Why we Have Updated our Attendance Policy

Tony Richards kindly shared his brand new game “You Can’t Coach Dead Fish” at our 10th game meetup of 2016. The game’s format required 30 people to attend, so we estimated that by setting registrations for 60 people we should have at least 35- 40 people attend on the night. Tony even made up enough game kit for 60 people in the event we had a 100% turnout. Disappointingly and similarly to our previous game meetups just 24 people came.

Fortunately, Tony being the cool and quick thinking kind of guy he is, quickly adapted the game to suit the numbers but this still meant a group of people had to take turns. We were tall really disheartened.

On the AWA Support Network the following day, dismayed by the apparent lack of commitment that had been demonstrated by 30+ other people who had registered but didn’t show up, we had a big discussion about how we can improve.

We decided to rethink our attendance policy.

Even though we had been running a survey to collect feedback on the existing attendance policy that we had set up earlier in the year, we have realised that actually none of this holds people accountable to their actions and it doesn’t provide a platform for adapting and improvement. Sure we could charge £5 for all events, but this is something we have repeatedly said we do not want to do.

After much discussion, Ash Sheikh proposed the following – which we believe is a fair and true policy and one that we will be using from now on to see what impact it has.

Please take a read and if you have any thoughts then please let us know via @agileadventures

Our new guide for attendance

We will open registration 2 weeks before an event takes place (1 week for games). We will send you 3 email reminders.

  • 1 email reminder 1 week before the event take places
  • 1 email the night before
  • 1 email on the morning of the event

We will close registrations at 4pm on the day of the event. So if you are on the waiting list and people cancel please be aware that you might get a spot right up until 4pm that day, please prepare for this. We will email you at 4:15 to indicate whether you have a place. (If we are unable to do this due to venue policy then we will make sure to let you know.)


No Shows:

If you miss 3 events within 3 months, which you did not cancel by 4pm on the day of the event, you will need to request to be able to register for one of our events again.

In that request, we expect a reason as to:

  • why you want to come back
  • why you missed the events
  • a commitment to always inform us

Important: If we accept your reasons and then there is one more no show this will mean you will be unable to come to future Adventures with Agile events.


Why do we need an attendance policy?

We believe that Agile promotes the human values that inspire change, innovation and creativity. The reason why we created Adventure with Agile (AWA) was to provide a forum for influential people and change agents to come together and share ideas on organisational issues that need tackling on a large-scale, forwarding our vision of making working lives better.

We want people to enjoy the events we put on, both by learning from the presenter and the people in attendance. Therefore, the more people at the event – the more enjoyable and productive it is for everyone.

Unfortunately, attendance at meetups across the board (not just AWA) is 50% or lower. The mentality seems to be – “it’s free so it doesn’t matter if I don’t show.”

Many people travel great distances, even flying just to attend or present at AWA. For example, back in February Mina flew from Sweden – to talk at our event. An event that had 100+ people registered – but 56 people didn’t show. The setup for this event took a lot of time & effort. For example, the venue provided security, food, drink and the room.

What’s The Impact:

  • Venues – many have a strict attendance capacity. If the room can only hold 100 people we can only accept 100 people on the RSVP. This means 50 people or fewer will be at the event.
  • Food – for 100 people will be provided by the host or AWA. Half of this will be wasted.
  • Staffing – Our hosts will put on more staff depending on capacity. This costs money in overtime to our venue hosts.
  • Community – We tell our presenters we have a great community of supportive professionals. When 50% decide not to come this is a reflection on all of us. On us as organisers, on the presenter, and on the community.
  • Waiting list – Our popular events get big waiting lists. This means that those people who don’t show up are preventing people who could attend from attending.

Since April, we have been testing an attendance policy based on a “3 strikes and a temporary ban” rule, to try and improve the turnout rates at our evening events.

This experiment has had the following positive outcomes:

  • highlighted to us who will never, ever attend an event of which there were a fair few
  • many people have said to me that they have been more selective for what events to register to and now no longer register for every event that gets announced and then pick the best sounding one on the day

However, even though we had managed to work out who will most likely come and communicated this attendance policy to repeat no-showers, it seems to us that it hasn’t made that much of a difference. It also hasn’t been the most pleasant experience due to reasons that I won’t talk about here. But most of all, our turnout rates are still pretty adhoc floating around the 60% mark for the majority of events.


Meetup stats since April 2016

We first started using an attendance policy in April 2016 and have record attendance for most meetups since:

Event name Registered Attended No Show % no show
Talk: Liz Keogh 88 57 31 35%
Talk/Game: Mark Richards 88 48 32 45%
Game: Ball Runner 35 17 18 51%
Talk: Lyssa Adkins & Michael 150 125 20 17%
Game: Lego Serious Play 135 60 75 56%
Talk: Alistair Cockburn 150 130 20 13%
Game: Are We There Yet 80 24 56 70%
Talk: Don Reinertsen 155 94 50 39%
Talk: Craig Larman 111 74 37 33%
Talk: Dan North 100 65 38 35%
Game: Moving Motivators 60 31 29 48%
Game: Play14 80 52 14 35%
Game: Kanban Pizza 63 41 20 35%
Talk: Dhaval Shah 74 46 24 38%
Talk: Portia Tung 70 52 18 26%
Game: Kata to Grow 72 35 42 58%
Game: You Can’t Coach Dead fish 60 24 36 60%


We will be testing our updated attendance policy and hope we see some improvement over the next few months. Watch this space for the latest updates on this in a few months time…


What do you think about attendance at free events and our new guide for attendance? Do you attend free events or are you an event organiser, what have your experiences been?




I work at AWA HQ looking after day-to-day operations, speaking with people, organising events and training, and thinking of the next cool thing we can do. Outside of work I’m probably in one of 3 places – at CrossFit, on the mat practising yoga, or out in the countryside with my family.