What is it?

One of the first steps required to understand your attendance numbers is to count the number of attendees in a consistent way.

Why use it?

Counting attendees lays the foundation for understanding attendance behaviour. Using this tool will help you develop a systematic and consistent approach to counting attendees, so that you can monitor and report attendance data with confidence.You can then start to compare and analyse your attendance over time using the analyse attendance trends tool.

Before you start

Is this tool right for you? To find out more about selecting the best tool check out the project planner.

What you'll need

Time2 hours to develop your approach, 15 minutes every day or show (whichever is most applicable to you), and 2 hours each month to record your results.
BudgetNo cost

Top tip: Once you’ve locked down a consistent approach the most important thing is context.

Keep track of unusual events and timing that may impact on attendance, such as a local election of a major sporting event. This way, when you report, you’ll have a good idea of what could be driving an increase or decrease in attendance.

Step by step

1. Define your attendees

Think about how you define different attendees. Consider classifying your attendees into categories:

  • Ticketed
  • Non-ticketed
  • Comp tickets
  • Attendees to a specific part of your venue i.e. one particular exhibition
  • Workshop participants.

2. Choose how to count

With your attendee definition in mind, think about why you want to count attendees and what you plan on using this information for. Secondly, write down all the ways you count attendees, for example:

  • Fixed door counters (such as infrared counters)
  • Manual door counter (someone uses a ‘clicker’)
  • Collection of tickets on the day.

There is no one right way to count attendees, and you may need to be creative with your methods, or plan for some new technology or processes in the future. Some organisations use a combination of methods, to allow for ticketed and non-ticketed events. As long as you use a consistent approach to counting attendees over time, you can start to analyse changes.

If you’re a producer, speak with your venues to see what attendance information can be made available. If you’re hosting a free event with multiple entry and exit points, none of the above options may be available to you.

The resources (people power) you have available could also influence your counting method. Typically, there are two main approaches to counting attendees:

  • Full count
  • Sample (or Timed Entry) count.

When choosing how you’ll count attendees, there are four points to consider:

  • If you plan on taking ticket collections think first about whether all your shows are ticketed. Those that aren’t won’t be included in your attendance numbers
  • Fixed door counters will ‘double count’ people who walk in and out of the venue
  • Do you have more than one entry/exit?
  • Will you count children under a certain age or height? If you have infrared door counters they may only count people above a certain height.

3. Choose your intervals

How often do you want to count attendance? Think about what statistics you want to have at the end as this will largely determine how frequently you need to be recording attendance.

  • Do you want to compare attendance numbers for specific times of the day e.g. afternoon shows vs evening shows?
  • Do you want to compare attendance numbers across days of the week i.e. weekends vs week days?
  • Do you want to compare weeks (school holidays vs non-school holidays), months or years?
  • Do you want numbers for every exhibition/show?
  • Do you want to compare numbers by types of shows e.g. comedy, family, children’s?

The more frequently you count attendees, the more detailed you can be in your analysis e.g. you have more detail by recording attendance at certain times during the day versus only counting attendance at the end of every month.

4. Decide on your recording methods

Once you have decided on your intervals, think about the way you want to record your attendee counts. For ease of analysis, consider recording your attendance counts in an Excel spreadsheet. Check out the Analyse Attendance Trends tab in the How to analyse your data tool for ideas on how to set out an Excel spreadsheet.

Think about how you’ll transfer your attendance counts to your recording spreadsheet. For some, your fixed door counters may connect to a system you can use instead of Excel, or you may be able to download your counts to Excel. For others, you may need to take a reading of your door counter or hand-held clicker at your agreed intervals. You’ll need a way of writing this down and entering it into Excel.

Make sure you have space to write down extra notes that may explain your attendance counts:

  • The timing of school holidays or Easter, which differ each year
  • Good or bad weather
  • Openings, final weekends, workshops or other engagement activities
  • Competing events in your local area
  • Changes to opening hours
  • Issues with counting attendance, such as where some attendees may have been missed.

5. Think about your capacity

Before you move on to step six think carefully about your capacity or that of your team. Ask the question: Will we be able to count attendees at the intervals and recording methods we have chosen? If not, revisit steps three and four to make sure your approach is achievable.

6. Document your methods and potential limitations

Write down your approach to counting attendees, so you and your team can refer to it:

  • What counting methods you’ll use
  • When and how the counting methods will be administered, and by whom
  • Factors that need to be noted to interpret the results i.e. school holidays, etc.
  • Any limitations or quirks i.e. your door counter counts people walking in and out (double counting).

7. Count attendees

You’re now ready to put your approach into practice. Test and monitor your approach over the first few days, first week and first month of counting attendees.

Debrief with your colleagues if they are working with you to count attendees. Ask yourselves three questions:

  • What’s working well?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How can we improve our approach?

Adjust your approach if something is not working. Document any changes to it, so you can keep track and include it in your reporting.

8. Analyse attendee trends

Head over to the How to analyse attendance trends tool to understand how to make meaning of your attendee counts.

9. Go beyond counting

Counting attendees is a basic measurement. To take it to the next level, think about how you can collect more information at the point of entry or point of sale, including:

  • Postcode
  • How an attendee heard about you
  • Unique identifier, such as email address

This extra information will give you new insight into your attendees.

To learn more and for help with collecting new information, check out the following resources: