Why Don’t People RSVP?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2013 in Blog, Event Planning, Event Strategy | 6 comments

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me ‘why don’t people RSVP”, I would be a rich gal!  Seriously, I get asked this question all the time by family, friends, colleagues and clients.  It dumbfounds people that someone wouldn’t respond to an invitation (to their fantastic, expensive, time-consuming, labor-intensive event!).   And actually, the problem is worse for free events.  Invited guests don’t respond and then, the event organizer anticipates their participation either by overcompensating with extra food, drinks and other amenities, which drives up the cost OR taking the conservative route, which may impact the event experience if more people show.

Why don't people RSVP?So, why do many people fail to RSVP?  I have a few ideas based on my own event planning experiences:

5.  They are not interested in your event.

4.  They have conflicting events; need to make a decision to reply and often forget.

3.  They misplaced the invite.

2.  They do not know what RSVP means. It’s true!

1.  They don’t know why they should attend and how they will benefit from attending!


What can you do to improve your response rate?  Again, just a few ideas that I suggest to my clients:

  1. Mail or email invitation for Friday delivery; gives people the opportunity to respond on the weekend
  2. Personalize the invitation, especially email (and include an intriguing Subject Line)
  3. Use “Please respond [by date]” in lieu of “Please RSVP [by date]”
  4. Select a reasonable response date.  For social events, I like a Sunday date the week before the event.
  5. Include more than one way to respond – phone and email.
  6. Most importantly, include the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) and really emphasize the WHY.  Remember, events are all about “them” … i.e. when we plan events, we think about what our guests want/need to achieve our results.

Additionally, rethink your marketing strategy.  I know email invitations are less expensive and very earth-friendly but I disagree with their use as a primary marketing tool.  Open rates are low and click-through rates are even lower.  I encourage my clients to mail an invitation (even a basic, off the shelf design), to follow up with an email (reminders, too) and depending on the event type and size, to follow up with personal phone calls, especially to the people you really want to be at the event!  As well, leverage social media but for true success, already have an established “conversation” with your fans, followers and other connections.  Otherwise, it will take time to build the rapport and see results.

What am I missing?  Do you have a different opinion on why people fail to respond to invitations or a better idea for solving the problem?  Please leave me a comment to let me know!