A virtual race can be a decent, quick option for your runners when you need to change course last minute. But did you know that companies have been putting on virtual races, sans crisis, for years? If you have a little more time before your race, you have the opportunity to make your event more than just an ok-ish substitute for the real thing. This is you "next level" guide for Virtual Races.
Communication is Key
When runners show up on race day, you know what they are expecting from you. Most runners are new to virtual races: communicate (and repeat) the parameters of your event.
- What is a virtual run?
- What is the time range for completing the run?
- Are there specific parameters around where they can run? Most virtual races allow any run of the distance, but some will offer a few "courses" that runners can follow.
- What swag can the runner expect, and when and how will they get it?
- What is the process for reporting results?
How should you communicate these details?
- Website: Use the Postponement Tool or update your cover page with an explanation of the run and what to expect
- Email: Use email marketing (Email Marketing >> Send) to educate current (and past/potential!) participants about the event and expectations.
- Social Media: Post event details on all your social media channels
- Add a Checkbox Acknowledgement: Set up a checkbox question acknowledging that the participant knows they are participating in a virtual race (Race >> Registration >> Questions) and mark it as required
Get your settings right
- Race Type: Update (or set) the race type in Step 1 of the Wizard to be a Virtual Race
- Determine Your Events: Offering multiple distance options? Then setup different events in Step 1 of the Wizard so you can collect results for each distance
- Customize Place: Navigate to Race >> Race Page >> Race Location customize the location description as something generic (I.E., "Your Town!" or "Anywhere". Check Hide Place section on the race page to show the customized text instead of the location in the Wizard.
Setup Virtual Results
- Enhanced Virtual Race: Set up your ability to collect results at RaceDay Tools >>Enhanced Virtual Race >> Setup Virtual Race. Review the settings for virtual text and emails results via this blog or through this webinar, and then catch up on the new form submission updates with this blog and this webinar.
- Texting: Results can be submitted via text, email, or an online form. To avoid the $1 processing fee for new registrants, turn off the text option. Email and the online form will still work!
- Review: Your Virtual Results setup must be reviewed by your account manager, so leave a little a little extra time before you need to publicize the event
- Communicate: Use your website, emails, and social media to tell (and remind) your participants to report their results!
Other options: if you choose not to use results from Enhanced Virtual Results, you have plenty of other options. These include a Google Form (download the report and upload the results), collecting times by emails or social media posts, or requiring everyone to use a specific training app.
Swag can always be a selling point for races, but it's even more key for a virtual event! The standard virtual race swag package includes a bib, a medal, and a shirt. Swag for a virtual race is usually shipped; during this crisis, we do see some events doing pickup for swag (either over an extended period at a location like a running store, or more often, as an event in the late summer or fall). Shipping does require time and money, but is recommended if you can pull it off want to impress your runners.
- Shipping Address Validation: Go to Race >> Registration >>Shipping to require participants to validate their shipping address (since many participants don't keep the address in their profile updated).
- Address Updates for Imports: If use the Bulk Race Transfer Tool to move participants from a physical race to a virtual race (rather than the participants self-transferring), you will need to enable participant management of the shipping address at Participants >> Participant Management >> Shipping Address Management. Notify (and remind!) participnats that they need to update their address by navigating to their profile, choosing "manage registration", and selecting the "Shipping Address" tab.
- USPS: USPS First Class is recommended as the cheapest option for shipping, particularly if your packet can fit in a large padded envelope.
- Buy Extras: Packets will get lost in the mail. Make sure you have a few extras on-hand.
- Plan Ahead: Packing and shipping packets takes time. Make sure you calculate a realistic plan for shipping.
- Communicate: As always, communication is key. Keep your participants informed as to the plan for their swag and when they can expect it.
Promote Your Event
Yes! You can still promote your event. Two ways to approach this:
- Promote your event to your existing participants. The more you connect with your participants, and connect your participants with each other, the more your event will feel like a "real" RaceDay.
- Promote your event to new participants. It might be an unusual time to sign up for a race, but if you still have flexibility in ordering your swag, etc., you may still find new runners looking for an event like yours. Runners are looking for ways to engage!
Make it (virtually) social:
With so many people isolated from the people they love, the ability to virtually connect with a shared experience is more important than ever.
- Setup Teams: Navigate to Participants >> Groups & Teams >> Setup and allow team creation and joining...then encourage teams to run "together" at the same time (but not the same place!) to enhance the sense of Race Day Community.
- Facebook Event: A Facebook Event can get you on people's calendar (especially today, when so many events are cancelled!)
- Facebook Group: A Facebook Group allows for more interaction. Encourage runners to post training selfies, tips for working out at home, and their RaceDay outfits in the leadup to the event, as well as Finish Photos on RaceDay.
- Create Hashtags: Create a fun hashtag for sharing on Instagram and Facebook
- Strava or Training Clubs: Use Strava or other Training Clubs to let participants view each others' runs
If you have a little time to increase your participation, referral rewards are a super low-cost way to encourage your participants to get their friends and family to engage.
- REFERRAL REFUNDS: Use them!
- SWAG REWARDS: Stacking referral refunds with swag rewards will prompt your registrants to keep referring friends - even after they have earned a referral refund
- SOCIAL SHARING SETTINGS: Customize the text and images prompt referrals and sharing on social media
- REGISTRATION FOLLOWUP EMAILS: Use registration follow up emails to remind people to refer their friends
- WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go to RunSignup.com/swag to watch a referral and swag rewards webinar
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure your runners know your social options!
- Referrals - “Help us grow our event by referring your friends”
- Teams - “The more the merrier! Want to create a team?”
- Share - “Please share/like/follow our Facebook page”
And don't forget to say thank you.
- Participants DON’T usually notice if you don’t thank them
- But, MANY people notice and appreciate it when you do.
- Thanks to you - we raised $XXX for XXX
- How did it go? We would love to see pictures - you can post here!
RaceJoy for Virtual Events
If you want to add a little something extra, talk to your timer about RaceJoy for Virtual Races - RaceDay Certified Timers can offer RaceJoy. A Virtual Race with RaceJoy requires a few set maps that participants can use for the race (we recommend more than one to prevent crowing on the course), but allows for bells and whistles like (virtual) spectator cheer sending, off-course alerts, and runner tracking. You can learn more about RaceJoy for Virtual Events here.
- Remind runners to run solo, and not physically run with their team members
- Allow enough time and/or flexibility of course to spread out the runners on course
- If using RaceJoy, monitor the course and use messaging to alert runners of any crowding issues and/or missed turns
To learn more about organizing and promoting virtual events anytime (not only during a pandemic), view Natallie's Presentation from the 2020 Winter Symposium or flip through her slides.