Part of being an exceptional leader and personal trainer is your ability to organize and manage events and programs throughout the year. There is no better way to foster the development of a sense of community and friendships, create excitement and variety within your training program and facility and give something for people to train for or look forward to. Unfortunately, very few fitness directors or personal trainers have actually been taught how to do this well. Most neglect the fine details of project management and wind up dealing with chaos, crisis management, stress and an event that is not as successful as it could have been.
In this article, we are going to provide you with some tips to help you create a template you can use for all events that you host at your facility.
Step 1: Timeline and Action Steps
Before any action steps are taken for the event, you should first sit down, brainstorm and determine exactly what the end picture should look like. What will make this event a huge success? Try to see the event in your mind and picture the very best scenario. Determine all facets of the event and establish all of the action steps and deadlines that need to be taken to guarantee a successful event. Be sure to account for promotion, staff instruction, pre-event organization, event organization and facilitation and post event follow up. Depending on the size of the event, this brainstorming session may happen a year in advance of the event and, for smaller events, at least three months prior to the event.
Step 2: Permits and Rentals
Before you start getting too far into planning, determine if you will require any city permits or any specific rental of space or equipment. Check on the availability of these before you start recruiting sponsors, developing flyers, planning details, etc to avoid having to redo any work in the event space or in case permits are not available for the event date or your city has specific requirements you need to be aware of before you start finalizing plans.
Step 3a: Promotional Materials
Once you have confirmed permits and rentals, now you can start planning all of your promotional materials. Typically, you’ll pull together registration flyers or brochures, promotional posters, email blasts and website pages to promote your event. Be sure all the "need to know" information is in your materials (i.e., the what, why, when and how). To increase your outreach, you’ll want to get creative and post your event on local online event calendars, online social networking sites like Facebook, My Space, etc and start to send out press releases for your event so magazines, newspapers, TV and radio can put your event on their calendars. Drop off your brochures/flyers at various local businesses, especially those that will be supporting the event in some way. Depending on the size of your event, you will need at least two months to effectively promote it. Simultaneously, you will need to have a solid system for registration so when people get your promotional material and wants to register, it’s easy for them to do so. Online registration is a huge advantage! For our large events, we use active.com. We are able to manage in-person and online registration for our smaller events.
Step 3b: Sponsorship Recruitment
Make a list of all of the items and services you are going to need for your event including food, speaker system, finisher’s gifts (i.e., t-shirts, medals, water bottles, etc), stuff for goody bags, door prizes, etc. Begin approaching local businesses to rally their support for your cause. Pull together a letter that explains what you need and what they will get in return (i.e., logo on t-shirts, website link on email blasts, banners posted at event). You can try to get financial sponsorship (much more difficult, especially in today’s economy) or just ask for various businesses to donate their product or service in return for marketing exposure prior to, during and post event. Keep in mind the sooner you can start the process of recruiting sponsorship assistance, the better. If you wait too late in the year, many companies (especially large companies) have already allocated all of their charitable contributions and marketing dollars, so you’ll be too late. It’s also important to note that having an important community beneficiary associated with your event makes it a lot easier to generate support.
Step 4: Volunteer Recruitment
Regardless of the size of the event, you’re going to need some help. Depending on the event, you may require course marshalls, aid station assistants, registration assistants, goody bag stuffers, race timing crew, volunteer massage therapists, set up crew, clean up crew. The bigger the event, the more assistance you’ll need. For example, for an exercise-a-thon that we host, we only need about five volunteers, but for our half marathon with 1,500 participants, we recruit about 200 volunteers. For large events, it’s helpful to assign a volunteer coordinator to oversee all of the volunteers and ensure they know where they need to go, when and what they need to do. A good source to find volunteers is by posting a “Volunteers Needed” on Craig's List.
Step 5: Event Logistics
Success is in the details. Be sure you’ve thought of everything from start to finish, and you have everything written out in a timeline. What time will set up happen and what exactly needs to be done by when? Will you be playing music? When will people start arriving, how will they be greeted and what will they be given (i.e., goody bag, t-shirt, water bottle, etc.)? Do you have enough toilet facilities? When will the event start and how will you start it off? What will happen during the entire event? Will you have local businesses there with booths? Will you offer massage? Will participants get something when they finish? Will you offer refreshments? What will happen post event? Will you give out door prizes? How will you thank sponsors and participants? Will you have someone taking photos at the event? When will clean up start, and who is responsible for what?
Step 6: Post Event Responsibilities
The event is done, it was wildly successful and you’re so happy! But you’re not done yet. You’ve got to finalize a few more things to guarantee support for next year's event. For example:
- Send out a post event press release with results and event recap.
- Post event stories/photos/results on website.
- Send a post event email to participants.
- Send a "thank you" to all sponsors, volunteers, contributors, municipalities, facility owners, etc. This is critical to gain their support next year. Email them links with photos, event recap, etc so they really feel part of the event.
- Do a post race evaluation with volunteers and participants.
- Send out your donation to the beneficiary, if applicable.
Event planning is so rewarding and fun. But if you fail to plan, plan to fail!