What makes an event feel premium?

I’m always looking to improve the quality of events I help at, what things make an event feel premium? Raised fields, LED lights, drive teams badges? Anything unique you’ve seen at an event that you think more EPs should do?

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A unique venue (Not a school)

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Custom awards were always something that made an event feel more exciting than others

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And with shipping costs, might even be cheaper…

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A really good MC who can build energy and engagement with the tournament is as important a make-or-break quality for event professionalism as any material item on the production side.

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A really good commentary that is separate from the MC. The MC can interface with the Refs, start matches, announce things, etc. The commentators can provide commentary and have stats and bio information prepared to talk. They can talk in such a capacity as to engage both knowledgeable and unknowledgeable members of the audience.

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A good tournament livestream that you can go back and rewatch the matches from to figure out where you can improve, what other teams are good at, or just for fun really helps to seal the deal for me. It also helps if the audio is balanced properly (for example: not having the Tournament Manager noises blow your eardrums out while everything else is barely audible) and if you can actually hear the field / robot noises it helps with immersion quite a bit.

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In my opinion, I’m pretty low-maintenance when it comes to events. I always admire when events are really well organized, to where I can tell that a good amount of thought went into how and where to place things.

I’m not one for flashy lights (in fact, I quite hate flashing lights; they give me a headache), but I do enjoy good screens throughout the venue. In my opinion, there is never a shortage of well-placed screens.

The nature of robotics kids is that they’re all unhinged and do what they want, or so it seems, but some strategic crowd control goes a long way to keep the flow moving. Getting stuck in “traffic jams” during events is one of my least favorite parts of them…

and, as others have said, I love it when the livestream is easily available afterwards.

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I had a competition yesterday in which the schedule changed 3 times, including once while we were queued. We even met with a team and wrote a new auton quick in preparation, only to have it swapped on us again. Keeping your events organized and well thought up is a huge attractor for events, imo.

Also, please put your livestream camera in a good spot. Id appreciate being able to, yknow, see…

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Ugh, schedule generation… (This is a bit of a sore topic after I had some “fun” with match schedules at the event I helped at yesterday, which fortunately is different than the event you’re talking about)

So, for schedule regeneration, I don’t think it’s fair to put too much blame on the people running the event. A couple of things to keep in mind

The match schedule only gets regenerated when it has to be because a team just didn’t show up to the event or they failed inspection and they’re not gonna be able to make the changes to pass inspection at the event. We aren’t regenerating new ones for fun, it’s because we have to, because of something a team did (or didn’t do).

There are three competing priorities when it comes to this. Firstly, we want to let as many teams as possible to compete. We don’t want to kick a team out of an event because they showed up late, or they weren’t able to get inspected fast enough. Our goal is to inspire students, and not being able to compete isn’t inspiring. Secondly, we want things to start as near to on time as possible. We can’t push back the start of quals to figure out if a team is going to be able to pass inspection, we need to start when we say we’re going to start. Third, we don’t want a team that’s no showing all their matches because they failed inspection and had no chance of passing, that’s unfair to their partners and damages the validity of the rankings.
All of this together means we try to give teams as much leeway as possible for showing up late or trying to make fixes to make their robot legal, and we also try to ensure that teams that aren’t able to compete aren’t in the quals. This means final schedules somtimes aren’t available until pretty late, because we want to give teams every chance possible before we drop them.

Finally, the period of time from about an hour before quals start to about ten minutes into quals is the most chaotic period of the day, especially for the refs overseeing inspection, for the EP, and for the person running the tech at the events. That means that the second we’re sure a team is going to drop, we remove them from the list and generate a new schedule, because otherwise we will 100% forget to do it because another dozen fires have to be put out. So often a schedule will be generated, then another, then another.

In a perfect world teams wouldn’t see the schedule until it was finalized, but unfortunately it gets uploaded to RobotEvents instantly. In theory I could turn off publishing until the schedule is finalized, but (see the previous paragraph about the chaos during that part of the day) I would 100% forget to turn on publishing, and now teams are mad because scores aren’t being uploaded.

Sorry, long rant… Match schedule generation is fun…

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It happened because they couldn’t decide if one of the teams passed inspection

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Honestly it would be the referee and judges

Have a livestream camera in the first place

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Naturally having enough refs etc. to make the matches move along is good, but it’s not great if the refs are rushing you, so I guess have a good balance for that. Otherwise, it’s nice to have a screen that’s always showing rankings. Also, having music playing between the matches makes the event much more fun. I have been to events where they gave out food, but while this was nice, I can see how for bigger events in the US, this might not be possible.

Run Skills all day with no breaks (up to the very end of quals and past if you have breaks before alliance selection). There is no reason for the classic weird schedules (“we open the Skills at 11:35 and we stop at lunch, then we do this and that…”) Get more than one person to run Skills so they can shift and be able to rest, eat lunch, go to the bathroom, walk around and talk to their teams if coaching, etc. The reason for the always weird schedules is that the single volunteer running it is sick and tired of doing it all day… It is important and makes teams feel good. Don’t yell at teams that they should have done skills when it was open, that this is the last call, line ends here, etc. Teams will always bunch up towards closing and make a big line. Humans. But if you keep it open all day and keep announcing it constantly, they will come, they will do their 3/3 attempts and they will leave your event not annoyed. Have the team that ran skills reset the field. Tell them you won’t post their score until the field is reset. It helps speed things up and you don’t torture your volunteers that way. So yeah, run skills all day and have more than one volunteer manning it.

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I get the frustration from teams’ perspective about skills. But, coming at it from an event planning perspective, skills is one of the absolute biggest issues, and there are no good solutions.

Firstly, I always feel bad for the person in charge of running skills because they always tell me “yeah, I’ve been sitting here for the past hour doing nothing except for the two times somebody actually came to run skills”. They’re going to be extra bored if it’s two people running the skills field. And bored volunteers are way less likely to want to come back to future events in my experience, so if you’re already having a hard time finding enough refs for events, assigning them to sit at the skills field is doubly bad.

Second, the only time a line ever really forms is at the end, and during lunch if you run skills during lunch, because all the teams want to run it during lunch. Which I get, because they have a gap in their schedule. But this means that the one time you want more people is the one time you don’t have them. And maybe you say “OK, just have the skills refs get lunch at a different time than everybody else” but this brings us to the next problem, food

There are two approaches, either let the skills refs eat lunch first, in which case you need to get food earlier and it’s cold for everybody else, or you have skills refs eat lunch later, in which case the skills refs are the ones stuck with whatever nobody else wanted to eat. Even if you have skills refs alternate and take half hour shifts at lunch, one of the two is gonna end up with the food nobody else wanted. And also, volunteers are human, they like to take a break during lunch and talk to people, and I hate having to be the person to say “OK, your half hour lunch is over, I need you to go back to the skills field” to the person who’s volunteering their time.

Then there’s the key volunteer problem. Sometimes an issue comes up while running skills during lunch that needs a head ref/the event partner/the TM operator/some key volunteer. And now this person, who is in a key volunteer position and has likely been putting out fires all day, needs to be tracked down while they’re trying to just take a break and get lunch (and in a lot of cases the volunteer room is like halfway across the campus because of course it is…) and go put out the fire. And while this is happening, nobody is able to run skills until whatever the issue is has been taken care of.

Also, no matter how much time you give teams, there will still be the giant line at the end of the day. And, because judges need to know skills rankings in order to make their final decisions, keeping skills open longer holds up judging.

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Actually I wrote that from an EP perspective. After staying out of it for years and observing from the side lines, we finally decided to host an event and tried the hardest to not do the annoying things we observed as competitors (still messed up many other things) and that’s what we did: we asked for 4 volunteers just for one Skills field. We made shifts of 2: one person (the older one lol) sitting at the laptop queuing teams and typing scores, while the second would stand by the field and score the game. They had Solo cups red/blue to count string. They would shout “3 rollers”, “10 in the high goal” etc. for all present to hear. Tried scoring tablets but the shouting became what we ended up doing. Then they would take a break and the second shift would do the same. Did not stop all day until end of quals. Yes, it is not easy to find 4 people just for that to do it all day, but your original question was how to make it more premium and that’s what we came up with. We did not have the big line at the end and despite some scoring and ruling controversy here and there, everyone left content.

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Weird, something must be different about teams in your region. Our state championship was two days long, we had skills open through lunch both days, teams had from 10:00-1:15 for nothing but inspection and running skills on the first day, there was basically never a line for the skills field, and yet it seemed like half the teams at the event were lined up to get one last run in at the close of skills the second day.

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To be fair this was a small qual mid-season event, typical one day / high school gym, not States. Running a premium States event - priceless.

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Ah, that’d do it. What’s your definition of small? Here 32 is a pretty normal tournament and I’d consider 24 to be a small event.

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