Like many event directors, you probably started to plan this year’s iteration of your event before last year’s event had wrapped. As we know, it’s a year-round process, and it can be hard to stay focused on the here and now when you’re also in charge of big-picture planning and growing the event
So how do you ensure that from year-to-year, your event continues to grow and progress? We have a few tips that may help.
One of the most integral steps in planning an annual event is to stop and take stock of what happened last time. Of course, this works best if you sit down immediately after your event wraps and take note of what worked, what caused the most headaches, and how you can improve next year.
However, if, like many event directors, you had to get back to the life you’d been neglecting for the months leading up to the event, you may have skipped this part. And that’s ok. While the details won’t be as fresh in your mind, they’re still in there, and it’s not too late to reflect.
Make a list of your top five to ten takeaways. For each one, record the lesson learned and one (at least) tangible thing you’ll do this year to either resolve the issue (if it was a challenge) or play to the strength (if it was a win).
This list could include steps to improve the participant experience — like increasing the number of porta-potties, moving the parking options closer to the start/finish, or creating a better prize list. You can also include focus areas for you and your team that will improve the way the event runs — such as increasing volunteers, improving efficiency of registration day-of, or working to be more consistent with advertising and social media.
Taking the time to organize your thoughts about last year will help you get ahead of this year’s event. Write it down, make a plan, and get clear on what you want to accomplish in the next few months. For each lesson learned, create a task that you can add to your master list.
Planning and Delegation
Once you have your new list of tasks, complete with the good, the bad, and the things you definitely want to address for this year’s event, it’s time to make a plan and delegate to your team and volunteers.
Compare the list you just made to your task list from last year. This might involve a spreadsheet or some other organizational tool. Whatever you use, make sure it’s easy to find, easy to edit, and simple to share with your team.
Add your new tasks to the master list, and then take some time to delegate work to the people involved with your event. Even if you’re several months out, there are always things that can be done well ahead of time that will make things easier down the road. Figure out the long-term tasks and make sure you’ve assigned them to someone.
As you know, the event director is in charge of running a successful event, and everything that goes along with that. You’re also responsible for the big picture. Even if you have the time for some of the smaller things, delegate early and often. Your team will be happy to help and your future self will thank you.
Speaking of your future self… they really want you to make a road map now. Because the planning and coordination of these events spans the entire year (as opposed to the few weeks leading up), having a long-range road map is the way to stay on track and moving forward.
There are a lot of ways to make a plan like this, even if the thought of a Google spreadsheet or other online planning tool elevates your heart rate.
If you prefer pen and paper, get a dedicated planner, and use it to create tasks connected to real dates. This simple step will help you see everything in one place. You’ll circle the event date, and then work backwards. How long before the event do your permits need to be finalized? Write that down and then assign the task to someone. How much lead time do you need for the food trucks? Figure that out now, write it down, and get someone working on it.
Remember: If you really want the porta potties to show up for your event, you must have a deadline for ordering them and a person who will make it happen. If you write it in your planner, you’re one step closer!
If you like life online and prefer to keep everything organized digitally, you probably already know which tools work best for you. But here are a few options:
Google sheets: The entire suite of Google products can be helpful for event planning, and the spreadsheet tools are at the top of our list. Need help? There are a ton of tutorials available online that can help you get started creating your perfect spreadsheet.
Slack: This is a collaborative tool that will not only help you plan and organize your projects, but has the added benefit of connecting your entire team through messaging.
Evernote: This is another great tool that will help you stay organized over the long-term.
Event directors tend to be event participants. Did you attend an event last year (as a participant or volunteer) that you loved? Perhaps you signed up for an event that filled quickly with participants, ran smoothly from start to finish, updated everyone with clear and consistent social media posts, and provided high-quality amenities for racers.
There’s no reason to keep reinventing the wheel. You can take inspiration from other events, incorporate some of their most high-impact strategies, and then make it your own.
Start by reaching out to the event director that was responsible for the awesome event you encountered. You’d be surprised by the willingness of others to share their experience and to let you in on some of their secrets. As event directors, we are all working toward the same goal — getting people to come to our events, spreading the love of our sport, and ensuring that we can all keep doing this for decades to come.
You can also ask your community. What races did they love last year? What events are they most excited to sign up for this year? And most importantly, why? Just talking to other participants can give you a really good idea about what people are looking for in an event. We know that the what’s popular changes, sometimes seemingly overnight, so it’s great to stay on top of the latest and greatest.
We’re Here to Help
As always, we’re here to support you. With a few tools and techniques, and a little support from AthleteReg, you’ll be ready to jump in and successfully promote your event this year.
We’re here, and happy to help you make this year’s event the best one yet.
If you have questions about event promotion or feedback on how to improve our event director support, please call us at 888.956.9560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.