Determining the Capacity for an Upcoming Event

<< CEMA Blogs | November 1, 2018

One of the first questions event marketers need to answer is how many people — and whom — they should invite to their next event. But even before this can be answered, event marketers need to figure out how many people their event can handle. The amount of people invited to any given event should directly correspond to its purpose and goals.

Figure out your logistics
The most obvious indicator of what an event’s capacity should be is the space in which you are holding your event. Make sure to check every room’s maximum capacity in order to avoid potential fire hazards. Also, figure out how best to orient the space in your rooms — will there need to be a lot of tables and chairs, or a stage for speakers? Does there need to be a lot of open space for networking? Thinking through such questions as these will help determine what final number at which the maximum capacity for an event should be set.
But logistical questions extend beyond planning the event space itself. Are there enough parking spaces nearby for the event? Will people have to take shuttles or public transportation to get there? Such external considerations can be a barrier to attendance. For events for primarily out-of-town guests, also ensure that there are enough occupancies at hotels to house attendees (which may require contacting local hotels). If there aren’t enough rooms, however, your maximum number of invitees and attendees will decrease.

Does the event need to break even?
If there are admission or registration fees, some quick calculations can determine the ideal attendance number an event will need in order to break even or even make money. Once those amounts have been determined, cross-check with previously determined physical limitations in order to price and advertise an event accordingly.

Consider who will staff the event
On top of spatial logistics, the need for event staff may change the maximum number of attendants. The more attendees required or desired, the more staff or volunteers will be needed to manage all of the guests — consider that guests will need to be registered, guided, and potentially fed for multiple days, depending on the size and scope of the event.
The absolute maximum number may not necessarily be best

Finally, consider the type of activities at the event. Will they include a lot of Q&A sessions, break-out group discussions, or hands-on learning sessions? Sometimes, an event at its absolute maximum capacity can detract from the quality of these activities. When determining the attendance capacity of an upcoming event, consider how many people will be needed to ensure that attendees can make the most of these activities — and how many is too many.