Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ramblings: Organizers Responsibilities

This is the first in a series of articles discussing the roles and obligations of members of the three categories of those intrinsically involved with BBQ Competitions. We will have guest articles from those offering their perspectives on Judging, Competing and Organizing. Today I’m offering my thoughts on organizing and running events.

**Photos are of the Hudson Valley Ribfest**

Event Organization: An Overview

(Competitors area Hudson Valley Ribfest)

Like most events, the primary responsibilities of an Event Organizer for a BBQ competition are to (in order):

1) Under promise and over deliver.

2) Ensure that things run as smoothly as possible for the principal guests (competitors and judges).

3) Provide a safe and secure environment for your visitors.

4) Without compromising 1 through 3, use the current event to build a platform for a better event the following year.

(My niece and mother enjoying the event)

Under promising and over delivering is not as hard as it may sound. Preparing as many amenities as possible in advance and announcing few of them prior to the start of the event will leave your guests pleasantly surprised while simultaneously guarding against ill will if a planned amenity is not actualized. There is a constant allure of announcing as much as possible in an effort to entice more competitors and judges. Resist the urge. You need to strike a precarious balance of drawing in your guests and holding enough in reserve to ‘wow’ them during the event.

A serious dedication to preparation will help to smooth out any mole hills that you may run into during the event. Typical concerns are the most important and can be found on numerous checklists for Organizers. Checklists such as these will not only help you keep track of what needs to be done, but also when they should be done. They are often broken into dates for when things should be done (6 months out, 3 months out, 4 weeks out, etc.). The KCBS offers such a list and there are others on the internet.

Click here for an excellent example from the people at The BBQ Shack.

Asking questions of your attendees in advance and encouraging open communication will help eliminate what may be a minor hiccup for you, but would be a major concern for them. Do any of your attendees have a handicap that you can assist with? Can you recommend local butchers for those traveling from out of state? Does anyone near the venue rent smokers or grills? Where is the nearest hospital to the event? Are any of your attendees religiously observant? Should you check into local churches, synagogues, temples or mosques?

Onsite security is paramount at any event. The attendees should have access to you (or your associates), the sanctioning bodies representatives and any volunteers at all times. In an unsecured area there is a predilection for people to wander in and start to mingle. Usually these are good natured and curious people, but if they are not you need to have a plan with how to deal with them. Whether an uninvited guest is soliciting ‘donations’ from attendees, trying to get food from competitors or just getting straight out confrontational, you are responsible.

Hiring off duty police to help with security is always a good idea. On duty officers assigned by the local municipality is even better (here’s a tip: invite local politicians to attend and you will find local police much more amenable to your requests for assistance). Print up some tee shirts that say ‘staff’ or ‘security’. Key to the success of using volunteers is to make it very clear that their chief responsibility is to be a conduit of information to local authorities and to answer questions. Volunteers should NEVER get physically involved in any hostilities. Often the appearance of onsite security is enough to avoid any problems.

Non-physical confrontations between teams should be adjudicated as swiftly as possible by the organizer and the representatives of the sanctioning body.

Basic safety equipment should be kept on site. Fire extinguishers, first aid kits and ice should be kept on hand. On your registration forms, ask if any team members or judges have experience with CPR. Contact information to local hospitals should be available on site 24 hours a day. Firehouses should be alerted to the event prior to the start and inviting house members over for a meal is always a good idea.

(Vendors at Hudson Valley Ribfest)

Every event that you run should be a tool to make the next event better. Take copious notes. What could have gone better? What suggestions have been offered? What complaints have you heard? Keep track of attendance and collect as many photos as possible (ask teams to forward you the links to any pictures that they take). Without detracting from the attention you pay to your guests, ensure that your sponsors and vendors are as happy as possible. Solicit their opinions post event and use their comments to attract new sponsors. Include your demographic information as well as select photos. More and better sponsors means more and better amenities for next years guests.