by Meg Floyd
Below is a basic outline to running a small to medium sized HEMA event, the second part of a lecture I gave this year at Longpoint 2017. Enjoy.
Stage 1: Choosing your venue
This is the toughest part. Figure out how big a space you’ll have, and if there are hourly restrictions (ie do you get it for the day, what time do they close, do they charge by the hours, etc?) Figure out what you can afford to put up for the venue.
Things to look for in a venue for a long day of fighting are — easy access to bathrooms, easy access to food/water, places to store gear, high ceilings, ample parking, and hopefully a nice floor to fight on. Fairground barns, event centers, and rec center gyms are all places I’ve looked at. Indoor soccer fields seem the best combo for bad weather and very large events.
Stage 2: Scheduling/size of the tournament
First question — are there hourly restrictions at your venue (i.e. must you be out by a certain time?) If not, great. If yes, here’s some tournament math to tell you how many pool matches you can easily pull off.
The basic equation is (total number of matches)*(match length)*2.5=total amount of time to run your matches.
First, decide your match length for pools. Say it’s 90 seconds.
Then total up the total number of matches that will be fought in that pool. In a round robin of 5, there’s 10 total matches.
Multiplying it out, 10 matches*90 seconds*2.5=2250 seconds, which divided by 60 is 37.5 minutes.
Assuming you’ll be using the same refs/staff all day, you want to give them a small break between pools. I usually round up a pool of 5 to an hour to allow this.
So now you know you can run 1 pool of 5 per 1 ring in an hour. Calculate how many hours you can or want to devote to pool fights and how many rings you have. One ring and three hours? Three pools and 15 fighters. Two rings and three hours? Six pools and 30 fighters. Restrict your registration to this size, with possible allowances for extra at your discretion, depending on venue restriction.
This is how I came up with the schedule for RMK last year and this year, as well as the size: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NnOHiL1AfsBmpe35O_feat6d2tuEnuBo_TzMhSflZ_w/edit#gid=0
I have time and room to run 12 longsword pools in 2 rings over 6 hours, therefore I have room for 60 longsword slots. Apply as needed to other events.
Stage 3: Registering people and setting a pricepoint
This is definitely an art and not a science.
Remember to check out https://www.hemaalliance.com/eventssupport and fulfill any requirements you need for event support if you’re going to be applying for it (like providing a discount to HEMA Alliance members).
Take a look at similarly sized events in your region and around the country. A one day event probably can’t charge $100. The big events cost $200+ out the gate. Mid-sized events run $120-180. Make sure you price your registration so you can pay for the venue. This was the biggest mistake I made at RMK last year, and the club lost about a grand over it, because our venue is really expensive. Keep in mind you’re going to lose 4% to banking charges if you go through Paypal.
Once you’ve decided your price point, you need people to register. It can be a pain in the ass to get people to both fill out a registration form AND pay. You want them to do both at one go or you end up with a bunch of people registered who don’t pay until the last minute, or don’t show, making it difficult to tell who’s actually coming and actually being able to pay your venue rental fee.
I’ve searched through a lot of ticketing platforms. Eventbrite is murderously expensive because it charges 5~% per ticket, which is annoying if you want to break tickets down into different tournaments to register people into each event.
Eventbee (http://www.eventbee.com) allows you to set the fee as low as $1 per ticket, or $0 if it’s a free ticket (like I set for the included tournament for base registration, and is free to register your event for. That’s why I chose it over the others. Pretty bare bones in terms of set up, but that’s fine if you’re not looking for especially fancy registration stuff.
More importantly, you can build your registration form into checkout. This means people don’t register without paying, and they don’t pay without registering.
Another reason to always use a third party payment service like Paypal is because they have the encryption to keep credit card info safe. There was a mixup at a tournament on the east coast one year where they had people enter a credit card number into a google form which was then leaked. This is bad, bad, bad. That’s why we should never see CC info and it’s worth the banking fees to have a third party payment service like Paypal handle it.
Stage 4: What questions to ask people
Basic info to ask people is listed below:
DOB (If the tournament is age restricted)
Emergency contact info
Their experience level in each weapon to try to set up diverse pools
Willingness to judge/experience level judging
A photo release (which is included in the HEMAA waiver anyway, but it’s better to call it out)
If they ordered an event T-shirt, what size they are
If possible in the form, and it usually is, make these answers required so they have to answer before clicking to the next screen.
Stage 5: Getting Prizes
Reach out to vendors. Tell them the size of your tournament and ask if they’d like to sponsor with a prize. Ask neighboring events if they’ll sponsor a prize of a pass. Offer to sponsor passes back.
Getting custom insert medals can be done for $5~ per medal at http://www.trophykits.comand http://www.expressmedals.com. Medals really dress up an event and are a minimum if you’re not going to be offering prizes but want to run a bigger event, IMO.
Other possible prizes include growlers of beer, something neat and local to your region, etc.
Stage 6: Scheduling staff
A spreadsheet is the best thing ever for this. Print it out and hang it up so people will know where they will be. Remember to build in lunchtime, judge warmup time, and breaks.
This was RMK’s last year, as an example: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cNHP1B8kxhOW1DAA0ZdlpwaPxms_Ru6wGq7A-PSgmp0/edit#gid=0
Stage 7: Thank your judges and/or staff
Either with a registration coupon (what I did), a cool patch (what Longpoint did last year), or maybe just calling them out and having everyone give them applause. Judging and reffing are difficult and tiring work and everyone’s a volunteer, so a gesture of appreciation goes a long way.
Stage 8: Train your judges beforehand in club with your ruleset during class sparring time. This will really make a difference in judging quality. We start training ours in January, as well as refs. We do this during regular sparring time.
Stage 9: Try to publish and distribute your ruleset early, especially if it’s novel. Especially distribute it to the coaches of the other clubs you know are coming who may be judging at your event, so they don’t jump in blindly.
Stage 10: The after party: If you plan an after party, it really only needs 3 things: to be after finals, to have alcohol, and to have a lot of food you can get easily. RMK was tough because of how late we get out of the venue on Saturday. I’ve been to some event dinners that were great, and some that were awful because of slow/bad service. Buffets are a good way to go, often.