Why You Need to Charge for Meetings and Even More for Your Guests

Updated: Feb. 3, 2020  |  Categories: Meetings/Events  

Why You Need to Charge for Meetings and Even More for Your Guests

You want people to come to your events, so if you make those events free for everyone, more people will attend, right?

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, not charging means that many people will register, which is great. And it probably means a lot of people will think about coming. But will the number of people who show up tell the same story?

Probably not.

It’s more likely that the number of members and guests who attend will be lower than you expected. Many of those who registered, or those who plan to register at the event, just won’t make the effort. (If it’s rainy or cold, you can expect your attendance to be even lower.) To most people, money equals commitment. So even if you’re just charging five dollars, those who pay to attend your monthly meeting perceive the event to be of a higher value than if it was free.

And, there’s data to back up this assumption.

A study by Doorkeeper, an online event management company, shows that charging for events significantly increases the likelihood a person will attend; when someone registers for a paid event, their study found, they tend to be more serious about following through and showing up.

That doesn’t mean that for potential attendees to see a higher value you have to charge $20, $50 or more. There is a tipping point where attendees will not see the value. Based on your research and previous experience, you’ll determine the right amount, which is enough to meet your attendee goal, but not too much to keep people away.

But, it’s not enough to charge everyone the same amount. Charge your guests more.

The Doorkeeper study, which looked at more than 10,000 events, also showed that non-member guests should, and are willing to, pay more than members.

Your first thought may be the exact opposite:  to entice guests to come, they should pay less. However, the truth is that when they see that members pay less, non-members perceive that as a benefit of membership, and that perception helps increase the chances that they’ll join your organization.  

Look for other ways to increase overall attendance

How much you charge for an event is only one way to get more people in the door. There are some other methods that can help increase your event attendance, including:

  • Changing the day of the week, or the time. Try moving your evening meeting to breakfast or lunch and see if it makes a difference.
  • Cap the number of people who can attend (Publishing your event limit can increase the perceived value of an event.)
  • Require pre-payment. Once people pay, they feel more committed to attending.


Through all this, remember that meeting attendance isn’t the only way to bring in chapter revenue. Part of your chapter’s financial plan should also be to find ways to increase your non-dues revenue, so you’re not counting on event attendees for all of the money you need to continue to do all the great things your chapter is known for.

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