An overwhelming number of people said they were coming to your event — but an hour in, the venue is still half-empty.

No-shows are a fact of life for free events. Many free event creators report their no-show rate to be as high as 50%.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, if you’re open to a new approach, there’s an easy way to reduce the no-show rate of your free events: Offer a paid ticket option.

The dark side of “free”

“Free” is a powerful word — especially for an event. A free event invites anyone available to attend. But when an attendee hasn’t laid out cash for their ticket, their commitment is low — which means they might not bother showing up.

The reason? Psychology. When deciding to show up to an event, ticket holders will consider their investment. If the event is free, they haven’t invested anything, which makes it easy for them to change their mind about attending.

On the other hand, the higher their perceived value (how much money they think an event is worth), the more likely they are to show up. And the easiest way to increase the perceived value of your event is to put a price tag on it. That’s why the no-show rate for paid events can be as low as 10%.

Paid tickets have a prescribed value. To an event-goer, a $50 ticket is (or at least should be) worth $50. A ticket to an entirely free event, on the other hand, can have any value above $0. A night in curled up on the couch to watch television might be perceived as the more valuable option for the free event-goer.

How a paid ticket option increases free attendance

Paid ticket holders show up, but that doesn’t mean you need to transition your historically free event to a fully paid one. Instead, simply adding a paid ticket option to your event can increase the perceived value of your free tickets. If, for example, you were to offer preferred seating for $10, interested event-goers will perceive the free ticket to be worth closer to $10.

Studies have shown that even charging $0.99 can increase the perceived value of your free tickets.

Another great driver of perceived value? Urgency or limited availability. You can further increase the perceived value of your free event by limiting the number of tickets available. This sense of exclusivity will make event-goers less likely to skip on event-day.

Once just one ticket type sells out, the words “sold out” will be like steroids for your free tickets.

Find out what paid tickets can do for your event

Want to improve your free event’s no-show rate? Test out a paid ticket type to increase the perceived value of your free tickets. Get started on your next event.