Every profession has tools, and race promotion is no different.
Clipboards, stopwatches, and paper sheets are the hallmarks of a race promoter’s trade.
Same goes for race planning.
Race promoters exclusively use spreadsheets to plan, manage, and direct their races.
First, they build their spreadsheets on their computers.
Then they print their spreadsheets for their clipboards.
Finally, they mark up their spreadsheets, make changes, edit hundreds of rows and columns of information, and start over.
If you ask any race promoter holding a clipboard with a spreadsheet on it what version it is, chances are it will be a high number.
Spreadsheets are the tried and tested tool that everyone in the industry knows and uses.
Why do they all use spreadsheets?
That is what they were taught to use.
The race promoter productivity tools of 50 years ago are still the same old productivity tools being used today.
Time for a change!
When race promoters were not looking, mobile technology, online services, and cloud computing ruined the old understanding of productivity tools.
Today, the power of interactive management, collaboration, and online services that can be leveraged via the Internet– for free — takes spreadsheets to a whole new level.
Gone are the days of punching numbers into fields and doing everything from a sheet of paper.
Now you can manage your race planning in real time, collaborate with your entire team no matter where they are, store all your documents in the cloud for easy access from anywhere, and rent software applications without having to buy or build them yourself.
All of these tools designed to make you more productive, and build better races.
What are some of these tools?
The following are five (5) productivity tools that I recommend every race promoter use:
A Tool for Management Productivity
Managing your race’s workflow is a tough job.
You could use a spreadsheet to keep everything under control, but then you’ll have to modify that spreadsheet multiple times.
How do you do that?
Print it out and use a pencil to check off items and write in changes?
That sounds tedious and inefficient.
It also sounds like your spreadsheet doesn’t do workflows very well.
Every time you change something, you have to go back and change your spreadsheet.
How about your team?
When someone on your team completes a task, how do you or the rest of the team know?
Maybe they don’t complete it and you don’t find out until it’s too late.
How can you ever keep track of it all?
Stop the insanity!
Start managing your races with Trello.
Trello is an online application that helps you do workflows in real time.
Using the kanban methodology found in software development, Trello automates the movement of your lists by organizing them into workflow boards divided into several columns.
Each column is a step in your workflow process with all your To-Do items in the first column.
Then when you start working on one of your To-Do items, you drag-and-drop that item into an “In Progress” column.
When that To-Do task is completed, you then put it into a “done” column.
The name of each column is completely up to you.
However, the Trello tool is a powerful way to organize and prioritize your race into a snapshot of what is complete, what is still being worked on, and what still needs to be done.
When you connect your race’s Trello board to your team, you can then start to manage who is working what task, and have a real-time view of what is and is not done.
Trello’s “information at a glance” capability can even include files, images, and connections to other productive tools like Slack and cloud storage.
Plus you can use it on your mobile devices, which allows you to know how your race is progressing without having to be on your laptop.
Trello is also priced well for small teams by being free.
Free for how long?
Yes! Trello is a productive tool that wants to grow with your team.
The advanced features you would need for bigger teams and races are around $10.00 per user per month (roughly $120 per user a year).
When you get bigger, you can look into using Trello to manage your championship races.
But you’re not there yet.
As a small team, Trello is a perfect tool at a perfect price.
Stop managing your races by spreadsheet.
A Tool for Collaboration Productivity
Everyone likes email.
But communicating with your team over email is tough.
Long email chains, working off of emails that are older than the one with the new information, or just not getting all the emails, are all potential problems.
Worse yet, not everyone on the team is up-to-speed on email as a communication method.
Some still like to use the phone, while others are more comfortable with texting everyone.
How do you coordinate a race when everyone likes different forms of communications?
The answer is an online tool called Slack.
Slack is the love child of email and texting, only this child is very, very smart!
The beauty behind Slack is in its real-time direct messaging that can allow mulitple people to chat with each other at the same time.
But like email, it can divide each of these direct message threads into different channels, or even private channels that only certain people can see.
An end result is a tool that promotes centralized communication with just about any device.
Furthermore, Slack allows everyone to share documents and files.
You can connect cloud storage (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive) directly your Slack session and allow your entire team to share without needing to open separate tools.
Oh, and it makes Internet calls (just like Skype) too!
Not a bad way to consolidate all your communications into one tool.
Now, you might think that all that collaboration comes at a price.
That has to be expensive, right?
Yes and no.
Slack allows teams wanting to try it out to do so for FREE.
And that free is for an unlimited period of time!
Free and unlimited?
What’s the catch?
The catch is that several of the Slack features are limited with the free version.
However, that is not a big deal if you’re starting out and your team is still small.
Slack expects small teams to use it and make it a part of their collaboration process.
They’re looking for those companies that will eventually grow, making Slack their go-to productivity application for communications.
That’s when Slack will cost you $8.00 per active user a month (roughly $64.00 per user a year).
But when you’re just starting out, the free version of Slack is perfect to get your race day collaboration efforts under control.
A Tool for Business Productivity
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and online tools are all the rage, but it is the G Suite by Google Cloud that has taken it to a whole new level.
Where once Mircosoft Office — complete with WORD and EXCEL — were the tools of the day, the G Suite is Google’s version of productivity software.
Only it’s FREE!
Well, mostly free.
I primarily use Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Sheets for planning, managing, and running races.
Those are all free out-of-the-cloud (so to speak).
I actuall pay to have a business specific email address from Gmail that costs me a whoping $5.00 a month per user.
This means that I can have a special email address for each of my races, each of my staff members, and even key volunteers.
Why is this important?
When your team is all using a business email services like Gmail, you can share calendars, documents, and files much easier.
But the real power of using G Suite is that it is everywhere.
You don’t need your computer to share a file since you can access it via your mobile phone or tablet.
Don’t have your phone or tablet with you?
You can access it from another computer from any browser.
What if you’re far away from the Internet?
G Suite as an offline capability to allow you to work with documents even when you’re not connected.
Let’s face it.
How many times have you forgotten your registration list on your personal laptop?
Or needed to change a file while out at the race venue?
Getting yourself familiar with the G Suite tools will help you solve those problems.
Docs and Sheets are the key ones that you will use for race direction.
I use Docs for creating bulletins, process instructions, and planning documents.
While using Sheets for lists, results, and balance spreadsheets.
The same tools are on all my devices, no matter where I go.
Meanwhile, Drive is the part of G Suite that ties it all together.
Just like the name implies, Drive is where you store all your docs, sheets, and files.
This can include PDFs, maps, logos, images, and even audio and video files.
Google only gives you approximately 30 Gb for free, but it is a good first step in backing up your race documents.
Think about that for a second.
When was the last time you backed up all your race documentation?
The answer is probably never.
All your precious email lists, how-to’s, process instructions, logos, race reports, draft and final maps, finished permit presentations, just sitting on one, lonely computer.
One single point of failure.
Now imagine if the laptop you use to store all those files were to suddenly receive a full cup of coffee right across the keyboard.
Say goodbye to all your valuable intellectual property.
You’ll have to rebuild it all from scratch.
However, when you use a tool like G Suite, all your intellectual property is stored in the cloud.
Everything you need to run your race will never be damaged or ruined by rogue coffee disasters.
No matter how many computers you destroy, all you’ll need to do is reconnect your new computer with your G Suite account and you are back in business.
That is the power of using cloud-based productivity tools like G Suite.
The best part is that Goolge makes all of it free to use.
For a new race promotion company, you can’t beat free!
And you certainly cannot beat the low price of extending your G Suite account for more robust business uses.
A Tool for Registration Productivity
You will always need a way for racers to pay for registration online.
This makes pre-registration a must for all race promoters.
So what do you do?
Build it yourself, or use a service?
If you build it yourself, you need to deal with web development, security, and bank service costs.
That can get very expensive.
What about online services?
Those seem to be a good way to go.
But how do you choose one?
My criteria for new race promoters trying to pick a pre-registration service is this:
- What does it cost to use?
- How much does it charge your races to register?
- Is it easy to understand and use?
Answering those three questions is key in deciding what service will work best for your races.
It meets all three questions without complications.
It doesn’t cost you anything to use, and only costs your racers a small fee to process payments through their online tool.
The fee is entirely dependant on what you charge as an entry fee.
Additionally, if you don’t want your racers to be charged anything for registration, you can pay the fee yourself.
The advantage to having your racers use a service like this comes down to security.
AthleteReg uses industry standard Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to protect transactions.
This removed you from the cost and risk of having to process credit cards yourself.
What does that mean for you and your race?
If you put a race on BikeReg, you will be able to direct your customers to a secure, online payment tool.
But you will also get the benefit of other customers — maybe even customers that have never heard of you or your race — to find your race.
It provides you with a powerful marketing tool that you don’t have to pay for (unless you want to).
You cannot beat free advertising!
That is what a service like AthleteReg can do for you, which is especially helpful when you are first starting out.
A Tool for Scoring Productivity
Race timing is always difficult for new race promoters.
While a stopwatch, timing sheet, pencil, and clipboard work for small races, once you get past 30 racers, there is a need to start automating your process.
This is especially true when you need to produce results. It is very difficult to look professional when you post results in some handwritten scribble scrabble.
Those come complete with scratch outs and arrows for all the mistakes you make trying to write in a hurry.
One way to capture accurate race results is with Webscorer.
Webscorer (webscorer) by Webscorer Inc. out of Woodinville, Washington, is a timing application that you can use on most smartphones or tablets using Apple iOS or Android.
The advantage to using Webscorer over manual timing is the capability to sync your registration file with your bib numbers.
When it’s all configured and ready to go, all you do is start the race and get a screen full of little bib numbered buttons.
When you hear or see each racer’s bib number coming across the finish line, all you do is push the button that has that number on it.
It sounds super easy, but with all software, it has a catch.
You need to play with it a few times, and absolutely run a few mock races using the application before you put it into your race.
However, having a digital version of your results provides you with a few things:
- Organized results that you can search and print
- A complete with a list of finishers from first to last
- A format that is already web-friendly
- Times that are more percise than a stopwatch
- Actual split times
- Capability to handle more and more racers
Webscorer offers some other features that make it a complete ecosystem of applications, but pace yourself.
Learn to use just the timing feature and see if it will work with your races before you invest in all the other bells and whistles.
Webscorer is just one of many different timing applications, but it is the first one I’ve used that didn’t suck.
It’s not perfect, but it does do it good job tracking results.
You can give it a 30-day try for free and see for yourself.
A Tool is Only a Tool
If you have a better tool for that same job, please share it with me @Reckoneering on Twitter.
In full disclosure, I do not have any promotional or commercial connection to any of these companies or their tools.
None of these tool companies are sponsors, and I am not an affiliate for any of their products.
That being said, I have used all of these tools and can personally stand behind each one as a good choice.
Some are easier to use than others, and each one has a strength that I think works well with race promotion.
Are they perfect?
No. No tool is perfect.
A tool is only good when it works for you, your team, and your business.
As for these tools, they are excellent choices for anyone looking for low cost (can’t get much lower than free) productivity tools.
And now you know!