I’m an old fart but relatively new to so-called “meetups” – organized meetings for people with a common interest. I think it was Ton who first dragged me to one, and I seem to recall going mainly because it was to be followed by a rijsttafel; I could not resist.

I didn’t regret going to the meetup – quite the contrary – and I’ve since been to several, but it’s dreadful how low the turnout typically is. I’ve verified my numbers with some of the organizers of prior meetups:

  • Nijmegen: 30% no-shows.
  • Hilversum: 50% attendance; masses of food had been ordered, and I helped chuck large amounts of it out.
  • (location): less than half of people who said they’d attend.
  • another meetup in city X recently had 175 RSVPs but only 75 in attendance.

Andreas, a student I once had, came up with the idea of an Ansible meetup in Hannover and asked me whether I’d do the honour of attending. I promised I would and that I’d prepare a presentation. He took upon himself the trouble of organizing a location, etc.

tweet announcing start of meetup

I spent a couple of hours thinking up some possibly controversial content to present, created and worked over slides, and dragged swag along which had been sent me for this purpose by Carol. Of fifteen (15) people who had signed up and said they would come, only six (6) turned up (spoiler: I didn’t show either!). One of the no-shows wrote me a message 50 minutes before the scheduled begin that he couldn’t due to “family obligations”.

There have been suggestions on how to get people to actually show when they’ve signed up, such as “charge EUR 10 and reimburse when participants show”, but that’s a bit of an administrative nightmare, even though there would certainly be charities who’d welcome the no-show tenners…

Many of the meetup organizers go to a lot of effort to reserve spots and maybe even organize and possibly finance drinks and food. No-shows mean the effort and expense are wasted, and the food is also wasted. Adding insult to injury, by reserving and not showing, you are denying somebody else a chance to attend.

Ton brought in a new suggestion which goes a bit like this:

To prevent this from happening we are working with the following “no-show” principle:

  • If you register and cancel on the day of the meetup or the day before, you get a “yellow card”.
  • If you end up with two “yellow cards” you will be denied access to the next two (2) meetups.
  • If you have a “yellow card” and register and show up, the yellow card is removed from your name, and you restart with a clean slate.

Carol’s already handed me my first yellow card for not showing in Hannover:

JP, sorry to hear you were not able to make the Hannover meetup after all. As a consolation, you get a yellow card! (j/k…)

She’s right: the reason for no-show doesn’t matter; I get the card. Carol was also saying that anecdotal data suggests that in general less than 50% of people who RSVP ‘yes’ actually show up.

Bas wrote:

note, that the value of meetups is beholden by the people that do show up, if only a handful it adds depth to the conversation. … yet the wasted money and spilled food and the extra time spent removing the goodies from the empty seats feels a bit lonely.

It’s impolite. It’s demotivating. It’s disgraceful.

Most of us don’t just not show up to a party we’ve been invited to; let’s think of Meetups as parties, which they often almost are. People invest personal time to present an idea, open a discussion, and maybe even teach something. Show some respect for that, please, by showing up when you’ve said you will.

my first yellow card

P.S.: I’ve been given my first yellow card for not appearing at the Hannover meeting. I alloted two hours to drive the 110 kms (which is more than ample for that stretch; I detest arriving late), but actually required over four hours for the first 60 kms. There was a massive Stau when the A2 was closed down for the night, and I was in it; luckily I escaped and could return home after seven hours. I am dreadfully sorry to have basically killed this meetup; I’ve apologized to Andreas, and I’ve volunteered to attempt this anew.


  • Paul writes: Those numbers tally with my experience, usually 30-50% dropout for free events.
  • Tobias says: I see the same at our Cloud Native Meetups. This observation sadly applies to Switzerland as well.
  • John writes: I’ve just checked the London numbers. That hovers around 50% (which is 80 people).
  • Florian reports: One guy with multiple large meetups simply said “its normal, a meetup isn’t that important and people have lives. Care about those who come” … Assume a 30–50% missing in action and calculate with that; worst case is a cramped room. ;)