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Events in a Pandemic: What you can learn to move forward

If it doesn’t have WEEEEE, it ain’t for thee.

In 2020, like a lot of other companies, our sister rock gym companies included, we struggled to both remain relevant and also provide what we always do – something to look forward, a community, and a destination.

So we put on a virtual triathlon. Not the kind where you can do nothing and get a medal – just one where you did it by yourself. Morro Bay Habor patrol was happy to set out a buoy for those who opted in. The theme was 2021 – Alone. Together.

We learned a lot about how to make something like that work, which is great – but we also learned that was a whole lot of NO THANKS IF I DON’T HAVE TO (at least at our end).

We were truly gratified in 2021 to see the resurgence of our events: adventure racing with Orangewood, a 24-hour race in Mammoth, and a return of the Morro Bay Triathlon. All of them had record, sell out attendance. We were worried you’d all found something else to do – but what we have learned is that events are a fundamental peak human experience.

So, that’s it – that’s the lesson. If you tap into the fundamental need for people to look forward to something and connect to those on the same path, you will be a success.

Super tools: CoSchedule – true marketing software

Take back control when marketing your events!

The hard part about being a small business person is that it’s a small business. You’re worried about the ACTUAL product, and then you’re worried about everything else.

What’s really hard when you’re both the money person AND the marketing person, because when money’s tight, you feel like it’s your fault and you need to try harder.

Because of this, I spend a LOT of time looking for affordable ways to do marketing right and by far my most favorite tool is

For starters, CoSchedule has one of the best blogs on productivity and marketing around. That is how they hooked me. I use and RSS feed and check articles weekly and I always landed on them. They knew what they were doing, it was worth spending the time and energy to learn something new.

The cloud-based software is built around a calendar, that you can use for multiple accounts and events. You’ll connect everything you’ve got: your email, WordPress sites, product management software, and of course your Facebook pages, groups, Instagram account, Twitter, you name it.

co schedule event social media

Start filling out that calendar with posts, emails, and blogs!

CoSchedule will take you through a complete campaign: you can write a blog post, determine when to post it, when to share it via newsletter and social media and watch the clicks come in.

Pre load photos and forgettabout it!

They have an add-on product that will repost classic and evergreen posts when your feed is a little slow.

Basically, CoSchedule is what every proactive marketer needs. Keep being spontaneous, but relax knowing the big stuff like price bumps and promotional emails are covered.

Depending on your plan, you can also collaborate with others, keep a running log of tasks and ideas to write up, and there’s just so much I’ve barely touched.

See how it leads you through the calendar?

But, bottom line, stop wasting ti

me piecing everything together and start CoSchedule today.





You can even plan events!

Stop reinventing the wheel – get the 2nd edition of our event production book!


Born out of people constantly asking us how to get started, All Out Events poured their almost 20 years into diverse event production into this little baby. The second edition has even more information, new images, and updated ideas!

Whether you’re a veteran event planner, or just starting out, we’re sure you’ll find something in there to help you take your event production to the next level!

The All Out Events Guide to Great Sporting Events Book

From 5k to 500k, the complete guide to starting and running a successful and profitable outdoor, human powered event.

Available in Kindle and Paperback Book format!

Capitalizing on over a decade of experience producing diverse events and series, All Out Events brings you information on marketing, organizing, hiring, course, design, volunteer management and more.

Whether it’s your first event or 100th, you’ll find tips inside this event book  for race and event directors for the entire process. We guide you from start to finish with information on:

  • Founding your own event business
  • Working for other people as an event producer or race director
  • Choosing and working with a non-profit
  • Working with land managers and authorities
  • Choosing your course
  • Branding, marketing, and developing your website
  • Seeking sponsorship
  • Budgeting
  • Hiring and managing staff
  • Race/event day preparation

Let us take you through the steps to a successful event

  • Determine goals of the event. For whom are you doing this? Is it a market that exists and you’ll be sharing or one you have to create?
  • Determine scope of work for event. Create a discovery document that serves later as your operations manual.
  • Create and evaluate a budget. How much will this cost to put on? Where will the money come from? Where will it go out to? Determine if this is a worthwhile event based on goals for the event.
  • Set the price or profit that makes enacting the scope of work and budget worth pursuing.
  • Secure a contract and deposit if hired for the event. The deposit should be considered seed money for efforts prior to the main payback. This includes business overhead, paying yourself, marketing, and the like.
  • Create a timeline of deliverables based on scope of work.
  • Work on deliverables, keeping to timeline and evaluating priorities as deadlines approach.
  • Profit!

Get our FREE budget template to get a taste of what awaits!


Small Events Wishlist for TBID

Today I sat in my annual tourism board meeting to support our request for local funding. The thing that kept coming up again and again is how small events (aka, put on with shoestrings by a non-professional team) needed more support, support, support.

TBID committees are a huge win-win. They are regional (city, county, state, even country) organizations that are usually comprised of engaged community members and hoteliers looking to bring tourism dollars to cities and put “heads in beds.”

Heads in hotel beds = more money for the local economy, and sometimes a lot more. It’s good for everyone. Hoteliers will tax themselves and then use the funds to stimulate tourism.

The first thing an event planner needs to know is about that – because that’s some solid feed money for a well organized event. But they have to put it toward marketing, and you have to be pretty good at marketing to convince them you’re worth their money when everyone wants it, too.

Anyway . . . the one thing I know after doing this for a long time is that most event producers are crappy marketers. You get into event production because you love that aspect of it. If you build it, will they come? Not these days, when there’s a million different things clamoring for your attention at all times.

So, how can TBID up their game?

By providing one piece of crucial support for event businesses: a concierge.

As I’m sitting there listening to complaints I myself had at one time, and at the same time, felt my brain churning in ways in which I could help these people (but I can’t, because my time is extremely finite these days), I settled on the concierge idea. Someone whose job it is to know what events are going on, who the city is supporting, and helps event producers support each other.

Mostly, because I have a lot of resources, I wanted to run up to everyone presenting and offer something – but it just isn’t realistic. What if someone else did it for me? Paired nonprofits with event producers, sponsors looking for exposure with the right events, knew where to find resources. . .

For example, TBID generally has a table at events, why not have someone that contacts people for collateral and helps guide what it could look like? This same person would know what’s going on, and which events would be useful to cross promote to, and send out emails and social media ready images for groups to use. Someone who is like, “Oh, you want to do this? I know the people to do it, meet so and so.” TBID could even solicit events, I haven’t seen that often, to support those that they already do – want a multiday thing? Help people combine forces! Connection in the community is so key!

I’d gladly have that service instead of the money we get to promote our events. While we are pretty good at marketing, nothing like networking already ripe markets to make them effective. And this is where event planners are weak on time even though it might be the most beneficial thing local events can do. Word of mouth and support of your community has a much higher ROI than a Facebook ad ever will.

TBIDs usually retain marketing firms that market specifically their own brand/website, etc. Encouraging TBID spending to improve collateral they can use (photography, videos, and even perhaps providing the resources for that – like sending an official photographer, releasing press releases, etc) would make a huge difference, too. Leveraging that power by getting events to provide collateral as part of the deal.

But what about events that don’t work hard to work with the concierge and make the most of it? Don’t support them, pure and simple.

So, TBID needs to actively leverage what they’ve got in hand (money) in more effective ways than each individual event producer can – scale that thing because otherwise, that seed money just might not be enough for success.

This is true with everything, it’s all a sales funnel. We can hand someone money but how they spend that money may or may not be effective. It takes creative marketers to cut through the clutter of everything . . . having the committee hire good people who can do that and who can help up people’s games with less resources is a win-win for everyone. If I’ve got someone actively worrying about my event, telling me where I need to be with what, and maybe even helping me poster, that’s way better than cash I may or may not spend effectively.

Growth is the mutual goal, and most organizations don’t know what it takes to have that happen. Let TBID provide that!

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!