It’s no secret that charity runs, 5k’s and obstacle course races (OCR’s) are at an all-time high. In fact, USA Today estimated that in 2015, there was a total of 4.5 million participants in OCR’s alone! That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure that both the staff/volunteers and the participants have a positive, memorable experience. As an event planner or coordinator, this all starts with you.
We recently had the opportunity to interview industry vet, Jaime Roy, who gave us a sneak peek into some of her “tried and true tips” for managing a successful event. Jaime currently works as Walk Manager for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Connecticut and is responsible for four walks every year. Before that she spent many years in marketing and events, including coordinating Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Foundation’s Walk for the State of Connecticut for five years. As she notes, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great place to start. Let’s get to it!
People are there to help, and there’s nothing worse than being at event where volunteers or staff aren’t sure what they should be doing. If you’re the person managing events, identify and assign trusted staff members that are capable of leading areas that they’re most comfortable with. You’ll likely need people on registration, volunteer assignments, food preparation and greeting (as well as other areas more applicable to your event). As much as you might love to do it all, it’s just too much for one person to manage!
Sure, binders have lost a lot of their luster with the advent of everything digital. But they are by no means obsolete, especially when it comes to event planning. Organization is key, and having a day-of-event (DOE) binder on-hand that has all of the information that you could possibly need in one place is crucial to staying organized.
Here are some examples of what to include in your binder:
Equally as important as keeping yourself organized, is ensuring that the people around you are as well. To help facilitate this, prepare individual bags or boxes in advance for staff/volunteers that have all of the necessary materials for them to accomplish their individual tasks. You definitely don’t want to wait until the day-of to do these…trust us.
For example, when the food leader arrives, she’ll check in with the volunteer leader, receive her box and she’s ready to set up because she already has everything she needs in one place. Her box could include items such as a list of any helpers assigned to her, a list of the food that’ll be served (and anyone that’s assigned to deliver it), all of the plasticware and paper ware, serving sets, heating equipment and gloves. Additionally, ensure she also has any paperwork (ie. sign-in sheet, permits, etc.) that the venue or town requires to serve food.
Jaime’s Insiders Tip:
“I highly recommend that every box or bag should also include a map of the venue with assignment locations as well as the walk/run route. This will keep you from having to answer the same questions over and over, and instead allow you to focus on important things that may come up and allow you to float from area to area, answer media questions and deal with any problems that may pop up.”
The emcee or DJ can make or break the flow of your event. Once the event kicks off, don’t be afraid to encourage him or her to continue making announcements that are necessary for your event to run smoothly. In addition to sharing important information about restrooms, garbages and anything else you deem necessary, you may want to announce crucial information like everyone must stop at registration, or when it’s time for team pictures. During the registration period, Jaime recommends trying to spend as much time as possible near registration so that you can promptly settle any issues.
At most events, people are probably excited, and even a bit anxious to get started. While you never want to undermine the importance of an opening ceremony, make sure you’re not making it longer than it has to be. The trick to an impactful ceremony is to have a healthy balance of sentimental remarks that remind people why they’re coming together, as well as upbeat encouragement that makes them want to come back year after year.
Whether it’s staff, volunteers, or team captains, always take the time to thank people! Float around and try to get to know everyone as well as you can. It sends a clear message that you care, and it will also help you to build teams up the following year because you get to know their character and what motivates them.
Speaking of thanking people, we really wanted to thank Jaime for taking the time to provide us with such thoughtful responses for this blog post. We know that the key to planning a successful event is hard work and organization, and it’s obvious she’s had her hands in a number of successful events in the past. So, thanks Jaime! And to all those with events coming up soon, happy planning!