This is the second article containing suggestions and ideas from employees about the problem of many people not showing up to events. Photo: David Naylor.2023-06-15
Cultural change needed to reduce non-shows to events
Editorial Services called for suggestions and ideas about how to solve the problem of the many people who register for an event but then don’t show up for it. Some 30 employees then contacted Editorial Services with a range of opinions, ideas and suggestions.
In the article “Many dropouts from events – what can be done”, Editorial Services addressed the issue of many no-shows to events. A first article with suggestions and thoughts from employees was published on June xx, 2023.
Some 30 employees then contacted Editorial Services with a range of opinions, ideas and suggestions. In fact, so many good suggestions have come in to Editorial Services that we want to share with you that we have divided them into two articles. You can read the second article “Lofts of suggestions and opinions about no-shows to events” here.
This article confirms and adds detail about the problem. Many of those who responded to our call also thought that organisers need to think through the needs and implementation of events based on the fact that we have a different reality since the pandemic. One employee also took the time to write and submit a three-point strategy for organisers.
In this article, we continue to talk about the suggestions and ideas that employees have submitted to Editorial Services.
Requirements from outside the University
The decision to hold an event is obviously influenced by factors and requirements from outside the University. For example, more and more often research funding bodies are requesting that the research projects they fund hold various kinds of events and then report on them.
“In the individual instance, this can of course be a good idea. But all in all for those who are expected to attend these events, it can end up being many events.”
Lack of coordination in University Administration
One person pointed to the lack of coordination between different events, in this case events organised by the University Administration:
“For me, the biggest problem has been that the different divisions in the Administration do not synchronise their event calendars. I may have signed up for an event that I find interesting and relevant to some part of my work. Later, another event will turn up that is relevant to another part of my work. I need to prioritise what is most important.
I suspect that the divisions at the Administration believe that they are addressing their target group and do not need to look at what the others have planned. But as an employee at a department, I belong to multiple target groups for different divisions, so it would be good to synchronise event calendars.”
Administration takes too much time
A number of employees wrote that the problem is partly due to the fact that the administrative burden at the University is too onerous. Employees no longer have the time to attend events like they used to.
“One problem could be that most people still sign up for as many events as they used to and think are relevant to their work. But now there is so much more administrative work to do that they realise at short notice that they don’t have time to attend the event.”
Another person came to a rather pithy conclusion:
“The reason seems obvious: there is too much unnecessary stuff to do and too many meetings organised. Researchers end up not having enough time to devote themselves to core activities: research, teaching and third stream activities.”
In this connection, it may be interesting to read the opinion piece on having the courage to refuse to perform some administrative tasks (Våga vägra administration) by Anna Sarkadi, professor at the Department of Public Health and Care Sciences at Uppsala University, published in the magazine Curie on 4 May 2023.
Behavioural change needed
Several people expressed the view that changing behaviour, a cultural change, is necessary for the situation to improve:
“Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” ( Peter Drucker was a renowned management consultant and writer (1909 - 2005)). As long as we tolerate a culture of signing up to events and then skipping them, no strategy will make much of a difference.
Ultimately, we need to discuss and change our culture so that everyone feels responsible for actually being present when they say they are going to be. That’s a long-term change and it will start with our more senior colleagues setting a good example for those younger.”
Start a network
One suggestion received for beginning a cultural change is that a network should be established for organisers of events at Uppsala University. A network where you can discuss, share ideas and gain momentum for cultural change.
Similar networks for discussing and dealing with the increased number of no-shows to events have been established at other higher education institutions.
Concrete measures proposed
In the facts box we have set out the suggestions and ideas that have come in to Editorial Services for measures that could be taken to alleviate the problem of no-shows to events.
- Fee for signing up, attending or not showing up. One person writes: “Many organisers allow attendance to be free of charge but you have to pay if you do not show up without having cancelled in time. Just like other fines, it is more symbolic than anything else, but also not so small that it doesn’t make them think twice, such as SEK 500. That usually works well! And it clearly involves less administration than asking for a fee in advance that is not insignificant. But it still involves some work and is only justifiable if there is a clear problem with people not showing up.” Another variant is described here: “Registered attendees may cancel a certain number of days before the event free of charge. But if the attendee cancels too late to be able to take their cancellation into account when ordering food etc., a cancellation fee is charged, much like hotels usually do, such as half the cost of attending if you have already paid for the event. If you just don’t show up without cancelling, you get a bill for the entire cost.”
- Set aside seats for drop-ins. “With drop-in seats, I know that if I have the opportunity I can go to be event, and maybe I’ll get a seat, maybe I’ll get a sandwich. The refreshments are rarely the reason I go to an event and I would rather bring a piece of fruit and get a seat than not show up because my schedule was not clear 2 weeks beforehand. If the organiser wants to, they can also e-mail out the day before the event ‘we have 30 seats booked, refreshments are available for 5 drop-in seats, and 10 seats without refreshments are still available’, or something along those lines.” Another voice on this theme: “It’s my experience that I miss a number of events because I cannot guarantee in advance that I will get to them. Is there a lot going on that week? Sometimes I don’t know until that week comes around, and then the period for registration has expired. It’s also an availability issue for those of us who do not always know how well we will feel and thus how much energy we will have, which in addition to functional variations, illness and disabilities includes parents and others who suddenly have to change their plans on the day because they are caring for a sick child, etc.”
- Describe the costs and the work that has been put into the event. “I also think that it might make a difference to somehow appeal to people when you send out the invitation. I mean making it clear in some good-humoured way that you have put a lot of work and money into this event and that it is important that registered attendees do show up.”
- Book fewer refreshments. “If you want to reduce the cost of refreshments, you can book 20 per cent fewer per heads, and have refreshments that are easy to take with you and pass on to students or colleagues. Fruit is a good option that lasts a long time.”
- Survey sent to those who did not attend the event to try to find out why they did not show up.
- Register interest or monitor event, an option you can choose if you are interested but don’t yet know if you can come. A reminder is sent out shortly before the deadline. “Often I sign up to get access to the calendar item and Zoom link, which is sometimes impossible to get if you decide too close in time to the event, not least because I don’t remember the event if have not received it into my calendar. If I could get these details by choosing ‘maybe’, it would be great. If for some reason an online meeting has to be limited (such as planning of groups for workshops, etc.), that should be made clear. It feels less important to cancel in advance if it’s a seminar with an unknown number of listeners.”
- Expect and plan for many no-shows. “There's probably no way for us all to learn better behaviour; we will probably have to learn to live with high numbers of no-shows in the future and have good plans in place for that eventuality instead.”
- State clearly in the registration process that you are expected to come if you register.
- Two separate registrations for hybrid events: one for attendance via Zoom and one for in-person attendance.
- Clear information on how to cancel, should be included in all communications from the organiser.
Contact us with more suggestions
Please feel free to contact Editorial Services with more suggestions and ideas concerning how to deal with the problem of no-shows to events. And if you end up trying out any of the suggestions in the articles, we would love to hear from you about how well it worked.
Any more questions that need to be aired?
The idea for these two articles about the problem of many no-shows to events was sparked by an employee getting in touch with Editorial Services and talking about the problem.