Duncan Heath is MD of Extreme Sports Trader, an extreme sports price-comparison website and event organiser in the UK. His company runs extreme sports showcase events, where performers range from skateboarders to free-divers. Duncan was kind enough to share some great best practices specific to sporting events.
Many of the best practices for running sports events are similar to those in other event types. These include follow-up surveying, ensuring your guests are kept updated and informed pre-event, managing your budget closely, etc. This post looks at some of the best practices that are more pertinent to sporting events, where you often have multiple performers, large audiences and added variables.
1. Have a comprehensive contingency plan for weather variables
With a few exceptions, most special sports events are organised outdoors. This is no problem if the weather is nice, as fresh air and sunshine often add to an event. But, if your event is being hosted in a temperamental climate, the gods can destroy even the best-laid plans.
I run events in England, which is famed for having weather less predictable than the lottery. This means that come rain, sleet or snow, we need to have a contingency plan that covers all angles and keeps everyone happy. We ran a kitesurfing event last year on a local beach and on the morning of the event there was so little wind you’d swear you were in the Truman Show dome and there’d been a power cut. Luckily we had a cable line setup so the kitesurfers could still perform their tricks whilst being dragged by the line. This was a life saver!
2. Complete a thorough risk assessment
Sports can be pretty dangerous. I work in extreme sports where the risk is substantially higher, so perhaps I am hyper-cautious, but even so, you need to ensure your performers and your guests are as protected as they can be at all times. Something as simple as running a cricket or athletics event in poor light conditions can put everyone present at unnecessary risk. For this reason we often use a light meter or time curfew to ensure adequate light is available. There are too many potential sporting risks to list here, but by brainstorming with your team and using past experience, you should be able to cover most of the important ones. Over the years we have put together an incredibly comprehensive risk assessment for all types of sporting event, which includes everything from heat stroke to feuding performers.
3. Allow your guests to get involved
Having guests engage with the sports on show is a great way to give them a much fuller experience and have them talk about your event for weeks to come. At most sports events you turn up, watch other people perform, then go home. This is fine for some, but does it really give a ‘true experience’ of the sport?
One of the highlights of a polo match is between each ‘chukka’ (period) when the spectators are invited onto the field to help replace the chunks of earth torn up the horses, a tradition known as ‘divot stamping’. This is so popular simply because it offers crowd interaction. Allow your guests to hit a few balls with the tennis players, go for a lap as a passenger in one of the cars at a motor racing event, or just try kicking the ball between the posts at a football game. Often people like to get involved and if you can give them just a taste of what the sport is all about they will appreciate it immensely.
We once hired a surf simulator for an extreme sports show, which not only enabled some top surfers to show off their stuff miles from the nearest water, but also allowed guests to have a go at being a surfer dude for a couple of minutes. It was the most popular attraction of the whole event.
4. Record everything on camera and give your guests a copy
This is something we only started doing recently, and I really wish it had been standard practice for us sooner.
The reason sports attract the highest viewing figures on TV is quite simply because people like watching it, so it makes perfect sense to offer guests a copy of the activities they watched (and took part in), which they can take home and watch as many times as they like.
It gets better, though. If a sports show has been particularly good, guests tend to share the videos with friends, family and colleagues. We have seen our videos turn up on YouTube and even on television, giving great free PR that we didn’t have to work for. Furthermore, the video will serve as the perfect promotional material for publicising next year’s event when it comes around.
If you can’t burn copies of the video onto DVD at the event and hand them out as guests leave, you can just send them a copy in the post along with your “thanks for attending” message and follow-up survey. Our survey response rate shot up after we started doing this.