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Thanks for being a member of the Atlanta Science Tavern, Atlanta’s premier grassroots public science forum. I’ve received a lot of inquiries lately about RSVPs and wait lists, so I wanted to take this opportunity to explain our open seating policy once more. Here it is in a nutshell.
Seating for the events that we produce or co-produce, like the ones at Manuel’s Tavern, Java Vino and the Atlanta European Science Cafe, will be on a first-come basis. It doesn’t matter whether you have an RSVP or are on the wait list. Show up if you like. Use the phony-baloney RSVP limit as a “red line” to let you know when event is likely to be close to capacity. You, and you alone, will have to make the call whether it’s worth your while to try to attend.
Exceptions to this rule (such as ticketed events) will be so noted at the top of the description on the webpage for those meetups. Please read the event descriptions carefully.
If you’re cool with this, there’s no need to read any further. If you are curious or outraged, allow me to explain.
What are you trying to accomplish?
My goal in managing RSVPs for Atlanta Science Tavern events is, as they say in marketing, "more butts in seats." I work hard to provide quality meetups to our growing audience of science enthusiasts and an empty seat is a wasted opportunity as far as I am concerned.
Why not limit the number of RSVPs to the capacity of the particular venue?
It may come as no surprise that RSVPs on social networking sites are quite fickle. For our meetups the no-show rate runs anywhere from 30-50% depending on the venue and the topic of the presentation. (The actual rate is higher, since many of the filled seats are taken by people on the waitlist who show up anyway and by walk-ins.) For example, if I capped RSVPs at 120, the nominal capacity of the two-room configuration at Manuel’s, I’d end up with 40 or 50 empty seats. So much for more butts in seats!
Why not at least control admissions to favor people on the RSVP list?
Checking a guest list or taking attendance adds a lot of overhead to managing an event. It’s next to impossible for some of our meetups where people arrive over an hour in advance. And what would it accomplish? We’d have to hold seats until event start time, or some nominal amount of time before that. Using Manuel’s again as an example, that would mean having maybe a few dozen people from the waitlist standing in line waiting to be admitted for the 40 or 50 seats that will inevitably remain empty until showtime. Why inconvenience them in that way? And where would they stand and what would they do for 30 minutes or an hour while waiting for no-shows not to show? My guess is that they would head home quite unhappy. Some empty seats would remain unclaimed. This is a prescription for disaster.
Why not go after RSVP miscreants and give them the what-for?
Punishing people who don’t honor their RSVPs - typically by excluding them from participation after a specified number of transgressions - might work for a small, close-knit meetup, but it’s a fool’s errand for a group the size of ours (over 3,700 members as of January 2014). Besides, I’m not interested in becoming the RSVP police. It is an unpleasant job and it would put me in an adversarial relationship with members of my group. In addition, I doubt that it would change the no-show rate one iota.
Why not charge people for RSVPs?
For people who consistently follow through with their RSVP commitments, an RSVP charge would be little more than a tax for attending. It might even have the unintended consequence of discouraging some of our most loyal customers from coming as regularly as they do. And what would it accomplish? People who aren’t committed to attending will see this as little more than a fee for a seat that they can choose to use or not use at their discretion. Also, what does it mean to create a system where someone shows up at an event that they aren’t interested in attending because of the prospect of "losing" 3 or 5 bucks? Why would I want that kind of person in the audience?
Don’t people who RSVP early deserve special treatment?
In olden days, before the invention of the Internet, an early RSVP was a good indication of commitment to attend an event. Although I know that many loyal members make an RSVP early and really mean it, a lot of early responders are just people who happen to see an RSVP as hardly different than a “Like” button. Some people RSVP “yes” to a meetup weeks in advance and only decide at the last minute whether they are going to attend or not. Why should they receive special consideration? Ironically, it’s the people who RSVP a few days or later before a meetup who are most likely to attend. Why exclude them?
Isn’t there a better way to manage RSVPs?
If someone has a practical alternative to suggest, I’m all ears.
Edited by Marc Merlin on Jan 11, 2014 8:10 AM
We love you Marc and you're doing a great job! Congrats on 3,700 members!