It's a familiar scene. A session with a popular topic and speaker fills up before the scheduled start and there are a lot of attendees frustrated by standing-room-only space or left out altogether. What should you to do when a session fills up and you have angry attendees? First and foremost, train staff to be sympathetic and to apologize sincerely. Next, offer solutions by following these tips:
Set Appropriate Expectations
Sometimes an event organizer can anticipate when a session will be popular. Perhaps you have worked with a speaker before and know they are a big draw. Or, from experience tracking your sessions you know that your attendees strongly gravitate toward a certain topic. Include a note in the session description that it is likely it will be a popular session and that they should arrive early to get in.
Calm the Chaos
Attendees don't like disorder and crowds – two results from an overly popular session. Schedule popular speakers in the largest rooms. Make sure you have one clear entrance to the event. Assign the appropriate amount of staff and use signage to control the crowd. Use crowd control like stanchions and signage and have multiple people at the door scanning attendees in.
Imagine this scenario: An attendee gets to a session early and gets in line, then notices a second line forming and a third line forming – all leading to one door. Which one will they let in first? Getting in line first and waiting is no fun to begin with but waiting and then not getting into a session? That's the pits.
When a session fills up your attendees need a little extra TLC. A full session may be unexpected and your attendees may not have chosen an alternative.
Apps: If your staff is tracking attendance using an app they will know what sessions still have plenty of seats. Instruct staff to provide frustrated attendees with this information. Better yet, send a push notification in your event app that the session is full and list the alternatives. Using a session tracking app, bummed out attendees can have their badges scanned and get the slides emailed to them.
A QR code can be placed on the session door saying “Session is Full, Scan the QR Code to Download the Session Slides.” If your session speaker is using the opportunity to gather leads you may offer an alternative, “Scan the QR Code, Leave your Email and Get the Slides Sent to You.” This gives your session speaker a list of potential leads to add to their database.
Scan them in early. Using a session tracking app, have staff scan the badges of those in line. When the limit is reached, notify newcomers that the session is full. This will allow attendees plenty of time to find an alternative session.
Change rooms on the fly. Scanning attendees in early will indicate if a session is filling up or not filling up. If a session in a larger room has measly attendance, change the room to accommodate the appropriate number of attendees. Attendees will appreciate this adaptability.
Any size event can use technology to run a more efficient event. Apps, for example, utilize real-time web dashboards where you can monitor attendee activity, like session check-ins and check-outs and see which sessions are performing best, what rooms are filling up, what speakers or tracks are the most popular and the number and names of session attendees. Monitor all session activity as it occurs using a session tracking app. Not enough chairs? You’ll know that, too.
Offer an Encore
Ask your session speaker if they would be willing to offer an encore session for those attendees that couldn't get into the session.