How do you know if an event you are considering will be any good? Is there any way to reduce the risk of attending a new event?
We often get stuck in our ways but at some point we ask ourselves: Is there anything better?
How do you know for sure?
Finding a new event can be great. It provides a new experience and may be an upgrade to a more traditional event you have been attending.
But there is risk.
If the new event is not as good as another one you have attended then you have lost an opportunity. It can call in to question your judgement as the program operator. It may leave some of your team dissatisfied. That’s a big deal if they are paying you to do a job.
The solution is to work your way through a three step process. This process will give you the best chance to find events that work for you and avoid the ones that will be a waste of time.
Below we have laid out this process along with examples. When you read them over, keep in mind events you have attended in the past and new events you are considering. Ultimately, this is going to lead you to making solid decisions and whether to take part.
Start With Why
Before you can decide if an event is worth the effort, it is critical to establish a score card. On this score card are the items you care about the most.
Write down the three most important things when it comes to an event. Then write down the next three or four most important items. Finally, write down distractions. These are the shiny objects that seem cool but are actually not important.
For Select Basketball, here is what we look at:
1. Three most important items: is the event recruitable by college coaches, is the event regional, is the event well run
2. Next three most important: is the event affordable, is the event at the right competition level for our teams, when is the event
3. The shiny objects we don’t care about: fancy hotels, shoe company event, non-recruiting media coverage, extracurricular activities
For your program, items 1 and 2 may be other considerations. For example is the event a national qualifier, are there monetary benefits, are you required to attend as part of a sponsorship agreement, etc.
On The Surface
Now that you know what you need to get from an event, you can start looking at the basics. When you find an event that seems to meet your needs, do a little research.
The first thing we consider is if we have ever heard of the event or organization that is running it. If so:
- What is their reputation?
- Are they trusted? Respected? Slimy?
- What red flags come up?
We also start to look online for the basics like websites, social media, etc.
- Does the event appear to be organized? Is there a contact?
- Do you have a clear idea of what the event is and provides?
- Does it appear to meet your minimum standards?
- Do they have a website and can you get more answers from an FAQ page?
A good idea is to trust your gut based on what you are finding. If you have a lot of options, you can set your expectations high and drop events that don’t pass this first test. You can always reevaluate later if needed.
If the event is brand new then these details get tougher to come by. But it also means that if the event operator is serious then they will be working extra hard to make it a success. If you get the feeling they are not committed and winging it, walk away.
We started attending a tournament in Seattle about eight years ago. It met all our goals so we looked in to it. The tournament director had experience and a good reputation. The previous tournaments he had run were organized. It was worth further investigation.
If an event passes the first test, now you can start to dive deeper in to the details.
Has this operator run events before?
- Yes – How long have they been doing it? Who has participated? Are they running other events that same weekend that will pull away resources?
- No – What is their vision? How do they plan to execute to achieve that vision?
If this is a new event to you, contact the event directly, either via email or phone. You should be able to ask the questions that matter to you and get answers. Again, ask yourself, what does your gut tell you?
When we contacted Jeremy at the Seattle tournament he answered all our questions. Though we did not know him, his answers seemed genuine. He had been operating events for years so we felt good about moving forward.
Take a Deep Dive
If you have made it this far then the event is looking pretty solid. The last step before committing is to verify the information you are finding. The best way to do that is reach out to previous participants.
A lot of events will publish previous results and participants. Look the list over and see if you know any of them that you can contact. Even if you don’t know them you can still reach out to a few and see if you can get five minutes of their time.
If you cannot find a previous list or if this is a first time event, ask the operator for a list. They should be able to give you a few references from the past or some other groups that have verbally committed to attend. Follow up with these groups and see what they think.
If the event operator is not willing to do this, it may be a signal that something is going on. You will need to do more digging.
For Seattle, we found past participants and checked with a few we knew. We also had a few college coaches we could check with to get a different perspective. Everything checked out. We went the first year and it delivered everything promised. We have been attending twice per year ever since.
Wrapping it up
Choosing a new event can be a little nerve racking. But the process is easier when you start with understanding what your goals are. With some simple research and a little digging you can find events that have the best chance of meeting your needs.