Dear Event Doctor: A host city for one of our larger events recently asked if we have a manual detailing what has and hasn’t worked in the past on a variety of fronts, including ticket sales, sponsorship and fan engagement. We don’t have such a document. Should we consider creating one?—Manual Override
Dear Manual: Just as host regions are selling their communities and facilities to event organizers, so too should event organizers consider the bid process as a sales effort to interested bidding cities. Failure to approach the host-organizer relationship in this way can cost your event opportunity, and even money. The more you can demonstrate how other cities have generated positive results by hosting your event—showcasing venues, increasing tourism or “changing the conversation” about their community—the more motivated a host city may be in preparing a competitive bid.
The metrics of success may vary by host city, but no one can argue with the positive effects of upticks in hotel occupancy, media exposure, broadcast and digital consumption, and direct revenue. I would not hesitate to provide economic impact figures, although beware that every city evaluates the inflow of new money into their market in different ways.
Impressive live-attendance numbers demonstrate the prestige and desirability of your event, but unless the majority of those flocking to buy tickets are from out of town—thereby generating an increased number of hotel room-nights—the value of ticket figures may be limited to the taxes collected on sales, merchandise, concessions and parking.
Many organizers print high-quality booklets or magazine-like publications that promote their event to prospective sponsors. Some include videos that capture the excitement of the program. With minor changes, such material can serve to enhance the bid process as well. Positive reviews of past host-city performance from third parties can be powerful. Key quotes from local and national media, dignitaries, celebrities and business leaders can help add authenticity to an organizer’s claims of what the event has done, or will do, for a community. Be sure to include legacy and grass-roots engagement programs that add to the quality of life in host cities.
I would save the topic of things that didn’t go well for frank discussion during the bid process, rather than providing a comprehensive postmortem in a document or publication. Host cities should ask those questions, and organizers would be wise to respond candidly to what could have been done better in past events. More to the point, I would be sure to schedule a call or meeting to deal specifically with those issues and concerns with each interested city to ensure you have nothing but great proposals from which to choose. Good luck!
Dear Event Doctor: Our city has a mix of potential venues for sporting events, including some with challenging layouts. What has your experience been running events in tight spaces? Any tricks you can offer to make the experience better for the event organizers we’re looking to attract?—Cramped Quarters
Dear Cramped: Let’s start with the proposition that there is nothing wrong with being creative. I truly believe that creative approaches can actually win events. They provide the organizer, participants and attendees with new experiences and environments that can shake off the stale sameness that may plague events from year to year.
Instead of saying, “Well, we can’t do that,” say, “Anyone can do that, but not everyone can do this.” But remember that your creativity must still be seen as a competitive advantage or at least a competitive equalizer compared to venues in other cities.
I have often been presented with venues that were too small or had floor plans that were not conducive to accommodating my original plans or specifications. An organizer’s initial reaction will often be, “Well, that’s not what I need,” and it’s up to the host city or venue to develop a plan that will meet the needs of the organizer. For example, if the venue is smaller than required in terms of seating capacity, is there a way to make up the shortfall in ticket revenues in other ways? If the convention center exhibition floor is too small to fit all of the organizer’s needs, explore whether meeting rooms can be used to increase the contiguous gross square footage. Can conference rooms and event offices be moved to an attached hotel or office buildings? Can adjacent or attached tents and temporary structures add to the floor space? Can a temporary venue be developed in a field, parking lot or other location?
I’ve sometimes used public facilities to house previously “private” or ticketed functions. When there seemed to be no appropriate space for a media center to support a major event, we moved the television and radio broadcast functions out of a convention center and into the atrium of a major office complex. Fans actually enjoyed watching the media work and some broadcasters even took advantage of the presence of the energetic crowd. With the ubiquity of social media, the added buzz of a press event in a public venue can also be significant.
There is one area where compromise is not tolerated, and that is on the field, court, rink, track or pool. The regulation size of a playing surface is essential to most event organizers, and it is usually not fruitful to propose shortening the dimensions. Concentrate on moving functions that are not required to be in the venue or within sight of the field of play. You will often find that the organizer has requested that these operational functions be located in particular locations only because they’ve always been there, not because they need to be.
The Event Doctor is sports-event veteran Frank Supovitz, president and chief experience officer of Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment, an event management and consulting firm. From 1992 to 2014, Supovitz served as the senior event executive for the National Football League and National Hockey League. He is also the author of “The Sports Event Management and Marketing Playbook.” Questions for The Event Doctor can be emailed to Frank Supovitz at email@example.com.