Part 1: What Event Planners Should Know About Social Media Marketing

August 30, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Everyone will tell you that social media is important, but few will address how overwhelming it feels to start using it with all the social platforms available—especially in the context of event promotion.

We won’t hesitate to break the pressure you may feel: You, the event planner, don’t need to use every single social platform on the internet. In fact, it may be the worst decision that you could make without considering the needs of your organization. You may risk spreading your time too thin with minimal returns on your efforts.

We’re going to help you break down the basics of a social media marketing strategy for the events that you’re planning—whether it’s a charity race, corporate conference, running, triathlon, or any other event happening in the future. « Read the rest of this entry »

Got Sponsors?

January 17, 2013 § 4 Comments

One common question asked by almost all event organizers is this:  how do I attract and retain sponsors for my event?  Not sponsors that will give me a flyer for a goodie bag, but quality sponsors that will help me make the event a better experience for its participants and the community?

As a recovering race director and former Texas Field Marketing Manager for Clif Bar, I have been on both sides of the sponsorship aisle.  Here are 5 ideas that can help.

4 cycling-mountainbike-touring-B

  • Ask, don’t assume.  Ask your sponsors about their marketing objectives so you can help achieve them.
  • Create sponsorship levels, and make it clear on your marketing materials which sponsors are at the top level.  Not all sponsors need to be mentioned in every marketing piece.
  • Introduce sponsors to each other and encourage them to create cross promotions around the event.  For example, if you have a beer sponsor and a restaurant sponsor, suggest that they host a pre-event party at the restaurant and feature the beer.
  • Create a post-event marketing report that details how you helped fulfill their objectives.  It always impressed me when the 3M Half Marathon would send out a binder that listed all the media on which they had placed the Clif Bar logo.
  • Host a post-event party and invite your sponsors (as well as volunteers and others who helped on your event).  Tell them how important they are to you.

Share what has worked for you in a comment below.

Heart at the Back of the Pack

January 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

Harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of those in the “back of the pack” isn’t hard to do, and it’s well worth the effort.

One of the favorite parts of my job as the IT director of the Chicago Marathon was being at the finish line. I had a prime post, as timing and scoring fell under my role, along with the honor of facilitating certification for three world marathon records during the time I worked on the event (1997–2003). I also was there as the last finishers crossed the line.

Which is more memorable? The world records are something I’ll always be proud to have a small part in, but the joy on the faces of those final runners as they reach the 26.2-mile goal is unforgettable. While the crowds in the grandstands may have gone home, the energy was just as abundant as when Khalid Khannouchi or Paula Radcliffe finished first.

Harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of those in the “back of the pack” isn’t hard to do, and it’s well worth the effort. Many of these runners and walkers are new to the sport and have a circle of supportive friends and family who could be inspired to join in and become your future participants or volunteers.

Of course, every event organizer wants to create a fantastic race experience for all participants. Here are a few things to consider when focusing on the back of the pack.

  • If your event has a strict finish time due to the course and arrangements with the town or city, make sure you deliver that message up front and include it on the first page of the online registration form. This will help manage expectations and avoid the disappointment of registered participants who may not make the cut-off.
  • Have enough water, post-event refreshments, and giveaways for everyone. No event organizer wants the added expense or hassle of leftover items, but place importance on providing the perks to all registered participants.
  • Deliver on-course support to everyone. Talk with the leader at the hydration or aid station ahead of time. It might make sense to start breaking down a station once the majority of participants have gone by, but pre-arrange to have a few volunteers dedicated to handing out water or fluids and cheering until the last participant has passed.
  • Keep the music at the finish line going strong until the last participant has crossed the finish line. Encourage everyone to stay and cheer fellow participants.
  • Ask your event photographer(s) to stay until the end. It seems the smiles on finishers’ faces get brighter as the finish line clock ticks on. Your favorite race photo could very well come from one of the last shots of the day.

So don’t forget about the back-of-the-pack. I’m not saying that just because that’s where you’ll find me these days. Embrace the emotion and energy you feel at the finish line long after your top finishers have gone for their cool-down, and you’ll find yourself with an event that has more heart.

Do you do anything particular to support the last finishers?  Tell us about it.


Registration Resolutions

January 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

New Year's Resolutions

Now that it’s January, I thought it appropriate to suggest some New Year’s “online registration” resolutions.  I promise these aren’t nearly as difficult as losing 20 pounds.  Plus, implementing them just might get more registrations for your event.

  1. Promote your event on social media, and motivate registrants to do the same.  You can post your listing to Facebook when you publish a form directly from the FormBuilder or copy tool.  If you miss that link or aren’t ready at the time, go back to the first page of the online registration form and click the “share” button at the top.

    Registrants can post to Facebook from their screen and email confirmations.  If you need suggestions for other social strategies, take a look at Ryan Heisler’s recent guest blog article, Feed the Beast:  Social Media for Events.

  2. Check out the SignMeUp tools that you haven’t used, especially in the Form Menu->More Tools section.  There you’ll find Friend Get Friend, our easy-to-use viral marketing program; a tool to create and upload Coupon/Promotion Codes; the Snapshot Widget, a quick summary of your form’s most important statistics; and more.
  3. Maintain a consistent brand image by customizing your online form with a logo and colors that match your website.  You can find customization tools in the Form Menu->Edit Form.  For more help, see SignMeUp Support Guru Katie Petralia’s article, 5 Tips for Building Better Online Registration Forms.
  4. Publish your online registration form well in advance of your event, and, if appropriate, encourage early registration with “early bird” pricing.
  5. Lose 20 pounds (just kidding).

As always, if you need assistance or want further suggestions, feel free to contact our support department or me directly at  We’re here to help you succeed.

Feed the Beast: Social Media for Events

December 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

Ryan Heisler is Social Media Manager and Online Registration guru for Maine Running Company, Maine’s only running specialty store.


Social media wordcloud

Social Media. It’s a scary term for many event organizers. How do you properly market yourself in a medium that is by and large controlled by the end user? How do you know what social media tools are for you?

The answer itself is also a scary one: it depends.

The incorrect answer at any one point in time is ignorance. You have to be a player in this realm. Unlike other marketing opportunities, you’re not talking at your participants; you’re talking with them. You’re providing content that can be liked, shared, retweeted, pinned, and commented on. Social media provides you the way to create not a customer, but a raving fan; one who is ready to sing your praises at every whim.

Social media allows you to connect with your audience, to make your raving fans a part of your event. It’s a lot like word-of-mouth advertising, except you receive actual data about how many people you engaged.

Feed the beast.  It looks worse to have a Facebook or Twitter page that hasn’t been updated frequently than to not do it at all. You’ve got to be continually thinking about how you can engage with your customer.”

In terms of guiding your own social media strategy, you need to take a few steps to ensure success:

Who is the contact person? You need to have one person in control of the message across the multiple media that you select to use. This person needs to understand how social media works, but also understand the message of your brand. You can teach how to properly use social media tools; you can’t teach someone how to be invested in your brand. Choose someone who knows what it is your event stands for and how that relates to your participant.

What social media platforms to use? Understand that each tool is different from one another. Facebook is not Twitter, for example. Although at their heart they are both status update sharing tools, the way that each is consumed requires you to think about what content will be readily accessible. Choose the three that you think would be most beneficial to your brand and be different enough from one another that you’re not always posting the same content to three platforms.

Make those tools stand out: Provide different content across your media tools. You can always re-post content in one tool versus another, but think about how those tools are consumed. In the example of Facebook and Twitter, the average person spends 15 minutes per day on Facebook. Twitter, however, is more often consumed in a scrolling fashion. Your Facebook posts should be longer, to engage with the consumer longer as your consumer tends to stay on Facebook longer. Twitter, on the other hand, requires multiple short posts to reach out.

Building trust in your brand: I use Twitter primarily as a customer service vehicle. This engages our customer base, but also shows transparency: if something goes wrong, we won’t hide it. It creates trust that we will do everything to make the customer happy. How can you best utilize your social media tools to reach that end?

Don’t overdo it: If you’ve understood the mediums that you’re using, you know about the tools that people spend the longest on. Therefore, you don’t want to overstimulate. E-mail marketing is a weekly tool; don’t wind up in the spam box because you send too many e-mails. Facebook is a daily tool; people spend so much time on it that they will see your post. Twitter is an hourly tool; you need to be constantly updating to make sure you appear in someone’s feed. Very rarely will someone scroll through all of the tweets they missed during a day.

Feed the beast. It looks worse to have a Facebook or Twitter page that hasn’t been updated frequently than to not do it at all. You’ve got to be continually thinking about how you can engage with your customer.

These steps are just the preliminary manner to get started. But understanding how to engage your customer is a way to have them invested in your brand. People want to feel like they belong to something; make them feel like they belong to your group of raving fans.

Event Sponsorship: The Inside Scoop

December 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Several of my SignMeUp colleagues and I recently attended The Running Event in Austin, TX.  The three days were packed full of workshops and presentations, as well as a huge product expo and a particularly intimidating 5K run (the winning time was 14:23 – a 4:38 pace – and the top 11 finishers  were all under 5:00 per mile).  I sat in on one especially relevant workshop, “How to Make Events a Real Win for Your Business,” sponsored by NATHAN, the leading running accessories brand.  Presenters included three SignMeUp online registration and retail customers:  Dave Zimmer from Fleet Feet Sports Chicago, Kathy Dalby from Pacers Events, and John Rogers from Maine Running Company.  While targeted to independent retailers, the discussion provided some excellent general tips on how to make your event more valuable to your running store partner, and in turn, make your running store partner more valuable to your event.

The Expert Panel

Dave Zimmer, Rebecca Wallace, Kathy Dalby, John Clark, John Rogers

Notably, the moderator kicked off the presentation by defining what the word “event” means to running retailers, and the elements that are most important for an event to contain.  Each panelist returned to this list when presenting case studies of successful events.  An event must:

  • Be a noteworthy, social experience
  • Elevate the store’s cause and brand
  • Allow the store to gain social currency among its community
  • Generate revenue for the business

There are many ways for an event to fulfill these criteria beyond the standard in-store registration and packet pickup.  Pacers Running Stores, for example, was looking for a way to “gain more traction in the high school market.”  Solution?  Pacers teamed up with New Balance to develop the Pacers & New Balance High School XC Tour.  Pacers replaced the outdated popsicle stick timing system used by many high schools, set up a retail tent at every Tour cross country meet, created activities for the participants during downtime, and offered student discounts on formerly slow sales days.  Kathy said that the high school coaches greatly appreciated the assistance, the participants enjoyed the more dynamic atmosphere, and students engaged with Pacers brand.

The other panelists’ case studies were equally as informative and helpful.  Thanks to NATHAN, you can download a copy of the presentation deck here.  I encourage you to check it out.

Running retailers are a creative bunch.  If you want to strengthen your partnership, try meeting with the store’s marketing team to come up with ideas.  It will be a win-win situation for both of you.

It’s Not a Race, it’s a Trot

November 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Among the many traditions we experience on Thanksgiving, there is one that cannot be denied due to its simple popularity. This is the Turkey Trot. You may know it as the Gobbler or Pie Run, etc. No matter the title, the event is the same, a race on Thanksgiving morning!

I had the privilege of working with the organizers of the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot located in Clearwater, Florida. As Turkey Trots go, this is one of the largest, with a participant field of close to 20,000 people. This was our first year powering their online registration and my job was to assist at the three early shirts & bib pick up events throughout Clearwater the week of Thanksgiving.

Everything went smoothly, the tell-tale signs of an experienced Race Committee (and online registration provider). The final event was the Kick-Off Party located in the football stadium of Clearwater High School on Thanksgiving eve. Over 5,000 folks attended to not only check in, but also enjoy the free food, drinks, music and festivities around the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot. For me, this was the pinnacle of the experience, even though I would never see race day (I would be back home at 3:00 am race morning).

Turkey Trot

Now, it may seem odd that I can say this, the “pinnacle of my experience” without even setting step on course race day for the Turkey Trot. But it is the truth, and here is why.

Throughout the week, and in particular at the Kick-Off Party, I marveled at the numbers of people picking up race bibs and shirts, not just for themselves, but for others. While I felt bad for the poor soul in charge of compiling all the confirmations and gathering all the shirts and bibs for family and friends, I also chuckled that it was readily apparent this was a normal “errand” to most of these people. This was routine, an act akin to the giant grocery shop, getting the turkey, picking up family at the airport and other odds and ends in preparation for Thanksgiving Day. They came in all types; Dad picking up for the kids, Mom picking up for kids and relatives, Grandparents picking up for their children and grandchildren, couples showing up, friends picking up for friends, etc. Everyone had a laugh, a joyous excitement for not only reuniting with family and friends, but also for the anticipation of the big event the next day – the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.

Thus, witnessing this, it became clear to me. The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot is special. Because it is not a race (albeit there were some competitive runners returning), it was a true gathering of family and friends, for a couple of hours on one of the most traditional holidays; Thanksgiving. Rather than a race, it was in the true meaning of a Trot with loved ones. The Turkey Trot was the start to a wonderful day and weekend surrounded by loved ones giving thanks in their lives. The race was not timed except for the very top finishers, yet everyone was excited to get out and walk or run, with family, spouses, children and friends.

So in conclusion, perhaps this is the reason for the huge popularity of Thanksgiving Day races that take place in the thousands across the country. The Turkey Trot is not just an excuse to splurge on a wonderful meal later in the day; rather it was a true gathering of family and friends as witness by what I experienced not at the race, but at all the activity prior to the race.

It was a marvelous experience for me and a hearty thanks goes out to the West Florida Y’ Runners Club and the City of Clearwater Parks & Recreation Department. We at SignMeUp hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you all happiness and health this Holiday season!