RSVP or not

What is the point of asking people to RSVP if you can’t hold them to their word?

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One of the fundamental tasks of revenue management is capacity management. This is something airlines are good at. They deliberately overbook so that all seats get filled.

For concert producers, the objective of getting a full house means ensuring every seat is occupied. This may mean selling stand-by discounted tickets at the 11th hour. [Notice that last minute flight fares are never half-price!]

Last time I organized a seminar, I did not bother to ask people to RSVP. Respondez si vous plait. I was filled with nerve-wracking trepidation, growing as the event got closer. What if only a few people showed up? What if too many people showed up? Last minute, I changed to a bigger room. A good move. Around 35 people showed up.

For today’s seminar, I asked attendees to reserve their seats by filling out a short survey. When the numbers didn’t fill as quickly as I expected, I sent a round of e-mails through another mailing list. A few people e-mailed me their plans to attend instead of filling out the survey — they did not show up. Filling out the survey unfortunately did not oblige the attendees to show up. While the majority of those RSVP’d did show up, there were a few cancellations.

In hindsight, I would have saved time creating and monitoring the survey by not requiring RSVP.

There has to be a more reliable way of gauging the final turnout. How do we get people to hold to their RSVP? What is the point of requiring RSVP when people can show up without prior reservation, and those who do reserve can not show up without penalty?

This phenomenon happened early on in the Monument House Concert Series. I decided that I had to demand prepayment as a condition of booking. No show – no refund. After all, revenue management was more important than capacity management. If the revenue stream was certain, then we’d breakeven and have a peace of mind.

In conclusion, requiring people to RSVP is an extra step for them and yourself. Think carefully whether it’s necessary. For today’s seminar, not only did I get a rough headcount, I also got questions in advance.

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

3 thoughts on “RSVP or not”

  1. RSVPs may not be an accurate guide. However, you can use them to forecast attendance based on comparison with previous events. For example, if in previous events turnout = approx. 70% of RSVPs, then you can base your forecast on that.

  2. I have found that RSVP has lost its meaning in today’s society. I think its rude and disrespectful to the pson who is making an effort to put on a good’ event. The only recourse is to have a non-refund program. How do we resolve this for other events such as weddings, private parties, etc… That require a head count for catering purposes?

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