Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Event planing starts the day after

Recently, we completed our second annual BAM Jam 3 on 3 charity basketball tournament, The feedback was great and as far as we can tell, there were no major incidents. At the end of the day, it was a successful event that grew by almost 40%. Time to take a few months, recharge the batteries, worry about other things and then get ready to go on the 2010 version.

That is exactly the wrong approach.

I'm the first person to admit that putting on a great event takes a toll on those that host it. However, if you truly want to improve and make the event better the next time, the last thing you want to do is take time off following its completion.

The reason you can't do this is valuable information is lost. Have you ever heard the theory that if a homicide is not solved in the first 48 hours, the chances of solving it at all go down by 50%? The reason is people forget things when its not fresh in their minds. They remember things incorrectly. The same is true with events, even sporting events.

That's why, within a week of BAM Jam, I sit down with Clint, the other director, and we spend hours going over everything from the past year. We grind out a review of the promotions, sponsorship sales and plans, accounting procedures, the website, and the event from set up to tear down. We look at what worked, what failed, where we can improve and what we could add the next time. It's grueling. It's time consuming. And it leads to a good chunk of next year's success.

But that isn't the end of it. After that, we sit down with all of the unit directors and do the same thing with them. We run past them new ideas and ways of doing things. They tell us what they liked, what they would change and present new ideas to us. Now we are getting close.

Some of the most important information comes from (you guessed it) our sponsors and participants. We sit down with our sponsors and let them grade our performance. We survey our participants and see what they think. We'll even talk to the local agencies (police, fire department, downtown businesses) to get their input.

Now we have a more complete picture of where we need to go next year. And we are only 3 weeks removed from the conclusion of this year!

Could we do all this later when we are more rested? Of course. But you lose some valuable emotional ties to certain things. For example, we got feedback from one team about the registration process (which is a nice way of saying that one mom yelled at several of us for about an hour**). Some of this feedback, though childishly communicated, had valid points. However, if we waited a month or two before discussing the points, the edge would have worn off. It may not have seemed as significant and we could have missed something important. When it's fresh, it's harder to forget.

**Parents, please note that I am not recommending nor am I in favor of a juvenile berating of grown adults. We prefer calm communication.

Teams and organizations that are seasonal should consider this review as well. Hockey, football, basketball, baseball and soccer teams as well as college sports should be constantly reviewing their home games.

Each of these examples has game operations director. Especially at the professional level, the director is writing a game script that includes entertainment, sponsor activities, music, announcements, etc. You control everything other than the players, coaches and referees. That means that every single one of these can be improved.

When I was directing games at the Idaho Stampede, I always had an idea of how I wanted my games to unfold. I had various goals that I wanted to achieve. We would usually have a three game homestand (Wed, Fri, Sat) and then a break. I found that in between homestands was a great time to review the games...starting Saturday night around 11:00pm. Did we start the game on time? What promotions worked? How was the volume on the music and PA? Did the halftime show take too long? Could we have run the 20 second timeouts better?

Like any event or game, you are trying to put on a great show for your spectators and participants. So start by asking them questions. One thing I would do differently is interact more with the fans and sponsors, seeking their feedback. The die hard fans will always give you their thoughts. Yet it is the quieter more casual fan that represents the majority of your crowd so find a way to hear from them.

You can never start planning too early. If you wait, it is probably too late.

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