That’s a fair question. And I thought I’d answer it here for everyone to read instead of responding only to those who asked.
The reason is simple: We’re searching for a way to reduce the number of “no-shows,” people who say they will attend and then don’t show up on the night of the event.
The Third Tuesday community has grown substantially since Shel Israel appeared at the first Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa in September 2006. In fact, the Third Tuesday Toronto membership now exceeds 2,000. On any given night between 150 and 250 people will come out to meet and hear the speakers, to talk about social media and to network with others who share their interests.
The problem is that, as the events have grown and become better known, the number of people who actually show up can vary substantially from the number who indicate on the Third Tuesday site that they intend to attend. Our no-show rate has on some nights exceeded 40% of the expected attendees. This makes it extremely hard to plan the events. We have to lock into a larger hall than we may need. The venue will overstaff, driving up their costs and making them more reluctant to have us return again.
No-shows have another even more serious impact. We’ve sold out several of the Third Tuesdays in Toronto and Ottawa this year. And when you have people on a wait list, every no-show deprives someone else of an opportunity to participate. That’s not good. And we have to find a way to reduce the no-shows.
We have experimented with charging for Third Tuesdays in the past when we scheduled them over dinner. In the case where we charged a $20 admission fee, the number of people who reserved a spot but didn’t show up dropped to virtually zero.
The simple fact is: If you charge people a small amount, they’ll place a higher value on their commitment to attend. So, by introducing a modest admission fee, I’m hoping to reduce the number of no-shows and make every seat in the house available to people who actually will come out and participate.
Ultimately, the quality of the event is determined by the participants. One of the ways that we’ve been able to attract such great speakers is that they know that Third Tuesday is a great community of people and they want to plug into that community and talk about their ideas with us.
I want to keep the Third Tuesday community vibrant. I hope that introducing an admission fee will help to do this.