Ten Keys to Putting on a Successful Event
Stand Out with Social Media
- There is at least one race every weekend for all of the warm months and even most of the cold months. The race calendar is jam-packed and new events are popping up every year. In order to get participants, you need to offer something different, whether you have a unique course, a special post-race event, etc. If you want to make it amongst all these other events, you have to offer something different.
- Setting up a race website or Facebook page can help generate excitement about your race. Let people share their experience and encourage their friends to join the race.
- Two online registration sites that we recommend are Active.com and Getentered.com. Online registration offers many benefits compared to paper applications. Printing too many paper application can be a huge waste and destructive to the environment. Also, all information can be saved and easily accessed to reference for future races.
- Online registration also generates helpful information. You can easily find the top zip codes, average age and gender of your participants. Also, with online applications you have easy access to your participants and can send email updates leading up to race day.
- Having a paper application can be beneficial on race day. Make sure to have enough copies to cover all those signing up at early packet pickup and race day. Ask your timing company to review the application to make sure you have all the appropriate information.
- Be sure you have enough volunteers by getting more than you think you need. Have a race committee member assigned to the task of assembling a group of volunteers. Someone should go through and call all of the volunteers the day before the event to remind them to show up.
- Be sure your volunteers receive specific instruction and know the answers to key questions that participants will have (such as where the bathrooms are, where the start line is, etc.).
- Reward your volunteers. Make them feel like part of the event by giving them volunteer shirts, providing refreshments and recognizing them during the awards ceremony.
- Make sure that every volunteer who shows up on race day feels like they have contributed. If they stand around with nothing to do, they won’t bother volunteering again in the future.
Race Promotional Items
- Ordering, organizing and distributing event shirts can be a nightmare and costly for a race. Think outside the box when deciding what to give runners. Remember that this is a FREE item you are giving away; it shouldn’t break the bank for your event.
- Runners already have a myriad of event shirts, most of which probably don’t fit. This is your opportunity to stand out among races and give participants something that is unique and special to your event.
- Other items that could be considered for promotional items include; tote bags, mugs and medals.
Race Day Registration
- Location is key. The registration area should be well marked and easy to find and should be located in close proximity to the event parking and where the event will be taking place.
- Layout of the registration area is very important for keeping a good flow. Discuss registration area layout with your scoring and timing company and make sure it will work for them. It is easy for you to hand out race packets and promotional items, but they need to get all the participant information entered into their computers before the race starts.
- Make sure volunteers working the registration area are well trained so they will be able to work fast. If possible, have volunteers who have worked event registration before.
- Holding a packet pickup the day before the race, if possible, is a good idea. It will greatly reduce the amount of traffic in the registration area on race day. We typically find that 50% or more of an event’s participants turn out to get their packet a day early when that option is provided.
- First and foremost, the course must be safe. It should be on even surfaces. If you are using public streets, work with the town to have the streets closed during the event so your participants don’t have to contend with vehicular traffic.
- Make sure the course is well marked and has plenty of volunteers along the way so that no participants get lost.
- Make the course enjoyable to run or unique in some way.
- Be sure the course has been accurately measured (having the course certified is a good idea) and that mile markers are present and in the correct locations.
The Finish Line
- Make sure the finish line and chute will be large enough to safely handle the number of runners. Your scoring and timing company will be able to assist you in this area.
- Use the finish line area to post banners and signs for your sponsors. This is an area that every participant and spectator will spend time at.
- Have plenty of volunteers to help manage the finish line area.
- Be sure you don’t start packing up until every participant has crossed the line.
The Kids’ Run
- If you aren’t going to have one, be sure you have some form of entertainment for kids to make your event family friendly.
- Treat the kids’ run like another race. It requires all the same attention as your featured event. If you don’t have the resources to do this, skip having a kids’ event.
- Provide a prize for all participants. Helping these kids develop a love of running at a young age will ensure future participants in your main event.
- DO NOT RUN OUT OF WATER! If there is one thing every participant will want at the end of the race, it’s water.
- Make sure you will have enough refreshments for all of your participants, not just those that finish first.
- Spectators will help themselves to refreshments. Either plan to have enough for the spectators or plan to have volunteers working the refreshment area to ensure that only participants wearing bib numbers are taking them.
- Provide refreshments for your volunteers.
- Awards can be creative and different – something that will catch people’s attention and make them want to win one.
- A prize raffle is never a bad idea because it gives everyone a chance to win, not just the fast participants.
- The results should be posted and the awards ceremony should be done promptly after the event is finished. Let your scoring and timing company know who will be getting awards and they will be able to have their computer provide a list of award recipients as soon as the event is over.
- Keep the awards ceremony brief.
- Remember to thank your volunteers and your sponsors.
Getting and Keeping Sponsors
Gaining race sponsors can be one of the most challenging parts of putting together an event. Here are some tips when it comes to sponsors:
- Don’t send an email or letter to a company requesting sponsorship. Call on the phone or, better yet, ask in person. If you are going to send a letter, be sure to follow up with a call or visit.
- When asking a company or organization to get involved with your event as a sponsor, the best thing you can do is listen. Rather than send a boilerplate proposal, ask what the company does and what its goals are. Sponsoring your event should in some way help the organization reach its goals. If you won’t be able to help the organization, you are best off not pursuing it as a sponsor. If you cannot return value to the sponsor, you won’t have them back in the future anyway.
- Don’t ask competing companies to sponsor your event. If you have already secured Key Bank as your bank sponsor, don’t pursue any other banks as sponsors; they won’t be interested.
- Deliver value to your sponsors; it will keep them coming back. Simply putting up a sign or including a sponsor’s logo on the race t-shirt usually doesn’t do much for the sponsor. If Key Bank’s goal is to make more people aware of their free checking accounts, then just putting the Key Bank logo on the race shirt doesn’t help them reach their goal. Offering a discount on registration to anyone who opens a free checking account at Key Bank does (and Key Bank would probably be glad to make up the difference). Think of creative ways to help your sponsors achieve their goals.
- Take every opportunity you can to thank your sponsors. If you are getting out in the media to talk about your event, mention your sponsors. Before you fire the gun or give out awards at the event, thank your sponsors. The more you can do for them, the more likely they will be to return as sponsors year after year. Don’t forget to send letters thanking them for their participation after the event.