Running my First Big ITS, Part 2
Carrying on with the tale of my first major ITS. By this point, I had already made the big decision to run one, what scenarios should be played, and where the event should take place. Now I just had to do everything else!
This is actually the part of the event I was most comfortable with. I'm a User Experience designer by day, and my wife is a Graphic Designer, between the two of us, we had a pretty solid idea how to make something look good. To really succeed in this event, I had to approach it like I was designing a product, I wanted people to feel like this was a professionally run event, and not like it was my first major ITS ever.
The first thing the wife and I tackled was the logo, I couldn't really begin to promote the event without an identity. People knew me from TheDiceAbide, and how I write here, and use The Dude as my avatar, but I wanted to break away from this and make something more Infinity-related. We went through a few ideas, between Saito kicking, and an outline of the state of Oregon, I wasn't totally thrilled with the direction we were going. Eventually, I had an idea that our mascot should be a drunk Yuan Yuan. People love Yuan Yuan, and people love drinking, it was a natural combination. I started with the Fat Yuan Yuan logo, swapped the chicken legs for beers, X'd out the eyes and slapped on some text.
After getting a logo together, and the basic details of the tournament, it was time to get a web presence! Having a website was key, as it gave me a place to direct people to for information, instead of details being scattered across different Facebook threads and forums. I already had a Squarespace page for my Infinity The PDX website, so it made sense to host it there (since it is happening in Portland after all).
I got the official art for the site from the Infinity website, and also made sure to include some information about the area. Since people are coming from out of town, I thought it would be good to show off some of the attractions in the Portland area, as well as nearby hotels and Airbnbs to rent. Really, the more information I could put up on the site, the more thought out and considered the event became. People traveling with spouses seemed to appreciate this bit of extra effort, and it may have even helped some people make the decision to come to the event.
Now that I've put a professional face on my event, I felt the timing was good to hit social media. I posted an article introducing the event to WGC Infinity, all my local Facebook metas, as well as a few that weren't exactly local, but I knew had players who liked to travel. Additionally, I hit up Tom and Kip at Mayacast to get them to put out the word.
As we got closer to the date for tickets to go live, I made sure to keep reminding people in all these places that the Rose City Raid was coming. Keeping the event alive in the mind of the community, creates the awareness that is critical when it comes to selling tickets. I put the tickets up for sale 6-months in advance, and I absolutely wanted to sell this event out, in as short of an amount of time as possible. I was working on a very tight budget (which I only went over by $3), and wasn't really in a position to fund the event out of pocket, so having the money in hand for the event, instead of trickling in, was important.
The language I used when the tickets went on sale was very intentional. It is helpful to remind people that first of all, tickets are selling, and that they are limited. If people don't know that tickets are moving, then people may not think that the event will sell out, or will be fun, there is a lot of social validation in something which find desirable. Reminding people that there are only X number of tickets left is another useful tool, since scarcity creates value, nobody wants to miss out on the next big tournament on the block. By being careful the language used, and my other promotion work, we sold out the Rose City Raid in less than 8 days, and built up a sizable wait list.
For me, prize support was a critical component for success of the Rose City Raid. I wanted to have more money in prizes, than I received in ticket sales, even after about half of the ticket sales being spent on the venue. To do this, I had to be very diligent of my expenses, as well as who I took support from.
To get the ball rolling, I had to contact people I knew personally. Fortunately, I had an in with the Muse on Minis, and was able to work out a deal for one of their complete table sets. Right away we had a big prize in our grasp, which was amazing. I sent out cold-emails to just about everyone I could think of that makes products that we use while playing, additionally, I contacted local shops to see if any of them wanted to kick in.
The second prize we got was the Acontecimento Shock Army, from Glimpses of Wonder and Warfare, a local game shop, who had previously over-ordered some PanOceania miniatures, so were happy to get rid of them at cost, netting us the Acon starter, Bagh-Mari box, and the Stingray TAG box (later replaced with Toni Macayana). This put us at two big prizes, but nothing small, so at this point we were thinking that there may only be huge prizes to pick from, and everyone would get raffle tickets.
Next up, I decided to ask Obadiah, one of my best friends, to see if he would be willing to contribute towards the prizes. He is a very well known painter and sculptor, who rarely, if ever, does commission work, so I thought it would be crazy if he would agree to help. Being the amazing guy he is, he said he would have no problems offering a S2 commission to one lucky winner!
Another local stepped up to bat and wanted to build a second table of terrain as a prize. He produced an amazing Svalarheima table, all from scratch, truly a one-of-a-kind gaming experience.
After these three big prizes, smaller ones started trickling in. Four different game mats, painting supplies, a TON of terrain from Plastcraft Games, transport cases, etc. When I was speaking to different potential sponsors, I always offered to pay for the shipping. These are all businesses, who are looking to promote their business, but at the end of the day, they can't afford to keep giving things away and then losing extra money on top of that. Offering to pay for shipping really seemed to please and surprise vendors, knowing I couldn't afford much, but I could at least take care of their out of pocket expenses. By the end of it all, we had enough prizes that EVERYONE could take something home, and we could raffle off our four biggest prizes, so that anyone could win them.
A lot of vendors offered discounts on prizes, which is fantastic, but I couldn't afford to buy anything from companies only offering 10-20% off, if I wanted to meet my prize support goal. Nothing against those businesses, after all, they need to pay their bills, but I mostly focused on companies offering steep discounts, or free prizes, in exchange for promotional work, and photos. Secret Weapon Miniatures was also amazing in providing a prize specifically for Best Painted, which we didn't originally plan for.
Finally, Corvus Belli provided us a very generous prize package with a great variety of miniatures (including the Tony Macayana which went to the Acon Army), limited edition patches, posters, pins, and art cards.
One of my favorite tournaments that I've ever played in was a 40k tournament, where the trophies were all engraved bottles of Gentleman Jack. I've always thought this was an amazing idea, and still have mine to this day. Normal trophies are cool, but I wanted something a bit more unique that would stand. Again, the venue led to inspiration and I found a guy who did laser engraved beer steins as groomsman gifts in weddings.
No ITS tournament is complete without patches! Our logo was based on a patch design, so it was super easy to get them made into patches from The Studio. These were ordered early in the process, since they didn't take any additional work to make, and I knew just having pictures of them would get people excited.
Onward Towards Victory!
- Venue? Check
- Scenarios? Check
- Trophies? Check
- Prizes? Check
So far, it had been a ton of hard work, but the hardest part was yet to come. Since I started this process 10-months in advance, it was not as stressful as I expected, but it did help a ton having such a long run way. I absolutely advise anyone wanting to put on an event like this, to plan it out as far in advance as possible. I was receiving prizes for months, my wife was skeptical (as she had every right to be) it was all for the event (it wasn't), but having them trickle in was great at building my own excitement. Occasionally, I would post pictures of the new prizes on Facebook, to keep everyone's anticipation up, and also a little bit of bragging rights.
So, how did the Rose City Raid go day of? You'll have to find out next week!