Runners Are People
Runners are people (mostly). And runners are your customers. So when it comes to producing your event, you need to treat them as if you were a business. Every business exists to create customers, understand their wants or needs, and deliver it to them. When it comes to running events, there is no difference. Your product is the event and your customer is the participant.
Understanding your customer is crucial to delivering a product that will wow them. How do you understand what they want or need? There are several ways to do that:
- Marketing Research – There is a lot of information on the internet about what customers want. Look at race calendars. Go to an event’s website. Observe what and how they are marketing the event. Note the expectations they set. This is important because meeting and exceeding expectations is what customer satisfaction is all about.
- Results Research – After reviewing an event’s website, and after the event is over, review the results. Look at how many people participated in the event. If the numbers are higher than 500, that event is doing something right.
- Social Media Research – This will be an important source of information! Go to the event’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page. Virtually all races have one. Go through the comments. Look for comments about what the participants loved and what they didn’t. They will tell you exactly what you need to know. And if that event had a particular problem, you’ll see many comments on it. Knowing what problems to avoid is just as important as knowing what you need to do right.
You Must Have The Basics Down Solid
Since there are large numbers of events, you will have to differentiate your event. However, you MUST have the basics buttoned down:
- Pre-race communication must be clear about expectations for your event. Be sure to emphasize the race location, start time, and anything out-of-the-ordinary that comes up (weather issues, for example).
- Packet pickup and registration need to be smooth. Prepare your packets so there is as little wait time as possible. Run through the pickup and day-of registration process in your mind. If anything can be improved, make the necessary changes.
- The course must be clearly defined and marked. Any runners that go the wrong way will impact negatively in your social media buzz.
- Have nutrition available. You must have fluids and food at the finish. At minimum is water and some fruit. But if you want to stand out, offer an electrolyted drink and something other than bananas and bagels.
- Results should come in as fast as possible. Hire a professional race timer and use chip timing. Results for a 5K should be completely finished within 1 hour and 15 minutes. Double that for a 10K.
- Awards need to be accurate. There is nothing more scorned than an award winner that doesn’t hear their name called. Have extra awards on hand. People don’t care if you handed out 2 first place awards as long as they were one of them!
The Wow Factor
After you take care of the basics, there are several ways to Wow! them:
- Have a finish line structure that participants go under at the finish. An inflatable finish line arch is a great way to wow them.
- Play music for the duration of your event. Music should be upbeat, intended to energize the crowd. Be sure it’s appropriate for all ages.
- Use an announcer and announcer mat. An announcer can add energy to your event. Calling out runner’s names as they cross the finish helps them feel special.
The Short End Of It
Producing an event is like running a business. It takes most businesses 3 years to figure out if it will work. The same is true for your event. Run your event like a business and you’ll succeed. Know your customers. Deliver a product that they want. Exceed their expectations. Learn from the mistakes of each event and incorporate changes into the next one.
Before you know it, your event will Wow! them.