Have you ever planned a party, told everyone to show up at a certain time, and then when that time comes nobody is there? You always get that nervous feeling inside and think, “did I just buy all this French onion dip for nothing!?” Then slowly people start to trickle in, you breathe a sigh of relief, and realize, “oh ok they are just fashionably late.”
It has always struck me as funny that many people would rather show up late for an event or party than be on time. What is the reason for this? Why do we look at an invitation that says 7:00 pm and say, “ok so we’ll get there around 8:00 pm?” And who came up with the term “fashionably late?” Note: I do realize not everyone is late all the time, but this does seem to be the new normal.
As and Event Planner this is an issue I battle constantly. When you’re booking a venue, organizing fundraiser raffles, and scheduling entertainment you have to take your best guess as to when those late (did-I-buy-too-much-onion-dip) people will show up. This is especially true with the raffles because you’re trying to give yourself enough time to sell tickets but not so much time that everyone leaves. Calling raffle winners with no audience or winners isn’t very much fun for anyone.
My solution to this guessing game is to include something that attracts your attendees in the beginning of the event. An example of this would be if you’re doing a cocktail hour for a fundraiser from 5:00 pm-6:00 pm, try advertising a complimentary drink ticket for those that arrive between 5:00 pm-5:30 pm. If you’re working within a budget you could limit the drink type to beer or wine and avoid expensive cocktails. You could also consider getting a sponsor to pay for the 30 minutes of drinks. If there is a sponsor involved a fun way to promote the sponsor is by creating paper drink tickets with their logo on it and giving them out to attendees at the door. These are inexpensive to create. Also, by giving some sort of paper ticket you are reducing the risk of over consumption by attendees.
Another idea is to allow people the time to be “fashionably late.” Work it into your event timeline. I find for most fundraisers I plan if I advertise a 30-minute check-in or registration window, people will generally arrive around the 25-minute mark of registration. If I want them there earlier than I just move the registration window up to an earlier time.
Finally, I have found a planned activity will encourage people to arrive earlier than if there is no planned activity. Example: We recently attended a New Year’s Eve party and while the party started at 7:00 pm per the Facebook invitation there was a Murder Mystery component that was not until 8:00 pm. We showed up in time for the Murder Mystery activity and so did everyone else. Everyone was fine with being “fashionably late” to the party but not fine with missing the fun of the Murder Mystery activity. When planning a fundraiser or benefit try advertising a timeline for the event. People may see this and come earlier because they don’t want to miss a certain element or activity of the event. If they do not know the timeline of events (such as: keynote speakers, raffles, award announcements) they have no way of knowing what they are missing. I find this to be extremely helpful in increasing on-time attendance.
Whatever, time they arrive be sure to always thank your guests for coming. There are lots of demands on people’s time and it is important to acknowledge they made the choice to be with you and support your event…Even if they were “fashionably late!”