Eventbrite | Tipsheet

The Ultimate Way to Reduce No-Shows at Free Events

An overwhelming number of people RSVPed, but the venue for your free event is less than half full.

No-shows are a fact of life for free events. Many free event creators report their no-show rate to be as high as 50%.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, if you’re open to a new approach, there’s an easy way to reduce no-show rate of your free events: offer a paid ticket option.

In this tipsheet, you’ll learn how charging even a small fee for tickets, or a paid ticket option, can increase the likelihood your ticket holders will show up. You’ll also learn why it’s not as hard as you may think to charge for a free event.

How charging for tickets reduces no-shows at free events

“Free” is a powerful word — especially for an event. A free event invites anyone available to attend. But when an attendee hasn’t laid out cash for their ticket, their commitment is low.

The reason? Psychology. When deciding to show up to an event, ticket holders will consider their investment. It’s easier for them to change their mind about a free event. The higher their perceived value, the more likely they are to show up. Which is why the no-show rate for paid events can be as low as 10%.

Paid tickets have a prescribed value. To an event-goer, a $50 ticket is (or at least should be) worth $50. A ticket to an entirely free event, on the other hand, can have any value above $0. A night in, curled up on the couch to watch television might be perceived as the more valuable option for the event-goer.

Does this mean you need to transition your historically free event to a fully paid one? Not necessarily. A paid ticket option to your event can increase the perceived value of your free tickets.

A paid ticket option acts as a reference point, shaping your attendees’ perceived value of a free ticket.

A paid ticket option acts as a reference point, shaping your attendees’ perceived value of a free ticket. If, for instance, you were to offer preferred seating for $10, interested event-goers will perceive the free ticket to be worth closer to $10.

Studies have shown that even small price differences can create a perceived similarity between goods and services. So even charging $0.99 can increase the perceived value of your free tickets.

You can further increase the perceived value of your free event by limiting the number of paid tickets available. A small amount of paid tickets will sell out relatively quickly. When they do, the words “sold out” will be like steroids for your free tickets. Because those opting for a free ticket will assume their availability is also limited, causing their perceived value to be higher.

In the next section, you’ll learn how to create a paid ticket option that increases the perceived value of your free tickets.

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Two paid ticket options for free events

In order for your paid ticket option to increase the perceived value of your free tickets, it needs to offer an incentive. Otherwise you’re asking potential attendees to pay for something they can get for free.

An upgraded experience doesn’t necessarily require extra effort or investment. What elements of your event will attendees gladly pay for? Consider the following:


• Preferred seating: A general admission event can incentivise people to pay a little extra by offering them a better seat. People who purchase a preferred seating ticket will also have the luxury of arriving at their leisure. With minimal effort on your part, you enhance the experience for a paid ticket holders while increasing the perceived value for free ticket holders.

• Access to talent/speakers: The content of your event is why people attend your events in the first place. So why not offer them a chance to make deeper connections with your event’s talent or speakers? Studies show that people are more than willing to pay for one-of-a-kind experiences.

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Two cost-free ways to offer paid tickets to your free events

While online ticket and registration providers often charge — either a percentage or a flat fee — to sell tickets, that doesn’t mean you have to pay their fees.

Savvy event creators overcome this common hurdle one of two ways:

• Let event sponsors cover the costs. Your event has something sponsors want — their target customer. Prove that your attendees are eager customers for potential sponsors and use sponsorship revenue to cover your ticket fee costs. Need help winning and retaining event sponsors? Check out the ebook, How to Win Sponsors for Your Event (and Bring Them Back Every Year.)

• Pass the fee on to attendees. Most ticket providers, including Eventbrite, will let you pass the fee on to your attendee. This is a common industry practice that most attendees are accustomed to. And it’s a simple way to offer a paid ticket without impacting your bottom line.

Find out what paid tickets can do for your event

A paid ticket option can increase the perceived value of your free event and improve your no-show rate. So what are you waiting for? Put your knowledge to the test: get started on your next event.

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