Last Tuesday night we had the lowest attendance in years with a total of 21. This is the same Tuesday night that, six months ago, we were having well over 30. We often had people on the waiting list during the day, and just dipping under the maximum limit of 35 by the time the meetup started.
As I am a little detail orientated, please don’t laugh, I keep an eye on the attendance of each meetup. I do this for a variety of reasons. With space at a premium it is wise to make sure that we get maximum number of butts on seats. It also helps to identify the small minority who RSVP, and then don’t show up. Every now and then we get a flakey person, and for repeat offenders I contact them reminding them to keep their RSVP up to date. It is a shame when a regular cannot attend due to lack of space, and we find there was actually enough space for them because someone else did not attend. Simply not being bothered to update their RSVP is a poor excuse.
The attendance figures on Tuesday have been consistently in the low 30’s for a long time. We have been meeting weekly at this location for over 5 years. For all intents and purposes the Tuesday group just kept on trucking.
And then it changed.
The attendance numbers dropped, and then did not pick up again.
What the $%^&$ had happened?
Some thoughts came to mind about the possible cause for a dip in attendance.
- Season variation. The attendance numbers tend to drop around the holiday season.
- Too much choice: The VCSB meetup group was now having 3-4 meetups a week. Were people suffering from gaming fatigue ?
- Cascade effect. When certain regulars are not attending it is harder to get the optimum numbers of players for certain games. This can cascade such that other regulars do not attend as often.
- We changed the start time. The start time on Tuesday had been 6:30pm for many years. In October of 2016 we changed the start time to 6:00pm.
Now there was a reason why I did not immediately suspect the start time change was the culprit for the attendance drop. As I listed above, there was often a seasonal drop due to the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year holiday season. When January came around I honestly expected the numbers to pick up again.
Secondly, most of the people arrived early. The Tuesday group had it’s own pattern that people arrived early for the 6:30pm start. With people arriving early, there were often games setup and going by the official 6:30pm start time. This caused people to arrive even earlier to ensure they got into games. Frankly, it sucks to arrive a little late and find that most people are already settled into long games.
The Eureka Moment
It was only after I spoke to a ex-regular did I realize that the 30 minutes difference had made all the difference to them. Those extra minutes allow enough time for a tough commute, or allow people to grab some food before the meetup.
What annoyed me, a little, was that no one had told me before. It had taken months before I found out the probable cause of the dip in attendance. It is not like this was something new. We often had people arrive a little late, they would arrange their games in advance and people would wait for them to arrive.
There had to be a way forward. There had to be a way to accommodate those who could not reliably, or safely, get to the meetup for the 6:00pm start time. After a little thought, and a few emails, I believe we have a solution. It will require some organization, and good communication, but it should work. From tomorrow, May the 16th, we are having a delayed start time for specific games. The games are named in advance, and those interested in playing must state they are committing to those games with a 6:30pm start.
My role, as group organizer, will be to make sure that people wait for these later arrivals, and to keep up to date with communications to ensure that we don’t hang around waiting for an individual to arrive who is not coming.
Sound simple, yeah ? We shall see how it goes.
Despite the lower attendance numbers last Tuesday, there was still a good variety of games played.
Can 30 Minutes Make A Difference ?
Yes, is my answer.