RUNNING A DIPLOMACY EVENT:
Much has been said about setting up to run an event and the issues in the process of the tournament; however, people forget that one of the more important aspects is what needs to be done after the event is over. The following things should be done:
Send out a series of Thank You All notes or e-mails. You can make a generic one that includes the feedback questions outlined below, as well as making individual ones. Try to put personal memories in the individual notes, as this will help you reframe the good times with the event as well as share the appreciation with others. I strongly suggest that you do not sent a mass spam thank you with everyone's email listed (try to limit it to 8 or so), as people will tend to reply to 'All' and this could generate a spam thread that is tedious.
Divide the thanks into locals and travelers, as they are two distinct support groups with very different views, as you will find out.
Divide your feedback pool into two groups: travelers, and locals. Travelers are special people in that they represent usually the elite of the hobby, who are going to spend real money to go to an event. Their perspectives are very different from a local player, who may grumble about a 30 dollar entrance fee and a 45 minute commute.
What do you want to know for next time?
Venue: is probably most important for the travelers, and their feedback should probably decide any doubts when their numbers are representative of 25 per cent or more of the players. The questions here are:
Social Atmosphere: the basic question of 'did you have a good time? And what can we do to make it better?' Typical smart-ass answers here will be things like 'free beer', but the reality of the response is most important. People who do not have a good time mean that you have failed somewhere as a host. Find out, figure it out, and work it out.
Scoring/Rounds: bitching about scoring systems is almost as big a tradition as taking Bulgaria by the Turks in Spring 1901. However, go over the issues as they relate to things other than a philosophical discussion of the classic positions on Draws vs Center Count or central vs board timing. Look for issues that relate to the very structure of the event. For example, the recent Whipping in San Francisco did not have a Friday night round, and this was a major request of travelers (but not locals). Also, there was a lively discussion of the relationship between the scoring system and the length of the game. These things need to be reviewed. What happens when games in the morning round on Saturday are not finished by the time the second round on Saturday is about to begin? Was this handled satisfactorily? What about central vs board time? Should all rounds count, or only the best 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4, or should people only be allowed to play in three rounds of standard Dip to force time for socialization, touristy things, and the like? In the recent Whipping there was a lively discussion afterwards about the seeding of the players in the games, and whether the emphasis should be on players playing different countries in the three regions of West/Central/East, or should the emphasis be on playing against different people. If you cannot accomplish both, which should dominate? Some people did not like the idea of having 'Joe' on each of their three boards; but on the other hand, the alternative might have been playing Italy-Austria-Austria on three boards. Which way do people want to go?
What about the prizes/awards? Were the prizes too little, too many, too ugly, great, useless, meaningless, fun, entertaining, or memorable? At Whipping (2008) there was a display of awards and trophies from around the world, and samples for the past 40 years of the more exotic, extreme and basic styles. Players were then asked to select what they liked for next year. Players should also be asked if they want to have some awards or things that were not presented this time.
What are we doing that works? Find out what people like that you are doing, so that you can do some more of it — or at least enjoy some ego stroking. This also keeps the feedback from becoming an exercise in masochism.
What are we doing that we should do less of or not do again? This is the negative side of the above, but also very important. If you have some things that you think are working but that most everyone else hates, then this needs to be addressed. For example, if people do not like the TD playing on multiple boards and would rather there be a short board, then that tells us something. If people want stricter time limits or periods of 'grace' for time deadlines, then these things need to be known and addressed.
What are we not doing that we could be doing? Sometimes there are things that people never think of until the event is already over with, and it could make things better — or at least funnier. Some of these ideas may not be the most exciting: one European after-event idea was to have a name tag which lists the players' accomplishments or 'rankings', so that people know who is 'what'. Not a welcome idea to those who have suffered under the Gunslinger effect of newbies killing veteran players just for their reputations, but something that some newbies wanted.
What decisions did the Tournament Director make? This is something that I always ask myself as TD, and generally write down. Historically, the decisions that the TD is called upon to make are overwhelmingly handwringing issues. Second is adjudication by a wide margin. In a few cases it is time issues, where someone is being anti-social on clock issues. Then there are the few adjudication issues, which depend very largely on the number of new players in the room and the number of veteran players that elect not to correct things as they are adjudicated by the less experienced.
The Most Important Component of Feedback is Follow up: There is a lot of good that comes from going after feedback, mostly that people like to feel involved in the events and that they have some ownership over the event. After all, we TD/organizers are not just doing it for our own eternal damnation and glory; we want it to be a collective sin of indulgence. However, once you have the feedback, you have to follow up on it and let people know what you can work on. Then next year, as you make the new presentations, you can point out what people suggested and how those suggestions were implemented. If the ideas work, then you are a hero for allowing yourself to be led; and if they bomb, then at least you tried to make someone else's idea come to life.
Remember the purpose of playing the game is to have fun, and make it fun for others!
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