It’s Not Over When It’s Over

Do you have a post-event engagement strategy?

By Paige Townley
A group of friends using their cellphones

It’s an understatement to say that it takes a serious amount of time and energy to plan and execute a sporting event successfully. While it may seem as though all the work is complete and it’s time to relax once the event is officially over, that’s really when much of the work is just beginning. An integral part of making the event a success comes after the game is over: post-event engagement. Following up with athletes, spectators, fans and other participants after the event is a great way to keep the event experience going well after it’s over – setting them up to attend again the next year. It’s also an incredibly valuable method to gather useful information about what they liked – or perhaps didn’t like – about the event to improve upon the event in the future. “Feedback should always be welcome,” said Michelle Naval, operations manager of the Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council. “Any feedback is good feedback, honestly, because it gives you the baseline of where you currently are and gives you goals of where you want to be in the future.”B

While having a post-event strategy seems like a must-have part of any event plan, research shows that many event organizers and planners lack them. A poll by Eventsforce found that more than 90 percent of event planners find post-event engagement a challenge. So, what are some helpful ways to keep the conversation going and make sure you have the information you need to start planning next year’s event? Here are a few tried-and-true ways to follow-up with participants to ensure your future event is better than ever.

Always Say Thank You

When someone takes time out of their schedule and money out of their pocket to come to your event – whether an athlete, parent, spectator or fan – some sort of thank you after the event is an easy yet thoughtful way to let them know you appreciated them. A simple thank-you email is a great reason to reach out to them and remind them of upcoming events. HoganLax, an organization that runs tournaments and manages training for lacrosse teams, sends emails after each of its tournaments, said Matt Hogan, founder and CEO: “We thank everyone for coming and that includes parents, coaches, directors and clubs. We also use that opportunity to follow up with them and make sure they know about our other upcoming events.”

Pick Up the Phone

Nowadays, the easiest way to communicate with participants and say thank you is via email but oftentimes, a phone call can go a long way. Phone calls are often the way NXTsports – an organization that runs dozens of boys and girls lacrosse camps, clinics and tournaments across the country – chooses to get feedback from its club directors. “We value feedback because we’re always aspiring to get better,” said Peter Lawrence, president and executive vice president of boys lacrosse for NXTsports. “I think phone calls make a difference in doing that. We all get so many emails that often we become immune to them and they don’t feel personal. A phone call creates a relationship.”

Create a Post-Event Survey

One of the easiest ways to get feedback on an event is having participants complete a post-event survey: asking participants what they liked and didn’t like about an event. That’s the approach taken by Mike Mon, founder and director of Asian Basketball Championships. After each tournament the organization hosts, a survey is sent out to gather feedback from participants, including overall likes and dislikes, what they thought about the location of the event and what they felt could be improved upon. “You can think your event was amazing, but you may not be as great as you think,” Mon said. “You can’t pretend to know everything and that’s important for organizers to keep in mind. When someone gives you constructive criticism, you have to take it to heart. If one person is saying it, 20 people are thinking it.”

The Augusta Sports Council runs its own events – the Augusta University Half Marathon 10K and 5K – each year and a specific part of the agenda is sending out post-race surveys to both athletes and volunteers. The staff at the sports council shares the survey responses with the organization’s race committee to determine what changes, if any, should be implemented. “We look at feedback regarding their overall event experience, the medal design and the swag they receive at the event,” said Naval. “Another thing we always look at is their critique of the actual course. We actually changed the course a couple of years ago after getting some negative feedback. We’re always looking for ways to enhance our events and do better, and surveys help us do that.”

Post-event surveys can also be used by host destinations – not just the event organizers – to ensure the city is doing its best in hosting an event. The Greater Raleigh (N.C.) Sports Alliance sends out post-event surveys to event organizers for select events throughout the year. The survey includes questions that relate to the overall experience for everyone involved with the event. The organization asks about the experience in the area, the hotel experience, the venue and more. Then, alliance staff share those results with the venue, host hotel, CVB and others to ensure any problems are corrected and that the event is improved upon in the future. “Using the survey, we’re able to improve the experience of the organizer, the participants and the fans,” said Theresa Tyler, assistant director for services for the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance. “If we don’t know the issues, we can’t improve the visitor experience.”

Interact Through Social Media

With the prominence of social media today, it cannot be overlooked as a way to engage with participants and potential participants both leading up to events and after. “In terms of keeping people engaged and the many social media outlets available now, you have to take advantage of it,” Mon said. “We use many different social media platforms and not only does that help us stay on people’s minds, but we also get a lot of feedback.”

Asian Basketball Championships uses social media throughout the year to poll participants on their likes and dislikes in planning future events. “A big thing for us is location, so I like to utilize social media to survey people on where they think we should host an event,” Mon said.

Social media is one of the most useful methods utilized by the Augusta Sports Council to get feedback about events. “It’s one of the main ways we get feedback,” Naval said. “We get a lot of response through social media.”

In addition to encouraging more interaction with participants to, hopefully, increase participation in an event, the Augusta Sports Council also likes to use social media as a way to give participants more say in the planning of upcoming events. For example, the council will be polling its social media followers on potential race shirt designs. “We’re going to put the top three designs out for public vote,” Naval said. “It’s a great way to let the actual runners select what they would like to be on their shirts. For us, it’s another great opportunity to increase engagement with our athletes and hopefully create a positive experience that will attract more participants for future races.”