Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Event Organizing 101 - Sean Pittman

One of the main focuses of the Emperor’s Codex will always be to encourage our community in a positive manner. So any time I feel that the blog can is some way help out the local or online community in a positive manner I will most likely pursue that action. With that in mind I will be doing a series of articles on organizing events. I feel that the event organizers end up with what is sometimes a thankless job. Also that so little light or discussion is put into the behind the scenes aspects of running events. So to kick things off we will be doing some Event Organizing 101 and we will be kicking these off with some basic Q and A (not to be confused with basic T and A) with some fellow gamers from the community that take the time to put together events.

So far these are going well and we are getting some good feedback from people who enjoy these. We will keep up with the simple Q and A's for a bit before we jump into some meatier topics that involve running an event. If there is something you would like to see covered or a Question/ Advice that you are looking for when it comes to running events please don't hesitate to email it in and I will get some information about it posted up for you and the rest of the community. As we continue our trek into adding something positive to our online community we have already done the following. 

Sean is known as Makari online and works with the CAG crowd locally to put together events for the local area. He can be found frequenting several local forum sites such as.

Also he is a Martial Law member which is our more competitive gaming group in the this area. They have members spread out through this area and always bring a solid game without being a WAAC type crew. 

Please give a brief background on your gaming experience and organizing events background.
I started gaming like so many others with my best friend playing Magic: the Gathering, back in 1992.  We were big in to collecting and playing.  I continued to play Magic until Ice Age when the sets started coming out too frequently. I also Played Dungeons and Dragons, Legend of the Five Rings, Star Wars, GURPS, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shadow Run, and Vampire the Masquerade RPG’s from 1994 to present. Most of the time, about 90%, I was the Dungeon Master to which I loved doing!
  My true pride and joy was the discovery or Warhammer Fantasy which I collected the minis mainly for DND at the time. When I convinced my friends to buy armies we would play for days on end in the summer time.  Then the popularity of 40K dwarfed fantasy and we were “forced” into 40K 2nd Edition. 
I began organizing small local tournaments in Blacksburg, Virginia a total of 3 in the late 90’s.  I moved to Cincinnati in 1999 and couldn’t find anyone to play any games with and few stores carried much that I could find.  I gave up on minis for several years because I couldn’t find any stores or people to play with.  In comes World of Hobbies where I still hadn’t found anyone to play when I could, but they carried a good range of minis.  Then World of Hobbies closed and I saw a forum that Matt and Chad had formed for the group that played regularly at World of Hobbies.  Using that forum I saw there were people in the community that wanted to play but nothing was going on.  I stepped in and kept talking with people and promoting the stores in the area as I found them and I got enough people interested to play in the first CAG BASH 4 years ago.  I ran numerous smaller tournaments at the different stores in the area.   
I have organized with the help of many others 4 major Tournaments 32+ people, and more than a few dozen smaller tournaments for Warhammer 40K and Fantasy.
What led you to start organizing events? 
I saw an opportunity in the community to bring people together to have fun and compete.  Ultimately my goal was to grow the gaming community so much that I would never have to worry about finding someone to play against. The easiest way I saw to do that was through tournaments and getting people to the gaming stores to support them which encourages even more people.
 I also like to give stuff away, and contrary to popular belief, I have not made money on the tournaments and it has never been my goal to do it as a money maker.  If I break even I am happy and so too is my Wife!   
If you recall what was the first organized event you ran and how did that go?
            My first real tournament I ran was the 1st CAGBASH.  I rented a meeting room at the Howard Johnson in Springdale.  Using the CAG forum and local games stores I advertised heavily.  At the time I didn’t know about GW prize support and I had stores sell me gift cards at 50% of the cost of the gift card as prize money. We had 31 participants and I had to play as a fill in. I had food catered from a local BBQ place where they gave me a discount. The missions were standard adaptations of adepticon scenarios. 
What did you take away from running your first event?
The most valuable thing I learned is needed space.  I accounted for the tables correctly but miscalculated the room needed between the tables where people sit.  It was tight but all in all a good time was had. The next year we were at 42 so a steady increase shows growth and willingness to come back.
I learned what I needed to be better prepared as far as what players will inevitably forget about in filling in score sheets and how to better direct people to follow the instructions.
 Can you offer any tips or advice on working with the store/venue of an event location?
            I would first suggest talking with a GW rep about prize support.  Ask what stores or locations can offer support and what kind of support you can expect.  This will give a good idea as to what to at least start out asking for from the other stores.
            Do not be afraid to ask for a discount.  Offer advertising on a website for the venue, they may be more willing to cut the price if you do so.
 For you personally what is the hardest part of running an event?
For me it was the financial aspect of running an event.  It has been difficult to get enough people preregistered for events to help cover the initial expenses.  I am not well off by any stretch of the imagination and renting a $900+ event hall is not easy for me.  This years CAG BASH has several hundreds of dollars of mine and a colleagues to get it started. 
For you personally what is the most rewarding part of running an event?
 The most rewarding part of an event is when I hear that everyone had fun and is looking forward to the next year event!!!
 If you had to give a single piece of advice to someone who was interested in organizing an event for the first time, what would you pass on?
            Play in some events and take notes. Take notes about how it is organized and what you like or dislike about it. Make a note of the missions and how you would like them to be.  Most of all try not to sweat it, the majority of the players know your human and appreciate the time and effort put in to running an event. Something is invariably going to go wrong so just be prepared for what may come your way.

I want to thank Sean for taking the time to play along and help out as I gather information to put these up. Sean like Aaron and Mike before him has also openly agreed to stay in contact to help with any questions or future articles regarding organizing events. So expect to hear more feedback from these guys in the future. I just attended CAG Bash which he talks about and its always a good time and one of the events I look forward too here locally since moving to this area. 

The goal is to put a little more of the behind the scenes info online for our online community to have access to and inspire discussion or encourage those considering making the jump from player to organizer that the task is doable even though it can seem overbearing. If you run events in your area locally large or small and are interested in doing a Q and A please contact me Drkmorals @ Remember you might encourage the person who could be running the events you enjoy going to in the future.

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