Events Management…at Scale

25,000 hit the streets of Melbourne’s CBD on a pretty soggy, miserable April morning for the 12th Herald Sun-Citylink Run for the Kids. Imagine if the sun was out!?

An iconic event and one of the biggest fun runs in Australia, Run for the Kids has become a Melbourne institution. Apart from the fact that it is carried along Melbourne’s freeways and major arterial roads, not usually reserved for runners and walkers, it delivers huge fundraising dollars to the Royal Children’s Hospital so that they can continue to perform their world class, life changing work. This is a truly special event and we are proud to be a part of it.

It was the second time that the Sport Projects team managed the event and apparently the first time there had been a wet Run for the Kids in the 12 year history…lucky us! It is a well-worn cliche but in events management, you always plan for the worst. It doesn’t necessarily make it any more enjoyable or any easier when you get a morning like this but you certainly don’t want to not be prepared. Then it is definitely not fun.

R4K start

As the Monash Freeway’s inbound lanes start getting congested, our event controllers start getting twitchy as the thunderstorms continue to hover above Melbourne. We put the final touches in place, ready to welcome the rush of participants to the start. All the while we watch the rain radar. I make the optimistic radio call…it is a narrow band of storm activity…it will pass in 20 minutes. It did…mostly.

Predictably, our participants are not early arriving at the start, preferring a little lie in rather than stand around in the rain. Our courageous volunteers are on time, most of them anyway, armed with raincoats, umbrellas and warm smiles. Some have been scared away. When our participants arrive, they really arrive. 25,000 is a big number, a river of people, flooding down from Flinders Street station to Swan Street Bridge, adjacent to the actual river.

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We tend to believe that road events management is pretty consistent in many ways, regardless of the scale, the activity and whether they are racing or not. Whether there are 250 participants or 25,000 participants you are closing the road, coordinating traffic management, greeting participants, preparing the course, deploying volunteers, staffing the event, briefing and communicating across the team, then starting and finishing the event. It is important that there are some consistencies across your planning approach, but that it is scaled accordingly.

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You should have the same approach to scoping the project, to capturing the deliverables and preparing your project plan. You should have the same event plan documentation and engage with stakeholders in the same fashion. All just scaled accordingly. Most importantly, you should be communicating with your client very openly throughout the journey. Don’t forget to one client 250 participants might be the equivalent to 25,000 for another client. Chances are the scale is pretty relevant to them too.

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Considering scale and consistency is important. Unless you have experienced the joys of road events management, it is probably not something top of mind. As an event manager, the important thing to remember, however, is how you scale up what you are delivering. Comparatively, 250 participants might be running on the same course footprint as the 25,000, drinking the same water, running past the same course marshal, eating the same apple at the finish and running the same distance, but the effects of your event planning are amplified when you consider this scale of humanity.

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It is 6 people with signs of hypothermia, compared to 600. It is 2 people queuing for a toilet, compared to 200. It is 200 people wanting an apple at the finish, compared to 20,000 wanting an apple. It is a drink station catering for 50 people grabbing a drink as compared to 5,000 people. The consequences of messing up the planning for this is on a comparable factor of 100.

Most event organisers can get the scale right and resource correctly for an event that goes well without incident. But ask yourself, are you scaled to overcome the incident when it arises. Your ability to predict the unpredictable and know the unknown is a crucial tool in your arsenal as an event manager. Deploy it wisely.

We learnt a few things from year one to year two on this wonderful event. Don’t ever be afraid to make mistakes in this industry. Just position yourself to respond on the ground and learn from them post event. Year one was good for us but taking that up a peg to great is immensely satisfying and why we do what we do. Most importantly there was an incredible $1.6m raised for the Good Friday Appeal and we are so proud to have played our part in the team!

Have you got some thoughts of your own? Drop it below in the comments. Want to learn some more about how we go about our business at Sport Projects? Get in touch at our website or drop me a note direct through Linked In

 

 

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