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Falcon's 200th Tournament Bonus Content: Tips for Being a Successful TO

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After hosting 200 tournaments with a great amount of success over the years I get a lot of people that ask how I do it. There’s a lot of different aspects required for hosting a successful tournament. If a tournament organizer makes a mistake or doesn’t follow certain guidelines, it hinders their tournament’s success. Based on my experience in hosting 200 tournaments I have compiled a list of suggestions for being a successful tournament organizer. Note that while I will do my best covering the major aspects of being a successful TO please remember this is my opinion and I might overlook certain things. Without further ado though let’s dive into tips for being a successful TO.


1. Be familiar with necessary software like Smash.gg, Challonge, Discord, the game specifically used for the tournament etc.

When it comes to hosting tournaments it’s important that you know how bracket software, chat-boxes, and the actual games hosted works. If you’re hosting an event you should know all the features available in bracket software. If you’re trying to host a tournament, but you don’t know how to seed a bracket or report scores then you shouldn’t be hosting a tournament yet. Additionally, if you aren’t familiar with the features in a chat software than it will strongly hinder communication. Lastly, when it comes to the game getting hosted if the TO doesn’t know how the game works then it won’t end well. For instance, if the TO for a Smash Bros. tournament doesn’t know the difference between stock-based and time-based tournaments then the ignorance will often come back to bite them in the butt. If a TO can’t answer basic questions posed by a tournament attendee about their tournament then it doesn’t look professional and will cause worries during the tournament. Make sure if you’re organizing a tournament that you’re familiar with the sites and software getting used. This familiarity will help with creating detailed rulesets and covering all aspects of the tournament. 


2. If you’re hosting a series with elaborate ideas or parts plan far enough ahead.  

This is more so directed at TOs that have themes, narratives behind their tournaments (if other organizers do this), or other features in addition to a basic bracket; however, it also applies to all TOs. When I host tournament series in the past, I wrote out all the details for a season before hosting it. This way when it comes to running the bracket, I just need to copy + paste from the existing document and then the bracket could get posted much faster. In addition, writing up and planning stuff early gives you time for revising concepts which is helpful. Also, there’s no real downside to planning tournaments earlier opposed to later so make sure when organizing tournaments that you plan early. 


3. Hook in your audience for a tournament.

When I refer to hooking in your audience, I mean appealing to their interests. What makes your tournament worth attending? Why should a person attend your tournament? Think of this being like a hook or opening line when writing a composition. This is often in the basic information of the tournament such as the title, avatar, and first line of the description. Typically, you want something quick, snappy, and memorable. There’s no specific correct way for doing this, but just remember that if a TO doesn’t follow this then there’s no guarantee somebody will be interested in their tournament.


4. Proof-read your tournament events before posting them.

Yu eva gt deestracted by typ0s? This isn’t a good thing to do and looks extremely unprofessional. How will somebody trust you for running a tournament if you can’t even spell-check your own work? Make sure that before you post a tournament event that everything is spelt correctly, you use proper grammar, content makes sense, and any links or external media you insert works properly. A small typo here or there happens and isn’t the end of the world; however, if you make your tournament page illiterate then it will hinder your tournament.


5. Announce brackets for an event early enough, but also not too early.

When it comes to publishing tournament events it will vary-based on the size and scope of the event, but when you unveil a tournament is important. You almost never want to post a tournament the day before since it doesn’t give much time for attendees planning out if they will enter the event. It also doesn’t give much time for marketing the tournament or advertising to other players.  On the flip side, posting a tournament more than 2 weeks before isn’t as problematic, but unless you’re a major-scale tournament (like Smash major tournaments) you don’t want to post it too early. This might sound silly, but if a tournament gets posted too early it might lead to some attendees signing up Day #1, but then forgetting about the event since it happens too far away and they didn’t accommodate for a last-minute plan that day. Posting early is much better than posting later; however, when studying the past tournaments, I notice the ones that I advertised about a week before typically got more traffic than tournaments I advertised days before or 2 weeks-months beforehand. Also, the daily timeframe a tournament gets posted isn’t as critical; however, I find that posting tournaments not too early, but not too late helps with getting people’s attention.


6. Advertise and market your tournaments extensively.

This is one of the most important tips before the tournament!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you do not advertise your tournaments properly then it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are or how good you’re at being a TO. When advertising tournaments make sure you know your target audience and post in all relevant places for that target audience. You don’t want to advertise randomly, but rather advertise to people that would enjoy the tournaments. Good areas for advertising your tournaments include Discord servers, any relevant forums, social media, and Youtube. Don’t let these areas restrict you though and feel free to advertise in places you think would get you participants. Don’t go overboard either though since posting in irrelevant places could get time consuming. Also, when posting about your tournaments don’t just post a link and be done with it. Market your tournament by including basic information, any interesting details, potential prizes, and any information worth noting. That being said when marketing a tournament don’t make the description too long or you might lose your audience’s focus.  


7. Send out occasional reminders to signed up players so they’re aware of when the tournament starts.

People forget about events sometimes and this is why reminders exist. Make sure if possible that you send out reminders to tournament attendees about the event. Typically when I post a bracket a week before the tournament, I will send a reminder 1 day before the tournament starts and 1 hour before the tournament starts. Use any built-in features (i.e. message sending to attendees of a bracket) or messaging platforms software (i.e. Discord, Skype, social media, any chat-boxes used for your tournaments etc.) for sending out the reminders. Reminders help players finalize whether they attend and could help cut down on confusion before the tournament begins.


8. Be readily available for any questions, concerns, or messages people have through-out the time before the tournament, but especially the day of the tournament.

Although some players might easily grasp how the tournament functions this isn’t always the case. I find that some participants are playing in their first tournament ever or some participants aren’t as familiar with rulesets implemented by a set organizer. Make sure you’re always available for questions so that way you can clear up any confusion participants have. A TO that is responsive will get more positive reception than a passive TO who doesn’t respond to messages.


9. Welcome people entering the tournament as they appear in the chat-box and answer any questions they might have.

This tip builds off the last tip, but once again a personable TO appears more welcoming than a TO who doesn’t interact with their participants. Don’t neglect other important aspects of organizing the tournament for socializing with players; however, a simple “Welcome” or “Hello” makes all the difference to some attendees. Some people have told me that a lot of the time they entered my tournaments just because they thought I was a “good person” so there is some merit to this tip.


10. Take care of any pre-tournament stuff before the tournament begins.  

Some parts of a tournament should get organized before the tournament begins for an easier time. In the past when I have hosted Mario Kart tournaments, I recorded participants as they appeared so that way I could begin splitting people into rooms earlier opposed to when the tournament started. If I had waited until the tournament began and did this then it would have taken much longer for starting the tournament. When it comes to Smash tournaments make sure all participants are checked in and the bracket gets seeded before the tournament start time so there are less delays. If there’s something you can take care of before the tournament it's better addressing that earlier opposed to later.


11. Before the tournament begins give a quick announcement to tournament attendees.

A quick recap before the bracket begins helps alert everyone the tournament is starting soon and go over important points. When I give my pre-tournament blurb, I make sure that I thank players for coming, give a simple recap on important rules for newcomers, cover any relevant points, and give an estimation on when the tournament should start.


12. Watch how the tournament plays out and constantly be available for any score reporting or assistance needed.

Now that the tournament has begun, the real fun happens. As a TO you should watch the chat, bracket, and your DMs extensively. Make sure that if players are reporting scores or a dispute arises that you could quickly respond to it. If a TO can’t stay available during a tournament then there will be no way the tournament succeeds.


13. Be prepared for extensive multi-tasking as a tournament organizer.

Part of being a TO is multi-tasking on several tasks. One minute you can be solving a dispute, another minute you can be answering a rule clarification, and then another minute you could be reporting scores. Realize that as a TO you have more than a single job and must be ready for doing anything. If you have too many participants or feel that this might overwhelm you, then you can compensate by getting additional co-hosts.


14. Don’t be a stiff robot. Interact with the tournament participants through-out the tournament and have fun with everything.

It’s important that a TO gets all the necessary tasks done, but also remember that a tournament is about having fun. If you’re not having fun running a tournament as a hobbyist TO then there isn’t much incentive for hosting tournaments. When the tournament slows down a bit this is a moment you can chat with the participants and ask them how it’s going. You would be surprised at how the time flies when everyone is socializing and having fun plus I find it helps keep the job from getting too dull.


15. Be prepared for dealing with a worst-case scenario or any potential drama.

Nobody enjoys dealing with drama, but you should always be ready for an outburst at your events. When I have hosted tournaments in the past, some tournaments got very dramatic while others were super calm. Remember though that if drama does erupt you should do your best for de-escalating the situation. Your image as a TO could get hindered if the drama doesn’t get dealt with properly. When dealing with drama keep a calm head, remain mature, and look at the situation objectively. Don’t identify people in the drama as a friend or enemy, but rather who is in the right and who is in the wrong. A good TO is fair and doesn’t give preference to one person over another based on personal bias.


16. If something goes wrong, don’t let it ruin the tournament and resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Hey, when you’re hosting a tournament sometimes stuff happens. This could range from a co-host becoming unavailable, software crashing, and other unfortunate mishaps. Hell, one tournament I organized I had to deal with a power outage. Realize that if things go wrong not to panic but do everything you can for resolving the situation timely. If it’s something out of your control, do what you can for working around it. If a TO isn’t available, then find another person that could help co-host. If a server is down for unexpected maintenance try seeing if there is an ETA on when it will be available. When an inconvenience happens, do explain it to your participants and offer an apology if you feel it’s necessary. Despite this though don’t let it get to your head and do everything you can for resolving any mishaps. 


17. Be receptive to any feedback that players have during the tournament.

A tournament is nothing without its organizer, but it’s also nothing without its participants. See if the attendees have any feedback during the tournament about aspects they like, things that should get fixed, and any other helpful comments. Don’t cave into every demand given by a tournament attendee, but if you notice a common, helpful suggestion by multiple attendees then try adjusting the tournament around that. Some feedback might apply to a tournament series as a whole or can’t get fixed immediately, but if this is the case just work on improving upon it for the next tournament.


18. Make sure that the tournament is running at a smooth pace, if there are parts that are running slower than expected take care of the problem.

Once you get solid experience with organizing tournaments, the next part that should get looked at is optimization. I recently read an article from an offline Smash TO about queue optimization. In his article, he explained how if you start assigning stations before a set ends that it could help reduce the overall time a tournament runs for. This is a simple example of a solid TO optimizing their tournament in a way that benefits the participants. If during your tournament you notice that a match is taking long, reach out to the participants and get a status update. If there’s a common reason why a tournament slows down see if you can do anything about resolving the issue.


19. Finish all aspects of a tournament before concluding the tournament and resigning.

Excluding results getting posted to an external place or prizes assigned, you should ensure everything in a tournament gets finished before you stop thinking about it. If you’re using a tournament bracket software, make sure that the bracket gets finalized so results display properly. Also check and make sure there’s nothing else that must get addressed before the tournament ends. If you deal with something earlier opposed to later then you’ll have less to worry about with your tournaments.


20. When hosting tournaments for a set game stay involved with its community, learn about the metagame, and what aspects are critical for a tournament.

I think one of the things I learned from hosting a tournament for a game I wasn’t familiar with is that I stuck out like a sore thumb. If you’re trying to organize a tournament for a game you aren’t super familiar with then make sure you know how the game works. One way this could get done is by joining the game’s community. Look at how popular tournaments for a game operate and mimic aspects from them. You can also chat with people in a community prior for hosting an event ensuring that it matches the community standard. Being involved with a community also helps when hosting events as you know people that might attend and have connections that could help with advertising.


21. If giving out prizes for a season or tournament, make sure you follow up on it and deliver prizes at a reasonable rate.

This is one area that I have improved upon over the years. If you’re giving out a cash prize or physical object for a prize, make sure you deliver it at a reasonable rate. People hate waiting for prizes and you will look like a fraud if you promise a prize that you can’t deliver. Offline tournaments will usually award cash as the tournament finishes up so there are no mishaps. When dealing with online tournaments this could vary as online transactions don’t take long, but shipping physical objects take time. I would say ensure that a prize doesn’t take longer than a week for reaching a participant (if shipping a physical object) and if it does take longer give constant updates to the prize winner.


22. Focus on getting a tournament stream, tournament VODs, tournament graphics and any other additional content which would enhance the tournament series.

Overall, the stuff I listed above isn’t a necessity for hosting a tournament, but rather a nice bonus. If you have access to tournament-exclusive graphics, streams, and VODs, it gives more media for promoting the tournament. In addition, I always love looking back at VODs of old tournaments I hosted and I know participants enjoy watching VODs as well. Focus on basic organizational concepts first then try getting these features later.


23. Constantly learn from your tournaments and constantly improve upon them.

There is always room for improvement regardless of how great of a TO you are. Learn from the mistakes in your past tournaments and find ways for improving on them in the future. Nobody is perfect and all organizers have some flaws with their events (even if they’re small flaws versus large flaws). Improving upon your old tournaments shows growth and helps for becoming a better TO.


24. If help is needed for running a tournament get co-hosts as needed.

As the main organizer for an event you should be in charge, but don’t try running a one man show. Regardless if you need help with certain aspects of a tournament you aren’t familiar with or need another host due to a large turnout there’s no shame in asking for help. When reaching out to co-hosts I find success with people that have hosted events before, people familiar with how tournaments run, organized individuals, and those that are professional. When appointing co-hosts make sure that they know what they’re doing so they help with opposed to hinder the tournament.


25. Tell players to invite any other people they know that might be interested in your tournaments.

One simple way that a tournament grows and gets more fun is if a player invites their friends. Doing this increases the size of the tournament and brings more eager attendees to an event. This isn’t something you should make a big deal out of, but if you befriend tournament regulars see if they have any friends that would be interested in playing. You typically shouldn’t tell a person they can’t invite people to your events.


26. Keep the tournaments coming and try not to take breaks for long if hosting a long tournament series.

If you want to succeed as a TO you want to stay consistent. Time changes everything and if you take a break from hosting tournaments you might find that your break either goes on longer than intended or it’s harder hosting tournaments after a break. If something pops up and you must cancel a tournament, a week or two isn’t the end of the world; however, after taking massive breaks from hosting tournaments I can say it is difficult. One big reason is that when you don’t host events your participants move onto other events which is one less attendee for your future tournaments. One way to counter these breaks is with tournament organization teams where multiple people run tournaments. If you have one person that can cover you for a tournament then it works out well for your series.


27. If hosting tournaments for a while find ways for mixing up the tournaments and keeping things fresh.

This is a subjective tip that doesn’t affect success as a TO, but if you have been hosting for a while I would suggest finding ways for mixing up the tournaments. Don’t try fixing what isn’t broken, but I found hosting an occasional side bracket or mixing up rules with a special theme keep things fresh. Keep in mind some communities might react differently to ruleset changes so try seeing if your attendees would want this before implementing it.


28. Welcome anyone to your tournaments for more attendance while dealing with those that detract from your tournaments. 

As a TO you should be welcoming to all participants regardless of their background. You should welcome anybody to your tournaments that is interested since this helps maximize competition. Although, if a person is toxic, cheats in tournaments, and detracts from the tournament experience then you should take the appropriate actions for removing them from your tournaments. You want to let anyone attend your tournaments except those that would create a bad environment.


29. Remain fair and unbiased when resolving disputes regardless of who is involved in the dispute.

I have mentioned this a couple times through-out the document, but I’m going to emphasize that as a TO you should be impartial with your decision making. Don’t give a person an unfair handicap just because they’re one of your friends for instance. When solving disputes and running tournaments it’s okay making friends, but don’t let those friendships blind you from making a just decision.


30. Find the reason why you chose hosting tournaments and remember it.

Everyone has their reason for hosting tournaments. Some do it as a hobby while others do it as an occupation. Others do it for giving back to the community while others do it for themselves. I have several reasons that I continue hosting tournaments over the years, but it’s important that an organizer comes up with their own conclusions why they host events. If a TO knows what motivates their tournaments, then I find it helps them with staying motivated in improving their tournaments.


These are the general tips I would advise that any upcoming tournament organizer follows. Keep in mind when making these tips I made it as general as possible so it could apply to many different games, communities, and scenarios. Another thing is these tips are the first things that came in mind when planning a tournament, running the tournament, and other critical aspects. Just because a rule or guideline isn’t covered in these tips doesn’t mean it’s just as important as these tips. I hope these tips helped and I hope that I helped inspire more tournament organizers for joining the community!

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