Managing attendee & waiting lists for IA/UX events

 by Martin Belam, 17 November 2010

We had, I thought, a really good London IA evening on Tuesday. Hosted by Sense Worldwide and sponsored by Zebra People, there were two excellent talks from Giles Colborne and Nic Price - and I've blogged my notes from those here and here respectively. It was a good turn-out with faces old and new in the crowd, and I thought there was a good vibe about the evening.

In the run-up to the night we had been a bit more strident than usual about people letting us know if they couldn't make it. Coping with late drop-outs is a tricky subject for event organisers. Of course we understand that last minute work rushes or childcare issues can stop people coming at the eleventh hour, but our focus on the issue was caused in part by what happened with the 'Search at the Guardian' event I organised a few weeks back.

Demand for tickets was phenomenal, and at one point we had over a hundred people on the combined attendee and waiting lists. However, on the day, around a third of the people who had said they were coming, had held on to their tickets for several weeks, and who had received two direct email pleas to let us know if they couldn't come, changed their RSVP from 'Yes' to 'No', several of them less than an hour before the event kicked off. That meant there was no chance for people on the waiting list to change their plans, and that in the end the Scott Room wasn't full.

I can't tell you how demoralising that is for an organiser.

Having fixed up the speakers, secured a sponsorship budget, and ordered the catering, it is so disheartening to look at a room that has empty chairs in it when you know that there are people who wanted to come, who you turned away because you were going to be 'full'.

There is a good discussion going on about how to handle it on the London IA site, so if you are a member of the community, please feel free to go there and chip in, or leave your thoughts in the comments below. Matthew, Tom and myself are determined to keep the London IA events free, we'd just like to find a way to really maximise the number of people who can benefit from the time it takes to organise the nights, and the efforts of the speakers to contribute something to our community for free.

To end on an optimistic note, I'm just so pleased that we have such a thriving IA / UX / Usability / Interaction Designer / Content strategist / Call-it-what-you-will scene in London these days. It is great that we have the people to be able to regularly put on such differing events as the UK UPA nights, London IA nights, UX book club, evenings in the pub and so on. I look forward to seeing some of you at our joint Xmas drinks on December 10th.


How about charging an admission fee of, say, £10, in advance, and refunding it at the event?

I was thinkng about this the other day, and thought there must be an automated solution for that. If Eventbride does not have it yet, maybe they should. If a person drops out, they just change their RSVP status to No and the ticket gets auto-assigned to the next person on the waiting list. If that new person can't make it, they just change their status to No too. One just prints out (or better checks online) the list of attendees 10mins before the event and people not holding a ticket at the start time are not allowed it. It obviously does not solve the whole problem, but at least takes the burden off the organiser. Hacking this together should not be a big deal, methinks...

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