Basics of Event Planning

Basics of Event Planning
Written by Lindsay G.

1.Introduction to Event Planning

Looking to host tournaments for your local scene, but you’re not sure where to start?  Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about planning a successful weekly or monthly tournament series. Thorough planning is essential to ensure your event runs smoothly and attendees have an enjoyable experience. You’ll want to make sure all bases are covered, which include:

  • Choosing a venue
  • Setting a venue fee
  • Selecting volunteers
  • Acquiring setups
  • Choosing a format
  • Promoting your event
Read on to learn more about each of these steps!

2.Choosing a Venue

When planning an event, finding a venue should be at the top of your list. After all, if you don’t have a location to host a tournament, how will you host it? There are many different location options for a venue such as college buildings, local businesses, a community center, arcade store, hotel conference rooms, etc. You can host a tournament just about anywhere, but a few factors to keep in mind when shopping around are: venue size, electricity, internet, and amenities.

Venue Size/Floor Plan – The easiest way to know what size your venue should be is to look at how many attendees you expect. Don’t book a huge ballroom for 40 attendees, or a small coffee shop for 200 attendees! This is important for comfort, but also for safety. All venues have maximum capacity limits, and if you exceed that limit, there’s a good chance a fire marshal will come and shut the event down (and nobody wants that!)

It also helps to draw out a floor plan (some venues have blank maps of the layout that you can use) to visualize where everything will go, and make sure there’s space for all of it! Some things to include are:

  • Where setup stations will go
  • Stream area
  • Registration desk location
  • Vendor booths (if applicable!)

For the best experience possible, we recommended you leave about 10ft. of space for each set up, so players don’t get crowded.


Electricity
– With all of the consoles you’ll be setting up, you’re going to need a lot of electricity to power your tournament! Therefore, it’s important to discuss the venue’s electrical capabilities with the owner.

Take note of outlet locations, and mark them on your floor plan so you can plan your setup stations accordingly. You can always use extension cables and power strips if the outlet locations aren’t perfect, but for safety reasons you’ll want to avoid daisy chaining the power strips (or, connecting one power strip into another, and so-on), which can overload the electrical current and cause all connected devices to shut off (and potentially be damaged).

Internet – Another topic you’ll want to discuss with the venue is their internet capabilities, primarily if you’ll be running a stream. You’ll want to make sure their speeds are fast enough for you to keep the stream running without sacrificing quality. You want to look for a 10mbps upload speed, minimum (read our article on streaming basics here to find out more about internet speeds). If the current speeds aren’t up to par, the venue may be willing to work with you on getting faster internet.

A good bonus is if they offer free WiFi for your attendees! Keep in mind that having attendees connect to the same internet your stream connects to can affect stream quality, so you might want to consider having two separate connections.

Amenities – Since attendees will be spending anywhere from a few hours to a whole day at your tournament, it’s a good idea to make sure there’s easy access to amenities, most importantly food and drinks. If the venue itself doesn’t offer snacks, meals, or drinks, try to make sure there’s food nearby so your attendees don’t go hungry. If the venue does serve food and drinks, you may be able to discuss getting special deals for your attendees!

If you do find a perfect venue and there’s not much food around, consider offering pizza, sandwiches, or something else players can munch on.

For longer or larger tournaments where people may be traveling, you’ll also want to consider housing options or points of interest within close range of the venue.

2.1.Setting Venue Fees

When determining what to set your venue fee to, you want to find the balance between a price that’s reasonable for your attendees, but also beneficial for you. Taking into account the number of attendees you’re expecting, do the math to figure out how much you need to charge.

For example, if the total costs for your event are $300, and you expect 50 attendees, you’ll need to charge at least $6 per person to exactly break even. Of course, you’ll want to charge a little extra so you can make a profit, but also as a safety net in case you don’t get exactly 50 attendees.

For tournaments where people will be pre-registering, it’s good to have venue fee tiers to encourage people to sign up early! You can offer early bird, regular, late, and day-of registration options, that increase a bit in price each time. If people take advantage of the earlier tiers, you’ll have a better idea of how many attendees to expect (as well as where you are financially) going into the event!

Here’s an example of venue fee tiers from Genesis 6

3.Getting Volunteers

For the most part, running a tournament is not a one-person job, so you’ll want to bring on some volunteers to help you out!

Choosing volunteers – Before you start to ask around for help or choose your volunteers, you’ll want to consider how many volunteers you need! There are many areas where volunteers can lend a hand, including but not limited to:

  • Stream
  • Security
  • Registration desk
  • Running pools/brackets

Factors such as how many streams you’re having, how many events you’re running (and how many pools per event), and the length of your tournament will determine how many volunteers you should add to the team. A good idea is to put together a rough draft of a volunteer schedule with a list of all events and volunteer areas, as well as proposed shift lengths, so you have a better idea of how many people you’ll need.

A great way to take applications for volunteers is by using a Google form! You’ll want to include fields such as:

  • The person’s name
  • The gamertag they used if the entered
  • Whether or not they’re entering any events or commentating
  • What times they’re available
  • If they have prior experience
  • What they want to help with

The Google form will compile all of these answers into a spreadsheet for you, so you can access everyone’s answers easily and build your schedule!

Volunteer schedule – Once you have all of your form responses, it’s time to build your schedule! You want try to schedule volunteer shifts around commentary blocks and pools times, and ensure that volunteers get breaks to eat and rest. Here are some volunteer scheduling tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re running pools (breaking up a larger bracket into smaller, more manageable brackets) with waves (having groups of pools start at different times), allow pool captains get a break every other wave
  • For one large bracket, schedule at least two people to run it, so there’s always a backup and they don’t get overwhelmed!
  • No one wants to be stuck at registration desk all day! These shifts are usually best done in 3 to 4 hour blocks
  • Schedule extra people at the registration desk during busy times (when the venue opens, close to when on-site registration closes, etc.)


Once the schedule is complete, send it out to the volunteers so they can check for any potential conflicts! A good way to facilitate this discussion
(and also to help with communication the day of the event) is to set up a volunteer Discord server or Facebook chat.

Volunteer benefits – There’s quite a few ways that you can thank your volunteers for all of their help. At the bare minimum (and for smaller events), it’s recommended that you waive their venue fee if they plan to enter the tournament. Beyond that, a few ways to improve volunteer experience at larger/longer events are:

  • Providing lunch and dinner (and snacks!)
  • Special volunteer shirts
  • Priority seating for the final bracket
  • Housing & transportation to/from the venue if necessary
Of course, it’s important to note that hiring paid staff is an option as well, especially when it comes to roles that require a bit more experience, time, and responsibility!

4.Setups

It’s important to make sure you have enough setups to be able to complete your tournament in a timely manner. To know how many you’ll need, look at:

  • How many pools you’re running
  • The number of people per pool
  • The format (double elimination, round robin, etc)
  • How much time you have

Based on knowledge from tournament organizers who have run multiple tournaments, ranging from locals to national sized events, the chart below provides estimated durations needed to complete play using various player-to-setup ratios.

Imagine a 16 player bracket, if the average set time is x minutes, find out how long it takes to run a tournament with 1 – 8 set ups.


If you’re doing Top 8 as best of 5, the estimate runs to 20 minutes average set length for those sets, and in that case a 16 player bracket on 4 setups would run ~110 minutes.

This is an estimate and won’t tell you specifically the exact number of set ups you need, so there is definitely room to optimize. For example, 32 setups for a 64 person bracket is optimal, but not always realistic, whereas 16 is much more so. If running a larger tournament, perhaps with 256 participants, you’ll have 16 pools of 16 entrants, and could run 4 pools per wave with 16 total setups.  This would move too slowly, and something closer to 48 setups for an event like this would keep things moving at a better pace. Allocation options can vary too, 32 for pools & 16 for casuals instead is one option.

As a rule of thumb, we believe the 1:4 setup to attendee ratio is alright! For 16 player brackets, you always will want to aim for 4 setups so you can safely assume 2 hours each. There’s a few different ways to go about acquiring setups for your event. Each one has their pros and cons, so you’ll want to weigh your options and consider what’s going to work best for you!

Getting Setups for Your Event

Providing your own setups – One option is to acquire a number of setups that you’ll have on hand for whenever you want to host a tournament. While this is convenient because you don’t have to rely on anyone else, it can be quite a large investment, and you also need to have a place to store it all. Many different organizations & communities who do provide their own setups have local storage units where the keep the TVs, consoles, and other equipment. Keep in mind you’d need to pay a monthly fee to rent a storage unit.

Community setups – You can also reach out to members of the community to bring setups. If you’re choosing this option, it’s usually a good idea to provide compensation (most often in the form of a venue fee discount) to the people who bring setups. While this option is economical, you run the risk that people won’t actually bring setups, either because they don’t want to transport it or because they don’t want parts of their personal setup getting lost or damaged.

There’s also the chance that players who get knocked out early will immediately leave and take their setups with them, so you’ll lose setups over time. To remedy this at events I’ve worked at in the past, we’ve had a rule in place where players only get a discount if we can use their setup until Top 8.

Renting setups – Though this option is typically a bit pricier, it’s a good way to guarantee that you have enough setups without having to worry about storing anything.

You can choose just one of these options, or choose a combination that makes sense for your event (for example, maybe you already own enough Super Smash Bros. Melee setups to host a tournament, but you want to host a Dragon Ball FighterZ side tournament, so you ask the community to provide setups for that)

5.Event Format

Type of pools/bracket – There are many different format options to choose from for tournaments! Will you run one large bracket, or will you split the bracket into pools? Pools are the best option if you have a high number of attendees, as it’s easier to manage and will help you to finish faster. If your pools are smaller (8 players or less) you can try out a round robin format, so players can get more matches in. With fewer attendees, it’s fine to run one double elimination bracket.
For more information on the most common bracket types, check out the Formats section of Intro to Tournaments.
You’ll also need to determine whether scoring will be best of 3 (Bo3) or best of 5 (Bo5). More best of 5 sets means the tournament lasts longer but it also mean the players get more matches, so it’s a good idea to discuss this with your community as well. Here are some examples of what past tournaments have done:
  • CEO 2018 started BO5 with the Top 32 bracket
  • Shine 2018 started BO5 with the Top 64 bracket
  • At my community’s weeklies, we do Winners Finals, Losers Finals, and Grand Finals BO5
Schedule – You want to make sure you’re not starting your pools or your bracket too early or too late. Anything earlier than 10am is usually a no-go.  At the same time, starting too late may mean people have to stay late into the night.   The more extreme the hours, the more likely it is that players won’t be able to be present, which harms both the event and community as they’ll be unlikely to return. Keep your players’ best interests in mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for input so that you know what works and what won’t. Some additional scheduling best practices to help you get started are:
  • Allow 1-2 hours per pool if you’re running pools
    • Depends on how many setups you have per pool, how many people are in each pool, and how many waves of pools there are.
  • Start your first events around 12pm for an all-day event (adjust accordingly depending on venue hours)
  • Close on-site registration 30 minutes prior to the start of the bracket to allow time for seeding
  • Stagger your start times if you’re having multiple events to avoid overlap and holding up the bracket (for example, when my team hosts doubles and singles, we start doubles at 12pm and singles at 2pm)

Schedule example

Side events – Hosting events beyond the main bracket is a great way to add value to your tournament and increase attendance! Your attendees will love that they get to play more matches in an amateur bracket (for players who get knocked out of the main bracket early) or a ladder (a matchmaking format that allows players to continuously queue against other players), and hosting a different game completely as a side event can help to spice things up and encourage players who don’t typically come your events to check it out. For more information on adding value to your tournament, click here!

Rulesets – To select a ruleset for your tournament, do some research on the rulesets that larger events use. Some good places to check for this info are:
  • Websites or smash.gg pages for larger tournaments
  • Community forum boards
  • Subreddits for the game you’re hosting
These are the rules that most people will be familiar with, so they’re the ones you’ll want to use as well.

6.Promoting Your Event

In order for your event to be a smashing success, people have to know it’s happening! Work out a plan to promote your tournament to potential attendees, to make sure that you get the word out without spamming everyone. Some of the top ways to advertise your tournament are:
  • Create a Facebook event page with all of the important details (for weeklies, you can set up a recurring page to save time from week to week)
  • Post about the tournament in your local scene’s Facebook groups or on Twitter
  • Hang flyers at local businesses (game stores are best!)
Some tips to keep in mind when making posts are:
  • Provide the most important details without being too wordy! You can always have a longer description on your event page or smash.gg page that you can direct people to
  • Make sure to post when it gets close to certain milestones for your event (price increases, team creation deadlines, and the last day to register are all good examples)
  • If you’re featuring something cool like a top player flying out or a pot bonus, it always makes for a hype post!
  • Try to use graphics, as they’re more likely to catch people’s eyes
  • Also try to use native content (content that you upload yourself instead of using a link), as it results in better engagement

And with this you’re ready to run your first event! If you have any further questions about planning the best event possible, feel free to reach out to us on Intercom or by emailing hello@smash.gg!

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