We recently asked on our Facebook pages what planners find the hardest thing about planning an event. One of the funnier, yet still legit, responses was the number of pizzas to order. Some people only eat one slice, some will eat 6. It can be hard to know ahead of time when ordering. Fortunately, the wonderful people of the internet have created calculators that factor in pizza size, toppings, and hunger level of the eaters. Then it spits out the number of pizzas you should order. Amazing!!
The same thing applies when organizing an event. How many people will actually sign up and attend? We know people have commitment issues. That is because there are so many amazing things out there fighting for people’s time and attention. If you need assistance in helping members overcome their “Retreat Commitment Issues”, we’ve got an article for that, too.
But back to predicting the number of people who will attend. It all starts with your audience. Who are you “inviting” to attend? If you are having a youth retreat for your church, and you know that about 100 kids regularly go on Sundays, then that is your audience. Obviously, not 100% of those invited will attend. My wedding planner says to expect 25-30% of those invited will NOT be able to attend. Other online research has given similar numbers, although they add the idea of 65% of out-of-town guests will attend and up to 85% for local guests. Now, if you reach your invite list outside of your church or ministry, then those numbers will adjust. But a good starting point, if your venue asks for a minimum, is to choose about 75% of the number you are inviting.
Your promotion efforts are a more determining factor than most people realize. Many will tell you that the main point of promoting is to “convince” guests that they should attend your event. Yes, it should do that. But the root of promoting is to give information, i.e. use it to tell invitees that an event is happening. If you put a lot of effort into promoting your event, you can predict higher numbers of attendance. We have quite a few pages of blogs about promoting to help you out.
To get a good eye on where registration sits, encourage early sign up. The primary incentive for signing up early is a lower rate. For example, if the normal cost per guest is $75, offer a $60 rate for those that sign up before a certain date. This gets you paid, dedicated guests early on, leaving you with more opportunities for planning the rest of your event and eliminating some of the stress of last-minute sign ups.
Another way to watch your numbers is to set a cap. Just make sure people know that from your promotion stuff. This will prompt people to sign up quickly before they miss out on a spot. You may have to set a cap number of guests, anyway, depending on the size of your venue. Don’t forget to close the registration once that number is hit.
If you are still unsure in your early conversations with a venue on numbers, SurveyMonkey suggests sending out an interest survey to first gauge if people would be interested, even before you start planning. If the response is poor to your idea, then you can reevaluate having your event or making tweaks to create what guests actually want.
Just remember; as your numbers adjust, keep your venue updated. If you have a huge jump in registration, let the venue know ASAP so that they can get you more rooms. Planning ahead makes planning easier.