This is not a panic blog. This is a calm, reminder blog: Yes, there is still some uncertainty going into the fall. But it’s OK! You’re ready for this. You’ve got this.
As we see some changes in behavior and requirements around spikes of the Delta variant of COVID-19, we’re getting a lot of questions from upcoming events, and we thought it was a good time to re-visit some of the lessons of 2020 any help put your minds at ease.
We also have an upcoming webinar on 8/19 covering Building a Future-Proof event that will cover many of these tools and recommendations.
1. Remember, this is not 2020.
This is the “don’t panic” step. You have tools that didn’t exist in 2020, science that has evolved since 2020, and backup options you had never considered in 2020.
Science is on your side.
While we encourage everyone to keep the safety of employees, volunteers, and participants front of mind, the best news for endurance events is that as more was learned about COVID-19, the most consistent recommendation for safety (aside from vaccines) has become stay outside.
There’s wide concensus that oudoor events are significantly safer, from mass media outlets like the Washington Post to more scientific studies (1 and 2). Even better? Vaccines are still demonstrating significant ability to prevent severe illness, and vaccine rates are beginning to rise again.
Municipalities, Businesses, and Participants WANT You to Succeed
There will continue to be regional variations in the strictness of requirements and virus transmission, but compared to a year ago, the big shift is in prioritizing safe ways to be open, rather than looking for what to close. Create a COVID Safety Plan to share with decision-makers in your area to help them understand that you can safely operate your event.
2. A Hybrid Plan Includes a Built-In Contingency Plan
A hybrid race is simply a race with both an in-person and a virtual option. We recommend a hybrid event in most instances, even in “normal” times. Why? Anyone, anywhere can participate in your event, broadening your reach and bringing new runners into the fold. Hybrid events are inclusive, providing an option for all types of participants:
An In-Person Option for:
- The hyper-competitive runner focused on chasing down her closest rivals in-person
- The super-social running club leader who wants to run with, and congratulate, every runner from his club
A Virtual Option for:
- The parents of a local runner who want to run “with” their daughter
- A local fan of your races who recently moves, but wants to keep up with tradition
- The super-supporter of your cause who lives across the country but will support any event you organize
- The busy father of 5 who’s schedule dictates all running must happen before 6:00am
- The cautious mother of an immunocompromised child who is cautious to avoid any risk – but still wants to run “with” her friends
Hybrid makes it easier to make a switch to an interactive, engaging virtual option if necessary.
The biggest lesson from 2020 is that virtual races CAN be fun and engaging – but only if you put in the work to make them so, with technology like RaceJoy Anywhere, perks like Digital Bibs, and interactive features like playlists. By offering a virtual option to begin with, you have the incentive to start building out a more fun virtual event now, so that it’s ready to go big IF you need to switch more or all participants to virtual.
Resources for Going Hybrid
- Hybrid Events Hub for all things Hybrid
- Hybrid Events Seminar for an overview of everything to keep in mind with Hybrid
- The Nitty-Gritty of Hybrid for a super-detailed look at the recommended RunSignup settings for your Hybrid event
- Hybrid Events TalkSignup for tips and tricks for Hybrid Events
- Participant Management Options for 2021 for a review of basics (like event transfers) as well as bulk options
3. Modify Your Race Day
The next step in your preparations? Think through the details of your race day and consider what modifications you can make (if needed). In some locations, social distancing measures can make events more viable – and even where they aren’t required, creating a streamlined, efficient race day is key to the success of your event. A few areas to consider:
- Packet Pickup: Lose the lines and get people out on course faster with the new and improved CheckIn App. Combined with Dynamic Bib assignment and QR codes, packet pickup has never been faster.
- Start Line: The new start line a myriad of options, from open starts to wave starts to a time trial start.
- Course: While many legacy race courses are fine, some events need to rework their setup to separate the start/finish, avoid crowded areas, or accommodate longer hours due to extended starts.
- Finish Line: Keep your finish area fun (think: Instagram backgrounds) but speedy (think: grab-and-go snacks).
Resources for Modifying Race Day
Want to peruse some more recommendations to find the best ones for your event? We have you covered.
- Modified RaceDay Seminar for an overview of your considerations
- Modifying RaceDay: A Checklist for the written version
- Streamline RaceDay with the CheckIn App for an introduction to the latest CheckIn technology
- The New Start Line On-Demand Webinar for a look at socially distant start line options
- The New Race Course On-Demand Webinar for a review of how courses can be adapted
- The New Finish Line On-Demand Webinar for information on spacing out your finish line
4. Be Ready for Virtual (Just In Case)
Take a few minutes to refresh your memory on virtual setup and protocols. Getting your virtual option up with all the bells a whistles now will save you a lot of headaches later, ensure a positive experience for your virtual runners, and make for a better transition if you do decide to go fully virtual later.
Go back to the basics and review the virtual Setup Checklist to ensure that you have all the details covered, such as updating our race address (to anywhere!) and adding a custom question to verify that the participant understands that the event is virtual.
Promoting Your Virtual Race
Virtual races are a great opportunity to get back to the basics in race promotion. Communication is key, so your first step is touching up on email marketing and automated emails. But the biggest takeaway from 2020 is that referral rewards are even more effective for virtual events (referrals made up a whopping 17% of transactions in 2020, compared to 7% pre-pandemic), and that social options like teams and Facebook groups enhance the event.
Swag and Fulfillment
Create and communicate your swag plan now. A few things to consider:
- If you’re offering local packet pickup (even to virtual runners), make sure you have a location option that will work if your race goes virtual.
- If you’re shipping, make sure you enable shipping validation to confirm that you have updated and accurate addresses. You may also want to enable shipping charges (or exclusions) based on specific geographic regions like state or country.
Focus on Fundraising
If your main goal is raising money, sometimes the best virtual option is the simplest. We saw significant traction from free or low-cost virtual events in 2020 in which supporters just wanted to do something to help the cause. Get some inspiration from previous virtual fundraising ideas, or review the detailed steps for setting up a fundraising-focused virtual event.
A Virtual RaceDay Experience
Technology is critical for making your virtual race day feel real. First up, make sure you have a handle on setting up virtual results (or talk to your timer). Then, work with your timer to create a custom audio experience through RaceJoy Anywhere, and set your participants up with digital bibs and finisher certificates. Finally, encourage participants to share their successes via participant uploaded photos and social media interaction.
Resources for Going Virtual
- GoVirtual Hub for everything virtual
- Virtual Event Seminar for a summary of all the virtual basics
- Event Marketing Essentials for a reminder of the most crucial marketing tools
- Shipping Management Setup & Fulfillment for a review of considerations for shipping
- Free Virtual Events with Donations and Fundraising for inspiration to raise money with low overhead
- Virtual Race Results for results setup
- Digital Bibs & Finisher Certificates for a walkthrough of the setup of custom digital rewards
- Photo Platform 2.0 for a lesson in using the participant upload option for photos
- RaceJoy Overview for a look at how RaceJoy can make your virtual race more interactive
5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Want to build confidence in your participants? Be transparent and clear about your intentions and backup plans.
Provide Information on Your Website
Make it easy for participants to find the latest info by adding a section to your cover page, creating a separate menu item for COVID-19 information, and/or adding an FAQ with details about your COVID plan.
This tool, first introduced in March 2020, was originally introduced as a way quickly gather answers to participant options when events needed to postpone, cancel or go virtual at the last minute. With pre-planning this year, you likely won’t need it for that reason – but it’s a good idea to take a look at the tool, if for no other reason than that you can also use it as a simple pop-up for your website with the latest information (and no information collected).
Quickly provide updates (or reassurance) with email marketing designed to go to every participant (up to the second).
Resources for Communication
- FAQ’s and website essentials for sharing your latest information on your website
- The postpone or cancel tool for a pop-up with last minute changes
- Email marketing to reach all participants, quickly
6. Celebrate a successful event!
Celebrate everything. Share photos of your events, congratulate your participants, and enjoy the success.