Guidance for visitors attending events at the Royal Society

This guidance is for attending events advertised as first-come, first-served at the Royal Society in London, which applies to most of our public events.

Some events, like scientific meetings, require registration in advance. Please see individual event pages for further information.

Entry policy

Most public events organised by the Royal Society at Carlton House Terrace are free and open to all.

We operate a first-come, first-served policy and open the doors to the event 30 minutes before the start. Public events can be extremely popular and you will be turned away once we reach capacity.

If you arrive before the doors open you will be asked to join the queue. This is outdoors, so please come prepared for the weather conditions.

If the weather is particularly bad, we will endeavour to ready the room earlier and move the queue inside.

We reserve the right to deny entry at our discretion.

Entry procedure

As soon as possible after you arrive a member of staff will issue you with a sticker. This indicates that you have been counted and have secured a place in the event. Please ensure this is visible to our staff.

You must be in the queue to claim a sticker. We cannot issue stickers to anyone not already in the queue, such as friends or family who have not yet arrived. Please only join the queue once all members of your party have arrived.

If you are travelling a large distance and would like to avoid being disappointed please consider accessing the event online. Most of our events are broadcast live on the event page or become available after the event.

Accessibility and travel

If you have access requirements or are likely to have trouble standing in the queue please notify us in advance by emailing

If you have been unable to contact us in advance please notify a member of staff when you arrive and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

Many of our events have live subtitles and/or British Sign Language interpretation. Please contact us in advance to reserve a seat near the front for these purposes.

Further information on accessibility at the Royal Society, including on hearing loops and how to get here, can be found on our venue page.


Why don't you use a ticketing system?

We undertook a comprehensive review of our entry policy in 2015, including trialling a ticketing system, and found that a first-come, first-served policy was the fairest system and enabled more people to attend our events. As the vast majority of our events are free, ticketing leads to unpredictable dropout rates and empty seats.

What time should I arrive to guarantee entry?

It is not possible to guarantee entry to an event. However, the earlier you arrive the higher the probability that you will join the queue at a point within the capacity limit.

If you arrive more than an hour before the event starts you will normally be asked to come back later.

Can I reserve a seat?

We are able to reserve seats for individuals with specific access requirements. Please contact with a description of your requirements. Your place will be confirmed once you receive an email from us.

What is your policy for group bookings?

If you would like to bring a group of students to an event, or are part of a large group (6 or more), please contact us with details of your group size and any special requirements. We will do our best to accommodate you, but this is not always possible. Your place will be confirmed by email. 

What is the overflow room?

Where possible, we book an additional room within the Society and set up a live stream to the main auditorium. If we reach capacity in the main auditorium and we still have people queueing, we then start filling this room, allowing more people to watch the event live.

What is the capacity for events?

This varies depending on the type of event. Our biggest room holds 260 people and our smaller events, like Café Scientifique, hold around 80 people.

Why are some people not required to queue?

Sometimes we will allocate a number of seats in advance. This could be for guests of the speaker or people with specific accessibility requirements. They are not required to queue and are told to go directly to reception.

Can I leave the queue once I’ve been given a sticker and still get a place?

Once you have been given a sticker your place in the event has been allocated, so it is possible to leave the queue. However, this will reduce your chances of getting a good seat and, if you are in a group, of sitting together. If you return after the event has started your place may be given away.