Make it Personal
If you have run a major marathon, then you know what I mean by "personal." Take Boston as an example. Running alongside the hundreds of charity runners, such as Team In Training, you feel like a rock star as spectators applaud your efforts. Along the entire 26.2 mile historic course, the words "you can do it" motivate you beyond words.
But then you ponder. And soon realize they are not cheering for you, but rather the sea of charity teams around you. After a brief moment of reality passes, the sound of spectators lifts your spirit once again. So maybe you are not as much of a rock star as you thought just a moment prior. But you are still a rock star. And you move forward, with a smile in each step.
In the case of Boston and other large races this personalization is in many ways, accidental. It is the presence of the charity teams, each sporting their uniforms, that creates this personal cheering group. But what if you have a smaller race. What if you don't have that sea of charity runners, sporting their team uniforms, like most events don't have. Can you still personalize it?
The answer is yes. And the easiest way is to personalize the participants number. Print their first name on the number in big letters so it's easy to read. That alone will encourage spectators to not just clap, but shout out your participant's name.
That will go a long way to build a lasting memory of just how great your event is. And it will do more than just motivate these participants to run next year. But to tell their friends of this great experience.
It's the little things in life and in races that go a lot further than often realized. And the cost? Minimal at best.
Shirts-Cotton Versus Technical
Cotton Versus Technical
A long time ago, one of the many questions asked by all event directors was simply answered. That question being “do I offer participants a cotton or technical shirts?” It was simple in that cotton was the primary fabric available.
But times have changed. Though cotton is still a lower cost option, technical fabrics are not far behind. Which begs the question, does the added cost outweigh the benefits? And once again, the answer is simple.
First and foremost, from a cost standpoint, technical fabrics, primarily polyester no longer cost much more over cotton. But in terms of benefits there is a huge difference.
Polyester fabrics wick moisture. In the cold they keep you dry and thus warm. In the heat, they breathe and thus keep you cooler. Whereas cotton in the winter will simply hold moisture causing your body to lose more heat. And in the summer, that cotton shirt will not only get incredibly heavy with all the moisture it holds, but will simply not breathe making exercise anything but comfortable.
So clearly, there is a benefit in the eyes of your participants as to wanting technical fabrics over cotton. And participants have choices. They can choose from a number of races each weekend. And those still offering cotton, are likely to lose to those offering technical fabrics.
And equally if not more important, those events who give technical shirts over cotton, will see their event shirts worn well beyond race day. And what better form of free advertising than to have your participants running and walking alongside fellow future customers as they promote your event. All at no additional charge to you.
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Running In Cold Weather
Don't let the cold slow you down. In fact it should speed you up!
Temperatures are going to drop this week across 42 states . Be prepared as the polar vortex sends a blast of arctic air across the USA . Lower temperatures brings challenges to the cold weather runner..
By dressing in layers you can stay warmer by trapping warm air between the layers and wear the appropriate performance fabrics The fabric should wick away the moisture; keeping you dry and warm Wearing a cotton shirt will not wick away the moisture and will quickly become wet, heavy, cold and uncomfortable. Make sure your feet hands and head are covered This is where you will experience the greatest heat loss. Consider wearing 2 pair of wick away socks as well as tights under some wind pants Wear a warm hat and scarf and wear some kind of waterproof wind breaker to protect yourself from the elements
Last but not least ....Don't forget to wear some kind of reflective gear as our daylight hours are diminished
For more detailed tips on Running in the Cold click here
What seems easy on the surface, is very hard when it comes down to signing up sponsors. You may think a local bakery for example would love “the opportunity” to give you free bagels as a means of marketing their business to the locals. Wrong!
Finding sponsors is very difficult. Whether it be in-kind, such as product or financial, sponsorship campaigns require a lot of hard work and creativity. And even then, absent someone who has a relationship already established that can vouch for you, finding sponsors is anything but guaranteed.
There are a number of reasons why, including the bombardment of requests companies receive every day to sponsor an event. And the reality is, that all charities are created equal, in that who is to say one charity has a more important cause than another.
As a former specialty run shop owner, I was constantly asked to donate shoes, or gift certificates, water, you name it. And the reality is, I couldn’t support every single request that came through my door. Though I tried, I eventually had to scale back what I gave each event so that I could help as many as possible.
First and foremost, you need to get into the mind of the sponsor. Does a local bagel shop really need to give away free bagels to market their store? What cost do you think those bagels are versus the cost of advertising elsewhere. After all, to the bakery, it’s not about donating to be kind, but rather to promote their business.
You can help sponsors with their decisions in giving them a sense of your demographics. A women’s only yoga studio for example may be more interested in an event with a high female participant rate versus the local men’s barbershop.
Think through what you are asking. It’s easier to donate product and or services than money. A bagel shop would be more willing to donate $100 in bagels versus $100 in cash, considering the bagels likely cost them maybe $20, yet to the event it is a $100 donation.
In the end though, the best approach is to canvas your event volunteer team. Does someone know somebody at a local business than can put in a sponsorship request on your behalf? It’s a lot easier, faster and more effective if there is an existing relationship already in place.
Bottom line, don’t give up. Sponsors often want to see an event’s history. They may not be willing to get in on the ground floor but rather become involved once the event is a proven staple within the community. Then the sales pitch is not only easier, but now you have far greater bargaining power.
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A simple truth, one not often understood by many event directors. If you can touch your participants on an emotional level, you will have truly met their needs.
This may sound like fluff, but trust me, from experience both as an event producer and a participant it is the holy grail, if you will, to truly meeting the needs of your customer.
Touching them emotionally does not mean making them cry. It means making them feel part of something bigger than themselves. It means making them feel as if they are about to accomplish something that will teach them more about themselves as an individual.
My educational background is in engineering. The concept of resonance frequency is one that still mystifies me. But it is a natural element of essentially everything. I think of the emotional element of producing an event the same as hitting the resonance frequency of a participant.
This is not an easy feat to accomplish though. You can't just put up emotionally biased signs and expect people to flock to your event. You can't just play fun music and expect participants to run their hearts out. Those are parts of the process, but not the whole thing.
First, you need to understand your participant demographic. You need to understand the age, the gender, the ability, etc. Then you need to identify, what specifically you can do to target the key demographic. Though don't ignore smaller demographic.
At my events I liked to start the day off with great signage to avoid confusion, lots of volunteers to greet participants and mellow, Enya type of music. Just enough to slowly build the emotion of the day.
As race time approaches you want to build the buzz more. Now your participants are starting to line up. Again, via music I would like to ramp things up. Maybe switching from the softness of Enya to the upbeat and moving sound of rap (though obviously not the profane stuff, right). When the gun goes off, regardless of age, go for something that will get everyone moving in more ways than one.
During the event I would use signage to promote the charity and remind participants what they are working together for. I would use lots of volunteers to yell and scream. I would stock up my aid stations and have plenty of mile markers and other signage.
As the finish line nears, I put a lot into a good looking final half mile. One that makes participants feel special. And yes, music was a big element. Make the finish line one that is unique for each finisher. I've completed three Ironman, I never won, yet I broke the tape all three times, as the announced proclaimed me "an Ironman."
After the race I would always provide a finisher medallion immediately. Photographers where there, volunteers immediately passed out food as finishers were guided into a fun, exciting and motivational post race party.
And what did I learn? As my event grew year after year, I learned that touching someone on an emotional level is the best form of advertising you can do. So perhaps, rather than spending a few thousand dollars on print adds, put that money into amenities this year that will drive participant numbers next year.
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