Part 2: Track Event Planning & Management

Part 2: Track Event Planning & Management

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Peter Ganss - Commissaire

Other articles & resources in this series can be found here.

In part 1 of this series the role of the Race Director was introduced and I discussed the need for sanctioning and insurance. In this next instalment I will discuss some ideas on how to plan your track event and some of the tools I have found useful.

The Event Management Plan (EMP)

Many event organisers simply don’t give enough thought to this. As a result, events run the risk of being poorly attended or riders leave the event with a so-so experience. Further, many sanctioning bodies will need an EMP in order to sanction and insure the event so it’s worth spending the time on getting this right as it forms the foundation of the event from which everything else builds upon. Really, all you’re trying to do through the EMP is to try and cover all the bases whilst tipping the odds of success in your favour.

It may sound somewhat odd but producing your event management plan is best done by working backwards from a finished broad mental picture of the event. What is meant by this? In theoretical terms, it’s really the difference between deductive (top-down) and inductive (bottom-up) planning. By taking the deductive approach of starting with your thesis (the completed event) you will find it far easier to drill down and focus on the important aspects of your event.

In practical terms, you may like to mark up photos or mock-ups of your venue & plan all the details by trying to envisage exactly how things will be laid out on race day and what will happen at key points in time during the event. This might include marshalling for race starts, what happens during a race, what happens at finishes etc. Make sure to include major movements during the day such as people arriving, car parking, meal times, departures etc. Initially think in a very broad sense and then drill down into key elements of the event.

Once your spend the time on producing your EMP, you can be adapted and refined the document for use in future events. There is no need to start from scratch for each event.

In brief, the objectives of the EMP are to:

  • Assist you (as the event director(s)) to deliver a well-prepared, safe, legally/financially sound and ultimately successful event
  • Ensure that the risk management standards for the category of event are addressed
  • Provide all relevant stakeholders with a detailed event plan that covers their requirements
  • Provide the sanctioning body with a document that meets their sanctioning requirements

As discussed in part 1, an event will need to be sanctioned so the EMP will be need to document how the event will be operated. Remember, without sanctioning the event will not be insured. Ok, so you can be a cowboy and run your event without sanctioning and insurance but this is inadvisable on a number of levels. People do crash (all the time) whilst racing and they do make insurance claims. Think about it.

The good thing is that all of this can be fairly easily managed with an awareness of what you are trying to achieve along with a few core principles that boil down to common sense. The level of depth in the EMP should reflect the level of the event.

A club or combine event will require a far less stringent standard of documentation compared to a state or national level event. Nevertheless, the planning principles and execution are the same. No matter what the level of event the event directors will need to build their event with consideration of all the venue requirements and the rules of the sanctioning body. Again, this will come out in the EMP.

Note: for someone looking to run a simple club track event the documentation is usually fairly simple. The sanctioning body will just want to see that the race director has considered the basics such as who will provide qualified first aid, who will act as Commissaire and when & where the event will be. As such, the requirement of the EMP usually involves a simple one page form to be filled in.

Consideration Key Questions
Date
  • Where does the event sit in terms of other key events on the calendar (road/track/CX, etc)?
  • Which events does it clash with and where does it sit on the training cycle of the riders you are looking to attract?
  • What other events are running at the venue on your chosen date/weekend?
  • Is the venue available?
Program & Event Entry
  • Level of the event (club, state, national)?
  • Sprint, endurance or a mix of both?
  • How does this tie in with the riders you are looking to attract?
  • What distances will appeal to your riders?
  • Will the target riders be interested in your program?
  • How does the event meet their training and racing requirements?
  • How will the event be marketed?
  • How much will the event cost to enter?
  • How will riders be charged? (cash on the day, online, etc)
Riders
  • Do you know who your ridersw?
  • What type of riders? Club level, State level, etc
  • What are they looking to achieve through racing your event?
  • What kind of program do they want?
  • What are their training requirements?
  • Where are they in their training cycle?
  • Which key events (for your riders) surround your event?
  • What about inclusiveness? Women, kids, masters, novices, elites, juniors.
Personnel
  • Who will be the members of the event management team?
  • Who are the appropriate Commissaires?
  • Which volunteers are needed?
  • Who are the major stakeholders?
Risk & Safety
  • Are the races you are planning suitable for the level of rider you are targeting?
  • What is the safe field size limit -vs- the legal field size limit.
  • Is the venue suitable for your races?
  • What is the First-Aid and medical response in the event of any mishap.
  • Can you get an ambulance into the venue and if not, what is the contingency plan?
  • What are the protocols and requirements of the venue operator and how could they impact the event?

This is not an exhaustive list but it does start to give some kind of an idea of the questions that you should be asking in the initial planning stage. As your event builds out you will encounter even more questions specific to your event.

Do you know your event?

Having a clear vision from the outset will make it far easier to plan. There is no precise formula but keep in mind that riders may be using your event in the build up to another event. If it doesn’t give them what they want, they’ll go elsewhere. The basic crux of this is that you need to understand the event, your riders and what you are all trying to achieve. Keep it focused and ensure a good productive program in terms of the target riders. Once this is clearly understood an organiser can effectively start managing the process of building the event.

It’s worth stating the obvious. Work out what kind of event you want to run and what you’re trying to achieve. Understand that the type of events you run will greatly determine who turns up on race day. In broad terms, this means working out the breakdown between Sprint or an Endurance events. If you’re event is full of 2km handicaps, heart starters, sprint derbies and 8 lap Keirins then it’s unlikely you’ll be attracting a good turnout of elite endurance and road riders. Ask yourself, why would they do it?

Although running a diversified mix of events might have worked 10 to 15 years ago, the world has moved on and training and racing programs are both far more sophisticated than they used to be. Riders are smarter and more in tune with the physical demands of their events. Most riders are squeezed for time and even the club level racer is aware of the basic strategies used to get fit.

Carefully consider the date and where it fits into the overall calendar. Planning an event that clashes with a larger event where most of your potential start list will be starting is less than ideal. This goes back to knowing what type of event you are planning to run and which type of riders you want to attract.

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Tools

Managing any event is largely a process of task management. With a clear understanding of the end result, the event can be broken down into its core components so that each component can have a set of relevant tasks assigned to it. Club races can often use a simple list of 10-15 tasks and an equipment list whereas state, national and UCI level events will most likely see well in excess of 100 tasks.

Managed poorly, information trails can quickly become buried in emails and phone conversations. Silos can quickly develop whereby communication between the team members becomes disjointed. This adds considerable risk to the event management process so not unlike any project management exercise, it is important to ensure the transparency between the members of the event team. Tasks must be continually re-prioritised as the project progresses and stakeholder interactions must be documented.

Why is transparency so important?

  • “Yes”, it reduces workload
  • “Yes”, it simplifies task management
  • “Yes”, it ensures continuity

However, a key consideration that transparency facilitates is peer support and accountability between the team members. In other words, it will help ensure that each team member is supported if their workload amounts to too much (even if it is just two or three people team), that everyone knows what’s going on and that your event does not go to hell if one (or more) of your event team can no longer be involved through illness, injury or departure. Keep in mind that quite often event managers are working on a voluntary basis so life pressures can, and often do, take over.

There are several tools that can be used for managing the event management and building process. Something cloud based and that supports team collaboration is advisable however whichever tool you choose should depend on the complexity and budget of the event. The larger the event, the more important your management processes and tools become.

Tool Comments
Human Memory Unless the event is very simple and you are highly experienced, it is not a good idea to rely solely on your memory for managing the event. Communication and collaboration is difficult, repeatability and consistency between events is jeopardised, and things have the tendency to quickly get out of hand. There are simply too many tasks and/or stakeholder interactions required to make this approach workable.
Spreadsheet For small one man events a spreadsheet is sufficient. Not recommended for larger events or multi person teams. Does not effectively allow for collaboration within a distributed team. For example: Excel, Libre Office Calc
Online Spreadsheet Can support multiple people in different locations. Low cost and an excellent choice for club level events. Suffers when documenting a high volume of stakeholder interactions, task assignments/notes/completions and notifications. Works very well for smaller events.

For example: Google docs (sheets)

Online Gantt Charts Gantt charts are probably the best known project management tools around and used properly they can be effective. Not bad for team based management. A word of advice regarding gantt charts, although they are effective and generally well understood, they are not necessarily optimal. They often see spurious task dependencies. i.e. a task is said to be reliant on another task when in reality it is not. This can create bottlenecks, slow progress and be somewhat limiting.
Issue Management & Tracking Software From experience, this software is the ultimate in task management for medium to large sized events. Scales very nicely. Simply create your tasks, categorise them to component groupings and assign a priority to each task (High, Medium Low). It’s simple, fast and self documenting. These tools generally support agile type management processes, they are designed for group collaboration and they allow for detailed task notes.

For example: Jira (with Canvas), Wrike

For larger events (state, national and UCI level events), one tool which is cheap and effective is Jira coupled with the Canvas add on. Jira is a popular tool in the software engineering world for good reason and as a tool it is just as applicable to the event management space. It’s simple to use and can save a lot of headaches. Spend half a day to one day learning to use it and start simplifying your life (with regards to the event).

The screenshot below shows an example of Jira with some of the tasks for large road event. There were well over 100 tasks for this event assigned to several people. The important point is that the status of the full task list is completely visible and documented. As a result, the project management team hierarchy was flattened, team members were empowered to self manage and each team member was supported throughout the whole project management process. Talk about making life easier!

Jira Screenshot

Ideally the key people in the event team would sit down at the start of the project and define a list of tasks that need to be done. Alternatively this might come out of an existing list from a previous event. Either way, the management process starts and ends with a clear plan and effective communication. This article has discussed a number of basic concepts to consider from what you can build upon. In the next article I will discuss the Event Staff & Equipment.

Other articles & resources in this series can be found here.

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