How to run an event
The idea of running your first event is a daunting one.
“Am I ready?”
“I don’t know all of the rules”
“What if I screw up a ruling?”
“What if people don’t show?”
“Strength of Schedule, how do I do that?”
These are some of the things that are going to run through you mind. First take a deep breath and let’s look at what you have signed up for. Running an event is community building and its main purpose is for your players to have fun. In this article I’m going to talk about the ins and outs of running most events. This will be a general overview. I will get into the nuts and bolts of each type of event in future articles. In the end, because you want to run an event, you are ready.
Types of events
There are different flavors of events. Some events you will run are more on the laid back casual flavor, others will be more competitive and high energy, while others will be over several weeks with a lot of bookkeeping.
There is a buffet of Casual events that you can run. This is also where I would recommend people start running events to get experience with the logistics of herding cats. It can be a play day like the upcoming Longest Night from PP, a release for new product like the upcoming Monsterpocalypse, or a hobby day focusing on Painting, Sculpting, Terrain making and more. While Competitive events are either Steamrollers or Masters and their variants, the great thing about these events is that the How to Run them is already set up in a document (http://privateerpress.com/organized-play). You as the Event Organizer just have to make a few decisions. Leagues on the other hand are another type of event you can run, but while you are running other events over one day usually, leagues happen over weeks. The great thing is that PP has rules set up for Journeyman Escalation Leagues, and Narrative Leagues as well. The three biggest pieces of advice I can give no matter what event you choose to run are:
#1 You can change the rules/packets to better fit your community’s needs or play levels.
#2 Be consistent. If you change something, tweak it, decide to do some different keep that path until the end of the event
#3 Crap happens, be prepared to pull something out of the nether regions to keep the event fun and flowing.
This by far is the most important step of any event. Without prior planning you’ll end up never wanting to run another event again. Planning covers all sorts of things, from getting a date scheduled with the venue, getting enough zones, flags, and objectives for the day, to making sure your attendees have somewhere to go use the bathroom. Your job is to anticipate as much of the needs of the event, the venue, and the attendees as you possibly can. With that said, you’re not going to get everything right, and that’s okay. Take note of it, ask your attendees how you can improve, talk to the venue and see if they have input.
The first thing you’ll need to do is gauge interest in your Community/Meta. What do people want? Do they want a Journeyman League with a small Tourney at the end? Do they want a Steamroller to start getting ready for going to bigger events? Do they want a Painting seminar to show how to do 2 brush wet blending? This is what you have to determine. You can engage your group by just flat out asking them, make a Facebook poll, or even get fancy and do a questionnaire with a Google form survey, or Survey Monkey. However you decide to go about it, you’ll get your answer.
Now that you know what you’re running the next two steps run hand in hand. Schedule and Location. When and where will be the next questions you’ll be asking. Both of these questions must be asked, first to your Meta, and then to the FLGS/other venue you’re looking at holding it at. With your Meta, you are trying to make it for a day and time that most can make it. If you get 100% of your people there then you are doing awesome. More than likely you’ll average about 50%-75%.
With your FLGS you have to consider a couple things. In this day and age you have to understand that Magic: the Gathering Tournaments and Players more times than not bring in most of a stores profits. Your event and future events will have to be scheduled around pre-releases, releases, tournaments, game days, and any other MtG event. Annoying, maybe but it’s the reality of the game store world. For scheduling, I’ve found that a month away is the perfect amount of time to schedule and announce events. If you schedule it out less than a month say two weeks, you may lose a couple players due to not having enough time to schedule time off, or switch shifts with someone at their work. If you schedule it out for more than a month, you’ll have people interested when you announce it, and then lose interest as they wait for it to happen.
Next you have to consider buy-in and prize support. This is where your Meta, even if the FLGS doesn’t stock product, directly supports the store. The buy-in is taken in by the store and can be used for a couple different things to support the store and Meta. For a tournament it can be given right back out 100% to the winner and however far down you pay out to as Store Credit. That money stays in the store and is guaranteed sales for the store. For a League that money would go towards the patch kits for the league players. For any other event, it would depend on the store and your relationship with them. It is able to be used as a form of crowdfunding. Clocks, Zones, Terrain, table mats, new tables, all these things and more can be built up from events that directly support the store and the Meta.
You now have a Venue, a Format, and it has a scheduled date. What’s next? Marketing is next. If your Meta doesn’t have a social media group created. This would be a good time to approach the task. As much as everyone grouses about Facebook and social media in general, it is the most effective way to bring a group of people with a common interest. Other alternatives to Facebook are Reddit, Slack, or Discord. Whichever you choose that will be your main internet footprint for your meta, and when it grows you’ll be thankful you have it. Once the Group is up and running you’ll post the event. Include all the pertinent details.
- Event Name (be creative)
These are the main items that should be in your group event posting, and your flyers. The majority up there are self-explanatory. As an IT guy I always harp on being specific. Under format you should always have all the variant rules you are using, and then relist them under details. If I was running an SR with timed turns, I would have that under Format, as well as expand on it in details stating how many minutes per turn it will be set at. Agenda is something I learned to start adding to make sure everyone is not in the dark, and knows what to expect.
- Registration 10:30a
- Pairings 11a
- Round One 11a-1p
- Round Two 1p-3p
- Food break 3p-3:30p
- Round Three 3:30p-5:30p
- Announcements/Prizes 5:30p-6p
Looking at the sample agenda above, your attendees know they are looking around an 8 hour day of gaming. They know that there’s going to be a food break, and they know the estimated times so they can make plans with their SO’s, and family.
Day of the Event
You’ve gone through all the steps and now you are at the day of the event. Make sure you are there early to set up tables, get the first scenario set up, get table cloths put down, whatever is needed for the event. Give yourself about an hour so you’re not running around panicked trying to get everything done at the last minute. You should have a checklist that you follow. Don’t try to wing it. Proper prior planning is your friend. Once everything is set up, all that’s left is to sign people in, and get the event under way.
Remember you are an Event Organizer and not a judge. You will be asked for your ruling on something at a table. Make the best you can. If there’s a clock, pause it and look it up. If you cannot find it in under 5 minutes or so, make a judgement call. Let the players know how you will rule it and make sure you stick to the ruling for the rest of the day. If someone finds the ruling afterwards, as much as you want to go back and change the ruling and rewind the game, don’t. Doing so causes more confusion. Let the game state lie, and acknowledge the correct ruling after the game.
You got this. Take each issue that comes up with a deep breath and a grain of salt. From running events for the past 6 years, the best advice I can give you is this: Have a plan, be consistent, communicate frequently, and above all else have fun.