Tell Your Story!

Event planning is the trickiest for some and easiest for others. Imagining the finished product. What does everyone involved experience at your event? How does it feel when you’re there? What’s the ideal testimonial they give to you after it’s all said and done? What features and offerings do you have to share?

If you’re doing this for the event’s sake, you know your sport. If you’re trying to make money, you may not. Now it’s time to pick the needs for your location and pick your sport. These two go hand in hand. Anyone can put on a 5k just about anywhere, but to put on really awesome events the location should dictate the course. You want your event participants to be wowed. Location, paired with sport, is what matters.

Bottom line:

  • Is venue location key to the success of my event?
  • Can I find enough of my target demographic in this venue location, or will the event itself compel them to travel long distances?
  • Just how challenging should the venue’s terrain be for my demographic?
  • How big a location do I need? Do I need to account for parking, festival, vendor space, or other space-hogs?
  • How will I build this space out? Will it fill up or feel vastly open (be careful with open events –if a venue is huge and doesn’t feel full, that emptiness can diminish the experience for event goers)?

In the initial stages, it may be tempting to keep coming up with elements to your story. Fight this urge. We will talk about this in the marketing chapter but, for now, just know that the more you have to say, the less your audience will listen. Complex event stories are not ones people will sit and listen to, even if there’s so much more. Boil it down to one or two ideas. Most people do not care about the subtle details that will become important to you. We’ve had clients become obsessed with photo-op backdrops while expressing no interest in executing the afterparty they were heavily promoting.

Practice explaining your concept to friends and family. If they “get it” you’re golden. Better yet, writing your mission down succinctly will help you connect with other parties down the line, from sponsors to participants to web designers.

Validating Your Idea- Is it Weak?

How do you know if your idea will fly? Ask yourself this at every milestone in the event planning process. A lot of people have brilliant ideas, but brilliant ideas to you may not be brilliant to others. It’s time to put your ideas out into the world.

You are now an artist. You are putting your work out into the world and others are criticizing it. We get it. It’s scary.

Remember, events aren’t just about passion and creativity. They are about money. You’re either fundraising or you’re making this your job. Just wait until you get to race day. You’ll be forking over your hard earned money, looking back at all the stress and work you’ve gone through, and you’ll realize that the only people about to have a good time are the people who came to enjoy your hard work.

So what is validation? It’s finding people in your demographic, and then pitching your idea and price to them:

“So, I have an idea: [Explain idea]. Is this something you would make a priority to do?”

Listen carefully to their response. Then ask:

“This is how much I think I would need to charge for my idea. Would you pay for it? And would you sign up today?”

If you hear excuses like “I need to check my schedule,” your idea is weak. It may not be a good idea or it may need refining. People who aren’t ready to fork over money immediately are also telling you something about the event or its pitch. Don’t commit until people say, “Yes, I am so there. Take all my money. I’ll start training right now.”

True validation is getting three people to buy tickets to your event the minute you tell them the idea. No amount of Facebook likes or supportive friends equal the power of ticket compulsion.

If Your Idea is Weak

The best products identify a need. This need may or may not be understood by the customer. In business this is called a “pain point.” A pain point makes someone squirm. A great example of this is the mud run boom. It answered a couple needs in the general population, namely: “Running is boring,” “I don’t feel connected to people,” “I don’t do anything noteworthy.” Mud runs are “happenings.” They take a traditional 5k or more run and make something happen. Something which relieves people’s boredom and makes them feel accomplished. Running marathons used to have the same power, but like any idea they lost their steam overtime. Now we have mud run marathons and more!

Sit down with your idea. Look for ways to fill people’s concerns. If you’re interested in running, ask the people you think would run your race what bothers them about running and races in general. Ask them what the best things are. Ask them what they wish was a part of that experience. Then provide it. Remember to incorporate those provisions into your message. Don’t leave registrations on the table. If you have a feature, ensure people know about it! We’ll return to this soon.

If you find you don’t have a pain point but your idea is still not motivating people, and you need and want to do this event, pay close attention to our marketing section. A compelling campaign can make all the difference.

Who Are You Targeting?

Set out the primary reason for your actions. That is “make money”, “do something awesome”, or “raise awareness.” Determine who it is you’re trying to sell to. Your event is going to be aimed at somebody. That somebody is going to shape the feel of the whole thing. If you’re aiming for rich men in their 80s, your language and visuals, along with the course and prizes, are going to be different than if you were aiming towards a gaggle of teenage girls. You may say, “Everyone is my demographic.” Wrong. Think about Apple vs Android. Are they targeting everyone these days, or do they know their audience and cater to them?

If you’ve never had to do this, there are a number of demographics research tools on the Internet. You can also ask similar event principals about their experience. For instance, it’s surprising the number of women events are attracting, yet some events only provide male-sized t-shirts (shirts that don’t get worn, don’t get exposure).
You need to get specific with who you are talking to and designing around. You’re not just saying “men in their 40s with road bikes.” You need at least one other qualifier:

[demographic 1] + [ demographic 2] = nicely focused audience member

Your event can have more than one audience, but you need to know this before you start as it will inform everything from venue to date to details about the event.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the age range (and median) for events similar to what I want to do?
  • Is there an age range I specifically want to target?
  • Is there a target gender?
  • Is this an easily accessible sport with low entry fees or not?
  • How much money should my demographic make to be able to comfortably afford my fees?
  • What interests does my demographic have (we know they like to mountain bike, but do they
  • also have a Honda Civic)?
  • Is there crossover that I can target (e.g. do they just love minipigs)?

Where do I find them (doing laundry at the laundromat)?Once you start to ask these questions, you can do research with tools like Facebook advertising and statistics websites. Getting ahold of sponsorship packets from similar events is also useful. These demographics not only help target your event, they attract sponsors.

It’s also a good idea to create a mascot alongside your logo. More on this later.

The Birth of an Event

Events happen for two reasons. Either it’s a way to generate money or awareness, or you would just like to see this event take place. Most people think events are a mix of both. From the beginning, the smartest thing you can do is decide what the event really is to you. That will help you.

If you’re doing this event for money, your primary concern needs to be making money. That means you need to draw enough people from the community to make it worth your while. It means not draining your time, money, and enthusiasm. Organizations looking to make money need to have solid connections in the community the event targets and that the event isn’t part of a saturated group because you’ll never cut through the establishment, no matter how awesome you are.

It’s important to understand the market you’re entering – the participants, the culture, and the language. It’s your job to learn that culture. Attend similar events. Talk to people who go to these kind of events. Listen for their struggles and concerns – be prepared to solve them.
If you’re doing this for the love, be careful. The same concerns apply, but for a different reason.

Events don’t make money easily. While that may not be a concern of yours, losing money will be. Sometimes an event doesn’t exist not because someone with the knowhow and passion just hasn’t done it, but because it just won’t fly. Another pitfall of “doing it for love” is that many directors are just racers that love races. You’ll need to turn out something more if you want to be a well-oiled, efficient machine. You need to think about a lot more than racer experience or how awesome a course is. Those don’t make a sustainable event, even if we all wish they did.

Events succeed because of your business acumen. Great events fail because of lack of promotion and wasteful execution.

Keep the why in mind. Know your purpose before you do anything. It will help you design the event, market it, and keep going long into the night when your bed is calling you. If you’re the writing type, now is a great time to start a journal and explore what you’re looking to get out of this. If you’re not, assemble a bunch of friends and talk it out. Take notes! Make a big ol’ note to yourself that you can look at in good and bad times. Remember why you started this!

Use events as team builders!

Are you a corporation looking for something fun to do?
– It’s a proven fact that a little fear and adversity makes us bond.
Why not sign your team up for a race with us? 

Our Checkpoint Challenge partner and team races combine team work and adventure into one unforgettable morning!

Or train all year long for a triathlon with your group and join us at the Morro Bay Triathlon!

Another great option is volunteering or sponsoring an aid station – give back to the racers and our charities while teaching the value of service!

Perhaps you’d like your own?

We provide a unique experience for ambitious fundraisers through the Orangewood Foundation – network with high powered people who don’t mind getting dirty!

Contact us and let us know what we can do to support you, whether it’s customizing event shirts for your group, providing booth space, or putting together a custom event for your organization.

Lessons Learned After Over a Decade of Event Production

We make it our business to know the ins and outs of our business, and that means that despite us not being the biggest on the block, or the most profitable, we are generally slightly ahead of event trends for a reason.

When we started doing this, we were eager kids with a lot of free time, not a lot of business acumen or long term vision, unlimited energy, and extremely limited income. We landed large sponsorships from recognizable companies, got a lot of local support, and made it feel like this was an easy place to make our way.

My, how things have changed!

The final Mud Mash, RIP little guy!

The final Mud Mash, RIP little guy!

In 2010, we had a stable of ten events: adventure races, triathlon, runs, bike races, mud runs, and more. We worked hard, we played hard, and hopefully we made a lot of people happy. In 2016, we’ll be self producing two events. Why the shrink?

A number of factors, many of which affect the future of all events going forward:

  • Insurance changes – As time has progressed, events have gotten larger as a whole and had more attention from the insurers themselves. Since land managers won’t let you produce an event on their property without it, insurance is a must. But when the requirements for insurance start to impinge on the ability to produce an event, it starts to become a problem. This could be required coverage increasing over 100% from one year to the next, it could be restrictions on an event’s features (aka, you can’t have water activities or obstacles), or it could be flat out refusal to insure, depending on the event. History, longevity, and safety records don’t matter.
  • Politics and resource management crackdown – Whether it’s Florida or California, we’ve experienced more and more difficulty because of permit requirements from management agencies. We’ve had government agencies demand we hire a specific company in the permitting process for a service that charges way more than something any other company could provide, we’ve had safety agencies require above and beyond coverage because of one thing happen with a different event because of poor management and planning, and we’ve had increased demands for permits – requiring thousands of dollars of professional services we used to be able to do ourselves. Things like this limit creativity, and definitely limit profitability for an event. We’re proud of our professionalism and ability to navigate this world and make things work (our 24 hour race this year involved 14 different permitting agencies working in conjunction with one another in a location we’d never hosted an event at, and everyone left happy!), but that’s a benefit of over a decade of learning the game. The newer entries to the event world will have a harder and harder time, especially as we feel the squeeze.
  • It took a lot of convincing and team work to get this 24 hour adventure race to go.

    It took a lot of convincing and team work to get this 24 hour adventure race to go.

    Marketing Challenges – Ten years ago, we didn’t have quite the sophisticated marketing machine we do now. This is good and bad. You can target the heck out of people you think would like to know about your event, but unless you have the $$ to do so, you’ll never get through. An old advertising adage was you have to hit someone 7 times before they engage.

    • How much will that cost? We particularly loved Spartan Race’s Joe Desena in an article with Obstacle Racing Media: “When Spartan was first beginning to advertise in 2010, DeSena said he had a “moment of insanity” and was spending about $300,000 a month on digital marketing. In what could have been a warning to potential competitors looking at the Obstacle Course Racing business, DeSena said if he were to attempt to reach that same amount of people today it would cost about eight times that $300,000 monthly expense. “It would be hard for us to recreate that today”.”
    • In 2014, we went into $15,000 debt to throw everything we had at marketing our obstacle race and triathlon – and the result was what we expected: not enough. Fancy website redesigns, aggressive online targeting, and billboards just won’t do it. Without a built-in desire by the population to find your event, unless you’re an established something in your community, it’s a massive uphill battle that requires either patience or lots and lots of money. Neither of which is a guarantee of success.
  • Community Support – We’re not talking about the racing community here. If you are putting on a good quality event, you’re touching your participants in a sincere and impressive way, and you’re relating to them on a peer level, you’re winning. The key here is getting enough of them. But, no, we’re talking about the larger community: local businesses, governments, and tourism boards getting behind what you’re trying to do. We’ve seen events have a LOT more success here than we by bringing a different game with them: while we’ve been putting on events *we* think are cool, the better tactic for support is finding out what the community wants and bringing that forth. This can be through demographic research, surveys, or asking. But, for us? We’d rather do what we love than do what others want us to.
  • Big business/scalability/adaptability – With the advent of the Internet and social media, we’re very, very connected. The local mom and pop event won’t draw to its potential unless you go big. Just like chain businesses where a loss here and there balances out with a portfolio of locations, so too are the more successful event chains.
    • At the same time, we’ve watched the rise and fall of attempts through the years, most notably the obstacle course races. Remember Zombie Runs? Man, when all the zombie movies came out, I was sold. But what was promised and what was delivered couldn’t line up. Beyond that, people moved on from zombies to the next trend. The undead are dead.
    • Obstacle course races in general definitely peaked a few years ago. We had to compete with two other events locally one fall, both under delivering and blighting the offering as a whole. And, beyond that . . . only a few races have maintained viable numbers (though they are falling vastly from their peak years) from what we can see – and they did it by scaling big time right away, plugging in, digging deep, and expanding internationally. Only so many people have the investment and skill resources to make that work. Certainly not the majority of event producers, and to the detriment of why most get into it in the first place – to have fun!
    • The other thing we’ve seen happen here is events that survive, adapt. Again, a great example of that has been The Spartan Race series: started in the heat of passion for the movie 300, thousands of people, inspired by the Greek Spartans signed up to test themselves. The original races focused heavily on the Spartan theme . . . but as the passion for 300 faded, they harnessed the passion for the workout it inspired, and the Crossfit revolution that started around the same time and created a symbiotic relationship there. It was brilliant, it was forward thinking, and it is something most of us lack the ability to do while mired in a million things at once. There are triathlons based on lakes are literally drying up and attendance is waning . . . adaptability is the #1 thing to do if you’re established but want success.
  • unnamed (12)

    Just another triathlon, but an ocean one, with kayaking, and great community support.

    Recognizing that the market is saturated – It is IMPOSSIBLE to schedule an event that doesn’t conflict with a compatible event. You have to either be so cool and different that they have to try yours, or you have to be more accessible in some way or another. And you have to make sure the population that wants to go to both is big enough to fill both.

Bottom line, the only way to make events work these days is figure out what people want, and give it to them. But then you also have to have the means to do so.

Some of our events have failed dismally in the past, leaving us near bankruptcy. Some of our events have been wildly successful one year and then tanked the next, with no reason we can put our finger on. Event production is like playing a slot machine. Put enough money and resources in there and do it long enough, it will hopefully pan out. But do you want to wait around that long if you’re not lucky enough to start with a lot of money or win on the first few handle pulls?

I highly recommend reading Seth Godin’s The Dip to really make this point. Basically, you have two charts:

chart3This chart shows you three possible paths for your endeavors – you’ll feel really good as your effort starts to go up but then . . . CRASH! or you’ll be fighting a good long time and then . . . CRASH!

What you need to be on is The Dip:


How do you get there? By getting better than your competition (and you always have competition, even if you don’t see it yet) and persevering through your competition’s hardships. Again, via money, energy, or time.

Another great, relatable book to our topic is How Bad Do You Want It? After reading the author’s case studies, I’ve found that in many ways, in many different arenas in my life, the answer is “Not bad enough.” When it’s time to crash out, cash out, or just stop feeding the machine, it’s when you answer “How Bad Do You Want It” with “Not bad enough.”

And that is why All Out Events has shrunk in the last five years. Though, arguably, the past few years have been our most profitable both from the ability to enjoy life angle and the events. Singling our attention to the events we actually want to put on makes a huge difference for a small business. We took a look at energy expenditure vs money income and the answer for things like our popular Mud Mash was: “we don’t want it bad enough.” It wasn’t a loser, but it took all hands on deck to make it go and it wasn’t growing enough for us to scale it or make it easier to produce.

This is where we get to the state of our beloved All Out Adventures series. How bad do we (and our community) want it? When we looked at the end of this year’s efforts and it netted a bit of a loss, and when we found out we were expecting twins in 2016, the answer was . . . we don’t want it bad enough. And so, we put it to the adventure race community and asked them the same thing . . . and the answer also was . . . not bad enough.

In the end, it's the fun, the smiles, and the love that matters.

In the end, it’s the fun, the smiles, and the love that matters.

And that’s exactly the issue with that sport’s success. There are races willing to put in the effort to keep growing and pushing the sport, but unless there’s a large, adaptable, scalable effort on a national level, we’re getting nowhere. While we feel we have the skillset to make that work, we need more powerful resources to make it work. Most help has come in the form of asking us to simply work harder to prove ourselves, but we feel we’re past that, and we’re getting contracts that bank on our skills that pay maximally for minimal effort these days. Where is the motivation?

And so, dear reader, that is the state of events in 2016 from All Out Events’ perspective. We hope this was interesting and perhaps helpful!

When a Last Minute Cancellation of a Race Isn’t a Scam

I don't have a photo of Josue Stephens or the race, so you get this instead.

I don’t have a photo of Josue Stephens or the race, so you get this instead. Thanks, Creative Commons!

A month ago, our friend and fellow SLO resident and race director, Josue Stephens, flew out with his young son to take him to Mexico and be a part of a much hallowed, respected, and super cool race, the Ultra Caballo Blanco. The race was started by Micah True and made famous in the book Born to Run – a chronicle of how modern science interferes with evolution in humans and sparked a minimalist, fore-striking movement.

I read the book. I totally tried the barefoot running shoes, the Nike Frees, the New Balances, and you probably have, too. Whether you’ve stayed with it or gone the Hoka One One route (totally the opposite), most athletes know about True and this race and the indigenous Tarahumara running stars profiled in the book.

When True died out in the desert on a run, his friends looked around for someone to take the reins – settling on Stephens. For the past few years he’s worked with True’s friends to produce a race in a rough part of Mexico (it’s cited in the book as a hotbed of drug activity) that both highlights and supports the Tarahumara there.

What should have been a beautiful destination race that gave back to the people there and gave much to the participants ended up being canceled last minute. It was such a big story, that the New York Times picked it up, along with the usual running magazines, sites, and blogs.

Sitting at my computer, looking at Facebook, I was shocked to see this update from Stephens come through my feed:

Runners are safe and the majority of them have begun their journey home. We will have more information in a few days once we are home and rested. We encourage everyone to run this week in support of peace, in the Copper Canyons and all over the world.

Because of the race cancelation we were unable to distribute the corn to Raramuri finishers as was traditional. However, we are working together with Norawas de Raramuri to arrange fair distribution of this corn to the Raramuri villages that have participated in the event before.

What what what?

When Stephens returned, he told us that an incredible thing had happened – drug violence had escalated to the point he didn’t feel safe putting on the event as people were being found literally decapitated and he his son had been caught in crossfire between the drug violence in town.

So, with the racers all having arrived, he made a difficult choice to cancel the event. The Mexican government, eager for good publicity and tourism dollars literally took his bullhorn and told people to stay, that it was safe and they would be protected. Really? Who was protecting the Stephenses in the street, the police he saw dearmed and abducted?

And so, the race was off.

And dang, rightly so. You do not send people under your protection, many of whom are in a foreign country and do not speak the language? NO BRAINER.

Did you know that race insurance (much like home insurance) has clauses for just such thing – and it’s terminated in case of war, acts of God, etc.

So, what was definitely a safe call by Stephens was met with major controversy in the running community. Why? Because Fuego y Agua, Stephen’s company was not refunding people’s money.

As we like to do here from time to time, let’s take a look at this for a moment.

The obstacle racing industry has been plagued in the past few years with events being set up, money collected, and then quietly canceled. Outside magazine profiled a race company that did it with marathons. Is there much recourse for such things? Some, yes, but most of the time if they’re filing bankruptcy or you are getting the hell out of dodge with untraceable funds – there’s no real chance you’ll see your money again. (In this case, however, it’s always a good idea to dispute charges through your credit card – they’ll likely help you out and there are consequences for the company that then comes under investigation by the credit card for fraud.)

But when an event director comes to a location, has the entire thing set up, staff in place, shirts, finisher prizes, permits, insurance, etc in order – should he or she give back all the money?

No. Here’s why: do you love that organization? Do you want to see it continue to succeed? Did you know that most races cost a pretty penny to put on?

When all those expenses are laid out prior to event day, who eats those costs if people give you back full refunds? The company – and many times, a specific individual. If you’re not working with a big budget, that’s going to hurt. It’s going to result in things like bankruptcy and Ramen for dinner . . . and why would you want to do that to someone? If you’ve got enough cash laid out to attend an event, train for it, and race in it, my guess is that it’s not worth it to you to make someone else suffer mightily because the event doesn’t happen for a good reason. Events, let’s face it, are luxuries. For the people in Mexico – they were able to come together, get their race swag, have a great vacation, and many went and ran together in solidarity in other, safer places.

But there’s always a few.

The whole thing left a bad taste in Stephens’ mouth and he immediately relinquished the race for the following year – it’s been given to the nonprofit beneficiary for the race in the past, Norawas de Raramuri. We hope that they’re able to continue this beautiful race in a safe way for the future. Now the locals are empowered to use the race as they see fit to help their community. As someone who shared the notice said, sin palabras (speechless). It’s a beautiful gesture for a race with a huge following that could have been sold at a profit. Scam artist? Heck no.

Our race director, Yishai, had the honor of going to Nicaragua a month prior to assist Stephens’ Fuego y Agua series there (here’s a great blog with beautiful photos of it) – and Y came back with much respect for the honor, professionalism, and calm that Stephens exuded. We will be proud to partner with him in the future on our events and on his, and we’re glad he made the decision not to go destitute because of a few indignant, albeit loud, voices.

We’ve seen, and, unfortunately, partnered with scam artists and people with poor character – but he is not one of them, and that next race you enter that gets canceled might be for a good reason, too. (Hey, did you hear about Ironman Tahoe last year? Canceled at the starting line. No lie!)

Understand the costs, and we hope you’ll understand the choices made.

Leadership By Giving Power Away

"I might be putting this thing on, but the athlete's the one in charge."

“I might be putting this thing on, but the athlete’s the one in charge.”

People get into the event business for a number of reasons, but the ones that stick around seem to have two very strong qualities:

  1. The desire to be in the middle of intense action, even when it hurts.
  2. Entrepreneurial spirit

I’ve been chatting with our intern during our weekly meetings about what she wants to do with her life. She’s finishing up at community college here and on the path to moving back home and getting the 4-year degree. She’ll be leaving an epic social life and a lot of opportunities. “It just feels like getting that degree is delaying opportunities,” she said. And, surprisingly, her parents are also asking her to reconsider finishing that degree.

All of the principals of All Out Events have four year (or more) degrees, but after ten years in the business, we totally get it. We don’t need a college degree, we need those two qualities above.

Especially for the kind of work we do. When everything seems to be going to hell at once (and yes, it happens, but hopefully you don’t see it), our radios flare up and we call out for support, for reinforcements, for quick-action decisions.  Nobody is there to punch a clock, and everyone is there hoping that the hardwork will pay off eventually.

You don’t get people like that by being “the boss” and holding the power for yourself. Sometimes I reckon that putting on high logistics events feel like orchestrating a war. All these factors, civilians, enemies (in the form of problems, nature, complaints), and tons of different angles. There’s a reason great generals are there not as top-down decision makers but also as inspirers.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to be left standing, broken, bankrupt, and ultimately responsible. But hopefully your troops got something out of it, no matter what.

The thing that’s missing with the general analogy is the fact that event planning takes a team. A team you can rely on. One you can lean on.

10 pm, and we're still going strong!

10 pm, and we’re still going strong!

Over time, I’ve learned that if you’ve got people with those two qualities, you can give them everything. You can tell them how much money you’re making (or not), you can tell them what’s going on with marketing, and you can ask them what is going wrong. You’re on the same team – you’re pulling for the same successes. Moreover, you’re not alone when you have to make big decisions. Whether it’s hiring or closing up shop, your team is with you and they’ll be there to make sure it’s not all on you.

That is a blessing. Being the “boss” in events means giving away the “boss-ness” of your relationship and making sure everyone gets what they need to kill it.

When they don’t, looking to yourself first for the reason why. Make sure you’re quick to see effort and note it – even if it’s just “Hey, I saw you do that. I appreciate it.”

And if you see fault, go back to navel gazing for a moment – if these people are on your team, what’s causing the problem? Can it be addressed proactively by you before you even approach them with your criticism? Many times, the answer is yes. Maybe you need to train them more, prepare them more, or make them understand their role in the bigger picture.

Get out of micromanagement and let your team know what the consequences are. There’s no bloated company paychecks or people punching the clock to blame – it’s people bruised, bleeding, and tired right alongside you.

Find people that work like you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life (and they’re fun to go with beers with after it’s all over, too)!

That’s living.

That’s leadership.

How to Put on a Really Awesome Event.

6/2018: This is the start of what later became our book.

We did it because we wanted to make something short for people to follow instead of meeting with everyone all the time for event planning assistance. It was also helpful for us to do the steps in order.

how to put on an event cargo net climb

Don’t get caught hanging around

People contact us all the time asking us to put on this or that event. And while the concept of extra cash is awesome, it’s a pretty good truth that doing lots of things means you do them mediocrely. So, instead, we at All Out Events proudly present our method to Put On a Really Awesome Event (PORAE).

How to ace event planning:

Pick your location and pick your sport.

These two go hand in hand – sure, anyone can put on a 5k about anywhere, but we believe that to PORAE, the location should dictate the course. You want your event participants to be wowed, and the best way to do that is to think about what makes them do that. Location, paired with sport, is what matters. Also, work with the authorities for the area – know your laws and rights.

Pick your reason.

Why exactly are you doing this? About to sign on for umpteen hours lost, stressing about finite details and issues you had no idea were going to happen? For people to yell at you about things you kind of think are small potatoes? Pick your reason and believe in it. This will get you through the darker moments and it will help you sell the event to sponsors, volunteers, and participants.

Pick your demographic.

Based on your reason, you’re going to aim your event at somebody. That somebody is going to shape the feel of the whole thing. If you’re aiming for rich men in their 80s, your language and visuals, along with the course and prizes are going to be different than a whole gaggle of teenage girls. You may say, “But everyone is my demographic.” Wrong. Think about Apple vs PC. Are they targeting everyone these days, or do they know their audience and cater to them?

Pick your time of year.

Knowing who you are attracting will help with this. Weather can be a factor, as will be wildflowers and unique details like how busy your town is (ie, if you live in a college town and you attract college students, summer’s probably not a brilliant idea). If you’re attracting regular competitors, check race calendars and find out what people’s training schedule is. If it’s a school event, put it closer to September, when everyone is excited about school, rather than June, when everyone is over it.

Determine your course.

Just as location should have been your true inspiration, now the details of the course come together, informed by who you want at your race, why you’re doing it (torture = hills, love = flat), and what time of year it goes on (maybe that venue is too full to do it then?)

Now that you have all these things down, it’s time to pay attention to branding!

We cannot say enough about logo design.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars, but you do need to figure out a way to boil down the flavor of your race to something visual that leads it. For example, for our Mud Mash, we have “Happy Pig.” Whenever we make a decision about the event, we ask, “Would Happy Pig approve?”

Using your logo and your event vision, it’s time to develop a website.

And again, while you can spend oodles of money on flash, the reality is – for most smaller, first year events, the connections you have, the posters you make, and the word of mouth you generate is really enough. These things drive people to the site for info. And, if you did your homework on the above, there will plenty of people “making it flashy” for you without too much effort.

Set up registration.

You can take mail-in reg, but it’s usually better to go with an online registration service – most services offer turnkey solutions that you just process by filling in form inquiries, and you’ll take care of waivers, actual registration, contact info collection, demographic data, and payment processing without much hassle. is a great site – but expensive. We are currently working with Eventbrite, tpoo, who has awesome customer service and work to customize your registration to your needs.

Find champions to promote your events

Maybe they are beneficiaries, or friends, co-workers, whatever.

  • Arm them with posters and promotional cards.
  • Send them to meetings.
  • Send press releases out and talk to the media.
  • Give people ample time to hear about it and be trained up for it.



Get insurance.

Look for an association in your sport that sanctions in exchange for insurance. They help draw people in, promote, and insure you. Otherwise, you’ll need to shop a commercial broker.

Make sure you design solid advertising.

  • Posters are a better investment than anything, and pretty cheap.
  • Be sure to give shirts away at your event for year-over-year word of mouth. Good luck figuring out shirt sizing. We’ve yet to get it perfect. Order samples!

Course marking

When you mark your course, assume your racers are stupid! They aren’t obviously. But the problem is, during race day, you kind of put your head down and make assumptions. Mark it like your dog is trying to follow the arrows. Use people wherever you can (the racers ignore those, too). We’ve used tape to mark off a trail and people jump right over it.


You can go super cheap and do it yourself by getting bib numbers with rip-off bottoms and just collecting them on a wire clotheshanger unstrung. Or, you can get fancy and hire a timing company. You get what you pay for.

Think about the finish experience.

We remember best what happened last. What do you want your racers to come away thinking? Is this a big, fat party, a reverent celebration, or a quiet time?


  • Sponsorship is really hard to come by. Unless you’re pulling giant numbers, you need to work hard to get big cash.
  • Look in unusual places – ask companies to help you with supplies you need, like food or word of mouth.
  • Customize your options, don’t just make it cookie-cutter.
  • Get swag – this is part of that finish experience.


People like photos of themselves. They’ll buy them, too. You can hire someone to take it, or get someone to take photos for free and post them online for sale. Make sure you can use them, too.

Get visual collateral from the event. Photos are great and video is king.

There you go – basic event production in a nutshell!