As any race director who’s been in the business for awhile will tell you, what participants expect from events and races has changed quite a bit in the past few years. The good news is that there are more people who are participating—the number of U.S. race finishers has increased by 80% since the year 2000*–but keeping them happy is getting harder. In other words, participation is on the rise but so are the demands of participants.
These participant expectations all revolve around gaining a quality and unique experience—we are dealing with experiential consumers. Experience is the new luxury and people are Instagramming pictures and strapping Go Pro cameras to their heads to capture and share their experiences. ACTIVE Network and RaceHQ decided to partner up because we recognize the impact this trend will have on event directors. Both of our companies provide technology to make the lives of event directors easier—we handle the details, automating and organizing them—because you have more pressure than ever to create those filter-worthy, camera-ready experiences.
So how do you build a quality experience for your participants, whether they’re newbies or veterans? Here are three event elements that will make the experiential consumer happy:
1. Be Social
There has been a huge increase in team and group participation, largely due to the popularity of
“fun” events (non-competitive, Mob™-style events), which encourage teams. But now this phenomenon has permeated more traditional and competitive events and it’s more important than ever for your event to promote a collective experience. People want to try something new with their friends and post about it on Facebook, using the event as an extension of their social life. Offering team, group, charity, and relay options when registering will help you increase your numbers and reach people who wouldn’t normally participate in races.
3. Go Mobile
Approximately 58% of smartphone users don’t go one hour without checking their phones!** If people are staring at this gadget for hours upon hours a day, then your event needs to be on that screen in some form or another. Here are a few ideas how:
- Optimize your results page to be mobile enabled. Participants want results asap, and odds are they’ll have their phones or tablets with them as soon as they finish the race. Deliver results to the palms of their hands versus making them track down results printouts on boards at the finish line.
- Offer training apps like the Couch-to-5K or 5K-to-10K app to keep participants engaged and excited about your event.
- Use QR codes on marketing materials. With just a quick scan of that black-and-white box using their smartphone, people can access your registration page, results, and more.
- Encourage mobile sharing on social media channels, which brings us to #3…
3. Encourage Facebragging
Facebragging, more formally known as “wanting social proof,” is something we’re all prone to. It’s no longer enough to have completed something—it needs to be shared on social media for the experience to reach its full potential. For events, this means you need to think about more than just the finish line hero pose. Encourage participants to capture and share every step of the event lifecycle, from registering to training to the course to the post-race celebration. Hold social media contents for best photo or video, make event day as visually vivid as possible, sell creative merchandise, etc. Engaging participants online and getting them to Facebrag will ultimately increase your event’s exposure and help it go viral.
However you decide to do it, the most important thing is to make your event an experience to remember because that is what participants are expecting.
ACTIVE Network’s event management technology makes it easier for event directors to create experiences participants will love to Facebrag about. Learn more
*Running USA, State of the Sport – U.S. Race Trends
**Mobile Mindset Study by Harris Interactive, June 2012