netflix and takeaway might seem like a great cop-out — until you realise you’re wasting a $25 opportunity that you got for free.

If you can sell out your limited run of paid tickets, it gives you another advantage: now you can slap “sold out” on your ticket type. This simple phrase is a marketing catalyst like none other.

7. Check in with registrants last minute

This might sound basic, but just before the event, ask your attendees whether they’re really going to come. Maybe they signed up three weeks ago, but things have changed. They haven’t bothered to tell you, because they’re not going to lose money on the ticket. Or, they’ve just forgotten about your event altogether.

When you email them to remind them about their RSVP, though, your intention isn’t to give them an out. It’s to remind them that space is limited and things like merchandise, food, and drinks are sure to be popular. Encourage them not just to show up, but to come early and grab the best spot.

Ensuring that your “yes” RSVPs actually show up takes a combination of proactive tactics. If you’d like to try a free event ticketing option that supports all of these strategies, create your free event on Eventbrite today.