When Répondez S'il Vous Plaît (RSVP) becomes Regrettably Sorry, Very Paiseh – 5 reasons why people register and not turn up

By Nicole Lee

Have you ever organised an event?

If you haven’t, bless you, I hope you never have to. If you have, trust me, I can feel your pain from the SUSS campus. 

Organising an event is a momentously stressful affair. From sourcing quotations, to managing publicity efforts, to sorting venue issues, to chasing for payment, organising an event can be the stuff of nightmares. No anti-ageing cream can reverse the effects of event organisation. 

What makes all of it worthwhile is seeing your participants engaged, leaving your event inspired by something that you dreamt up and organised into life. The sleepless nights from praying to your attendance list fades away when a participant comes up to you and says ‘Thank you for this great event. I’m glad I came. See you at the next one!’

But in truth, that rarely happens. What happens more often is no-show. Participants who may have been the first to register inevitably find themselves in situations that force them to miss the event. Most of the time, they do not inform the organiser, resulting in us giving them frantic phone calls that go unanswered.

In this light-hearted read, we explore why people register first and turn up never:

Registration was free

By making an event free, organisers open themselves up to high attrition rate. Participants would freely register and afterwards decide that reorganising kitchen shelves is more important than attending the event. Did you know when a nominal fee is charged, participants are less likely to drop out? Yes, the kitchen shelves can wait – I paid $3 for this event and I will get my $3’s worth!

Part of our Kiasu Kulture

Close on the heels of free registration is our signature Singapore trait: kiasu-ness. We see a free event and we must hurry to sign up, if not later Ah Ling or Ah Chew register already then no more slot for me. I didn’t check if I’m free to attend but nevermind, I chope first.

Decided the event was not worth the wifi

Let me introduce you to a new way to break your event organiser’s heart: your event is not worth the wifi. Every household pays the monthly fee for our internet router so we might as well maximise the wifi but your event was so meh, I’d rather let the internet providers win and not stream your event!

Decided the event was not exploitable

Do you know what kind of events enjoy 100% attendance? Events that offer exact opportunity. I show up and I get a $20 Starbucks card? See you there at 3. I show up and I get to meet and greet a celebrity? See you there 3 hours in advance. I show and get a webinar that may end up wonky with interrupted streaming? See you never.

Genuinely forgot about the event

 Did you also forget to eat today! Just kidding. This last reason is a highly unlikely one because the organisers would have sent reminders via email, text, snail mail, show up at your house to beg you to attend, show up in your dreams with the Zoom link, etc. But in the case of a genuine lapse – it is not too late to join! Come anyway, we would still be happy to have you. 

While the above may be tongue-in-cheek, it does have a sobering message. Have you considered the effects of a no-show?

We do know that life’s like that – sometimes, things happen that demand your immediate attention and attending the event becomes secondary. 

But here’s a pro-tip: tell us early. Not only is this a responsible thing to do, it is also a mark of respect to the speaker(s) and organiser and ultimately will have an impact on the university’s reputation. Imagine if you are the speaker who took time to come by on a weekend to conduct a session or grace an event only to be met with a room full of empty seats.

Let us know early when you cannot make it so we can bring hope to those on the waitlist. You could be making someone’s day with your regrettable dropout! And isn’t that the best way to miss an event, to make someone else’s day in the process?

Let us know what other reasons you’ve heard for people missing events that they registered for!

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