April 6th, 2002 – that is the day the very first documented Super Smash Bros. tournament was ever held: Tournament Go, in San Jose, California, by a man named Matt Deezie. Since then, the community has grown an exponential amount, and the game series is now regarded as one of the most popular fighters in the entire world. With multiple thousand entrants events, hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize pots, and millions of fans everywhere, it is no secret that there is demand for these events. But in order for these tournaments to happen, someone has to put them together. Whether it’s a single person, or a group of people, there has to be a structure behind it, a thought process, an organization of some sorts. There are a plethora of guides out there to teach you how to become a better player. But very few on becoming a better tournament organizer.
The guide will take you through every step of hosting an event, from finding a venue, to getting players in the door. Any and all aspects of events will be covered in this blog, so you can kickstart your journey as an organizer, or touch up on some concepts if you’re a veteran. Keep in mind that this is not an easy job to take on, and while you may be able to gather a few friends in your apartment to play some games, getting hundreds, if not thousands of people in a room for an event is an entirely different challenge.
In case you weren’t already anticipating, this guide will be very long, so I definitely recommend pacing yourself, or looking up the specific section you’re looking for. We have a lot to go over, so let’s get to it.
Before I tackle any subject in this guide, please remember that every TO is different, and that there is no single way to become a TO. Everyone’s experience, mentality, and approach is different – I am in no way, shape, or form forcing you to follow the methods I am describing below. While many of the concepts that I will go over are shared amongst organizers, some details may vary depending on who you ask, and you may find success using a different route. Please feel free to experiment yourself, and ask others for advice or feedback when you need it. This is only meant to help you if you’re looking to learn more about TO’ing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Planning an Offline Event
- What type of event are you hosting
- When are you hosting it
- Where are you hosting it
- Who are you hosting it for
- Why are you hosting it
- What type of event are you hosting
- Sponsors & Partners
- Safety & Security
- Crisis Management
- Setup & Teardown
First and foremost, I need to address what I believe to be the most important part of being a TO: your mentality.
Just like competing, having the right mental space when running an event is incredibly crucial in order to be a successful organizer. While there are a lot of technical, business aspects to this job, it is, and always will be, a community job.
What I mean by that is your role is always centered around the people you are hosting the event for – the community. Being a TO is not about the money. It is not about the fame, the success, or the career itself. It’s about putting together something that a community can enjoy and attend to their heart’s content. Without them, your event cannot happen, period. If no one shows up to your tournament, it cannot occur. Whatever you do, remember that you are here to provide a service to everyone around you. It is very much a thankless job, one that you will often be misunderstood for doing, or not get the recognition you deserve. But beyond that, it is a job that requires patience, passion, and dedication. If you want to take TO’ing seriously, it is something you will have to pour a lot of hours into, and it will very much bleed into your personal life. If you are willing to make that sacrifice, then you are ready to become a TO.
Conveniently enough, I have written another blog on this very topic that you can read below. While it is mainly targeted at those who wish to become higher-level TOs, it can still be relevant to anyone looking to get involved in such a way. I recommend giving it a read when you have the chance.
PLANNING AN OFFLINE EVENT
At last: you’re finally launching yourself into the world of Tournament Organizing. Congratulations!
However, as you’ve noticed by now, there are a lot of components when it comes to putting together such an event, regardless of scale. So it’s important to go through every step carefully and make sure you don’t miss or mess up anything along the way.
Let me take you through each part of it.
WHAT TYPE OF EVENT ARE YOU HOSTING?
There are multiple types of events one can host, and it’s important to know the difference between each one before making a decision.
Local: This is your most basic and easiest type of event to put together. These are typically your weekly-type events that are hosted at someone’s house, in a card shop, game store, etc., and what has kickstarted the community we know and love today. If you are first starting out as a TO, this is absolutely the first type of event you should try to host. They can range anywhere from just a handful of entrants to upwards of 100+ depending on the region you live in, and is one of the best ways for your local players to get together to play, hangout, and get to know each other. If you’re not quite confident with running a tournament just yet, you can also organize a smashfest session at your house, where people can just enjoy themselves and play the game as they see fit. There’s no shame in doing something small, so feel free to experiment to your heart’s content!
Regional: This is the next step-up after locals, and probably the first challenge you’ll face as an organizer. These can range anywhere from 128 to 512 entrants depending on the scale you’re going for, and are a great way to get a taste of what it’s like hosting a large international event. These are most typically held inside bigger rooms such as hotel ballrooms, gymnasiums, or smaller rooms inside convention centers. You’ll start finding more serious level production, some out of region talent, and even bigger prizing. If you’ve got some experience under your belt, then this is the logical follow-up in your career. Regionals can either be done monthly at a reduced scale, or even every 3-6 months if you want to go for something bigger. Monthly events typically expand from weekly-sized events without delving too much into bigger-scale events, and are a good transition into regionals, so that may also be a suitable middle-ground for you.
Major: This is the highest echelon of events, and the one TOs aspire to host in their careers. If you’re looking to organize one of these events, be prepared to pull 512+ entrants, a lot of out of region talent (especially top-level players), high-level production, and a large venue to accommodate. These can be held anywhere from larger hotel ballrooms, convention centers, stadiums, or anywhere you think would help make your event stand out the most. However, this is also the most expensive and challenging type of event to run, and one you should absolutely NOT do on your own, or directly skip to this step before doing the other ones listed above. Work your way up to a major, build a strong community/reputation, and gather enough resources to be able to put an event of this scale instead of blindly diving head first into it and potentially missing the mark heavily.
Be honest with yourself as to what kind of event you’re putting on, as it will greatly help you put together the best experience possible for all your staff and players attending the event.
WHEN ARE YOU HOSTING IT?
The date of your event can be a make-or-break situation, and it’s the first challenge you’ll face when putting together a tournament (one that even veteran organizers still face to this day).
Local: These events can be realistically hosted any day of the week, but I do recommend hosting it between Mon-Fri, as it lets you avoid any major tournaments on the weekends that your region may be traveling to. Friday night can, in theory, be the best day to host it on as you won’t have to worry about school or work for the next day, but can also coincide with any 3-day event happening that weekend, so it depends on the region you live in, and how many of your players typically travel out of region. Regardless, look at which days of the week that your local community is missing events on (as well as nearby communities), and figure out what makes the most sense for your players. Make some polls about it, discuss it openly, and then go from there. Whatever you do, make sure NOT to overlap with any other weekly events, as it can severely reduce attendance and create an unnecessary divide in your scene.
Regional & Major: Once you start figuring out a date for larger events, you absolutely NEED to start paying attention to neighboring regions, as well as the national scene, to figure out the best date to host a tournament. While local events can be planned a week out, regionals take a few months to put together (1-3 months depending on the scale), and majors can take anywhere from 6 months to a full year even in some cases, so you should absolutely be getting started early if you can. If you’re not aware already, there is a national calendar that is regularly kept up to date, which holds the dates for all upcoming major events for the year, as well as some regional events. You can find it right here:
If you are looking to get your event on said calendars, you can either contact @SmashCalendar directly on Twitter, or myself via my contact page:
Similar to local events, you should absolutely avoid conflicting with another event on the same weekend. This has consistently been a problem for years in the community, and one that needs to stop happening. If a conflicting event is in another country or continent, there’s more room for debate (although still highly not recommended), however if an event is in the same country or coast, stay away. Always make sure to do your research beforehand, contact the calendar team if you need any assistance, and make sure to lock in your dates early so that you avoid issues as best as possible. The last thing you need is an ugly surprise where two events are hosted on the same day without either one knowing, or finding out your potential major event is getting overshadowed by an already established series, or by a larger organization. Be transparent and efficient with your planning, it goes a long way.
WHERE ARE YOU HOSTING IT?
Finding the right space for your tournament is yet another major hurdle for organizers, and oftentimes is the reason why many events aren’t able to happen in the first place, whether it’s due to not finding a big enough venue, not being able to afford it, or simply not being able to find something at all. However, there are a few ways to find the right fit for your event:
Local: Getting a venue for a local is, on one hand, easier than finding one for a larger event in the sense that it is much more affordable and has far less aspects that you need to worry about, but is also much harder because finding the right place can be very frustrating. While yes, smaller events can be hosted anywhere (in theory), there isn’t a set market for these types of events – you have to go out of your way to contact local stores, businesses, etc. to see if they’re willing to host your event on a regular basis. Think of it this way: you’re probably already aware of a few hotels, convention centers, etc. near you that have or can host bigger events. But there are little places that advertise being able to consistently host smaller-scaled events, much less Super Smash Bros. tournaments. Remember: esports isn’t your typical event that anyone can put together on a whim. There is an inherent risk to running locals from a business perspective, as your audience is very limited. Regardless, there’s a few places you can look for if you want to start a local:
- Local game stores & arcades
- Card shops
Now, while the event you are hosting is atypical from say, a birthday or dance party, it is still a regular event at the end of the day. What I mean by that is, when you are approaching these businesses to host your tournament at, try to sell them the idea just like you would with any other type of event. Typically, most businesses are looking to get more traction, more customers, more sales, etc. You, as the organizer, have the ability to bring people to their space. Use that to your advantage when negotiating. If a card shop for instance is struggling to stay afloat, and you’re able to bring them 50-70 people on a regular, weekly basis, that is usually a very good selling point for them. If the space you are hosting it in is related to their business, that’s an extra incentive as well. Try to take off as much work and stress from the business as you can. Let them know you’ll be handling all the marketing, setup/teardown, ticket sales, etc. You want to create a strong relationship with your venue, and make it as easy as possible for them to host your event, that way they’ll be more likely to accommodate you. While it may seem like they’re reaping all the benefits for little reward, remember that they have no obligation to give you their space, and can kick you out at any time. So it’s important that you maintain a strong bond with them when doing business.
If you’re having trouble finding a local venue, take a look around your neighborhood/city on Google Maps, and mark any potential spots you think host events in general, or would have space for the amount of people you’re looking to have. Look at their websites, photos, reviews, etc. and see if there’s anything that pops out. You may be surprised at what you find. Take note of the surrounding area as well – are there any nearby public transportation options? What about food? Is there parking? When does the venue open/close? How much flexibility do you have with the space? Are there enough tables and chairs? Do you have ample power? Is there wired/wireless internet? While it may be overwhelming to factor in everything, you need to make sure you cover all your bases before locking down a space. Try to reverse-engineer an event from scratch, and look at every single piece that goes into it. Imagine an empty room, and start slowly filling it up. You’ll be able to better visualize what you need, and tackle any potential problems you may face.
Regional & Major: While it is easier to find a physical location that can hold a large amount of people at once, finding a venue for bigger events is harder for entirely different reasons, and oftentimes boils down to a singular one: money. You may find an abundance of large venues near you, but being able to afford one is by far and wide the biggest challenge you’ll face as an organizer. If you are new to this and don’t even know where to look, here are a few examples of places where you can host your big tournament:
- Hotel Ballrooms (Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, etc.)
- Convention Centers
- Gyms & Stadiums
If you take a look at the website for major hotel chains, they will always have a section dedicated to meetings & events. This is where you’ll find information such as maximum capacity, square footage, floor plans, etc. And if that information isn’t publicly available, you’ll find contact information to find out more about it.
Now, what exactly are you looking for when hosting bigger events? Let me expand on that:
Square Foot: This is entirely dependent on how many entrants you’re looking to get for your event. In terms of ballpark references (assuming full capacity without COVID-restrictions):
- 200-300 entrants: 4,000 – 6,000 sq. ft.
- 300-500 entrants: 6,000 -10,000 sq. ft.
- 500-700 entrants: 10,000 – 15,000 sq. ft.
- 700-1,000 entrants: 15,000 – 20,000 sq. ft.
- 1,000-2,000 entrants: 20,000 – 40,000 sq. ft.
- 2,000-4,000 entrants: 40,000 – 60,000 sq. ft.
- 4,000+ entrants: 60,000+ sq. ft.
Keep in mind these are approximate ranges, and that you should always be double checking with your venue to see what the maximum capacity is so you don’t break the fire code limit.
Power: Make sure there is ample power in your venue to run all your equipment, but also make sure that the circuits are setup properly so that there’s no potential for shortages, fires, etc. While monitors and Nintendo Switches aren’t the most demanding pieces of electronics on their own, having 50-100 of them in one room, on top of the production equipment, computers, lighting, etc. can really put a toll on the circuit, and if not setup properly, can be a real hazard. Most venues will have power strips and extension cords available as well, but you should double check to make sure you’re not low on them the day of the event.
Internet: Venues should have wired internet already setup and available for you to use. If not, that’s something they will either have to setup themselves, or that you’ll have to figure out on your own. If the venue does have wired internet, then please make sure the speeds are adequate enough to run a stream from, on top of the regular smashgg activities you’ll be doing to run the bracket. Make sure to check with your production team about what an acceptable amount of bandwidth would be before signing off on anything. Additionally, consult with the venue to see what the wireless internet options are. You will most definitely be needing it to run your event, but look to see if they have public WiFi available for your attendees as well. It can be frustrating if your players don’t have service while they’re playing their matches.
Tables & Chairs: Another factor to keep in mind when looking for venues are tables and chairs. Again, most spaces will have an ample amount for you to use, but it’s important to double check either way, in case you have to contact an external provider for them. Tables will come either in 6ft or 8ft form, but both are acceptable for events. You can fit up to 2 setups per 6ft table (back to back), while you can fit up to 4 setups on an 8ft table (2 on each side, back to back). It is also recommended to look into table cloths to improve the overall look of your event, although it is not 100% required if you don’t have access to it.
Staging & A/V: This is a little more advanced, but keep an eye out for staging and A/V options as well when searching for venues. Does the venue have a stage at all? How big is it? How much does it cost? If you’re looking at A/V, do they have screens built-in? Projectors? Do you have access to an in-house speaker and microphone? Is it wired or wireless? While it’s not absolutely necessary for the venue itself to have those options, they can make your life a lot easier, and significantly increase the quality of your event. Definitely keep those in mind when looking around for venues.
Similar to local venues, look around your venue to see where your event is located:
“Take note of the surrounding area as well – are there any nearby public transportation options? What about food? Is there parking? When does the venue open/close? How much flexibility do you have with the space?”
The most important external factor that hasn’t been mentioned above is hotels. It is imperative that all your players are staying in a nearby, large enough hotel so they don’t have to walk or drive for a long time to attend your event. If your event is hosted inside a hotel, then problem solved. But if it isn’t, see if the venue has a partnered hotel connected to it, or one nearby that they work closely with. You may be able to get better deals that way, and will make everyone’s life much easier. You’ll also be able to book certain blocks in the hotel dedicated to your event, or even better, get free comped rooms depending on the contract you have.
You should also look into whether or not the venue is unionized – if it is, you should look for a different venue. A union venue is one where the staging and A/V employees are part of a union, and can charge you much higher fees for setup/teardown/changes than your average space. As you can guess, this can SIGNIFICANTLY increase your budget, and give you a lot more headaches, so look to avoid these if possible.
Once you have found the right venue, and are ready to sign, you’ll have to sign a contract. When you do, PLEASE MAKE SURE TO READ IT IN FULL. This is by far the most important piece of paper you will sign, and one that can dramatically affect your event if you are not careful. Make sure to look at the exact times the space is available to you, liability clauses, Force Majeure, insurance, refund and cancellation policies, deadlines, deposits, etc. If you do not understand everything in your contract, or have any questions/concerns, make sure to ask them to the venue BEFORE YOU SIGN. Be honest and open with them, and don’t be afraid to defend your point when needed. If you have a trusted individual or lawyer who can look at your contract in detail for you, do so as well, to make sure you are fully safe before signing off on a major endeavor.
WHO ARE YOU HOSTING IT FOR?
This is more of an abstract topic than the previous ones, but it is important to remember who you are hosting the event for when planning your event – AKA, know your community.
Take a look at your scene and try to figure out what is/isn’t needed: are there too many locals but not enough regionals? Are there a lot of majors each year but little weeklies to practice at? Is there a specific day or period of the year where nothing is going on?
These are important factors to keep in mind, and can often give you hints as to what you should really be aiming to provide for your scene. Once again, remember that the attendees are the ones who are able to make your event happen by showing up in the first place, so you want to make sure their needs are satisfied before you fulfill yours. Being transparent with your scene and talking to your players goes a long way, as it’ll help you figure out what needs to be done, and whether or not you’re going in the right direction. Take your time, don’t rush the process.
WHY ARE YOU HOSTING IT?
Regardless of the type of event you are putting together, it is crucial to know why you are hosting this event in the first place as well.
Are you looking to contribute to your community? Are you looking to turn this into a career? Do you want to innovate the industry? Is this your passion? Do you want to simply try something out? All these reasons are more than perfectly valid reasons to host an event, but you have to be honest and realistic with yourself when doing so. It will help you put out a better product, and you’ll be happier while doing so. At the end of the day, you’re putting everything together, so it’s only natural that you enjoy it while doing so. Even if the community matters a great deal as explained above, you as the organizer also have a lot to gain from this, and if you don’t put in the necessary effort for it, it will reflect in the quality of your event.
If you think this isn’t for you, then that’s fine too! Not everyone is built for this type of job, and it’s better to figure that out early on than during the event itself. Take your time to really think things through before launching yourself into this adventure. And most importantly: remember to have fun while doing it.
As one can expect, your budget sheet will be one of the most instrumental pieces of your event planning. It will allow you to view all your revenue, profits, costs, spending, etc. in one place so you can keep track of how well your event is doing financially. However, many don’t necessarily know the kind of costs that go into these events, so I wanted to outline a general idea of how much you should expect to spend ON AVERAGE for these components.
A budget sheet should contain the following:
- Venue (some of these may be included in the rental fee depending on the venue)
- Rental Fee
- Move-In & Move-Out
- Power (outlets, power strips, extension cords, etc.)
- Internet (hardwired, wifi)
- Table & Chairs
- Nintendo Switches
- Badges & Lanyards
(note that this is a basic outline of a budget sheet, and that there may be more/less items depending on the event.)
Venue: In most scenarios, this will be the most expensive part of your event. Rental fees for venues can vary dramatically, so it’s hard to gauge an accurate price for how much it would cost.
In terms of locals, it entirely depends on the type of deal you secured with the venue. Some venues will ask you for a small fee every week in exchange for the space (usually a few hundred dollars), while others may agree to do a revenue split with you. If that’s the case, I recommend offering to split the venue fee between you and the owner. If your venue fee is, say $5, a 3/2 split is the optimal way to divide the revenue from the event (you should always aim for a 50/50 split regardless, but it is VERY RARE for venues to agree to this, so keep that in mind). If they offer anything worse, such as a 4/1 split, stand your ground and explain to them why you need the funds in order to improve on your event (and if they refuse to budge, find another venue). If you’re desperate and/or don’t care about the money, you can accept it, but I do not recommend doing so, as these venues often are the most frustrating to deal with in the long run. In some cases, you may be able to get a better split if you can guarantee sales for the business (ex: if the venue is a restaurant, they may let you get a bigger split if they get X in revenue). Again, make sure to talk to them and figure out what the best deal is.
In terms of regionals & majors, this is where it gets far more complicated, and sadly more expensive. Bigger venues will always have a contract laid out for you, and will more closely follow the structure detailed above. For regional-sized events (128-256), expect anywhere in the range of $1,000 – $5,000, and if you’re going up closer to a major-sized event (256-512), it can go anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000.
Now, if you’re looking to break the 512+ mark and look for grand venues, then it is an entirely different story, and the price you’ll be needing to pay depends on far too many factors. You may get lucky and only have to pay between $10,000 – $30,000, or you may be stuck with venues that break into the $50,000 – $80,000 range (usually these are for major hotels and convention centers located in the heart of major cities). If you look in the outskirts, you’ll find much better deals at the cost of convenience and location, which then you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of. It is extremely difficult to give an accurate price for major event spaces, and you’ll have to do your own research when it comes to it.
Another point to keep in mind is that in some cases, these could be solely for the space itself – all the extra amenities can (and often do) come at an extra cost. Power, internet, etc. can cost several hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each, and can add up to the same amount as the space itself, if not more. Tables range anywhere from $5 to $20 each, with chairs being $0.50 – $5 each, which very quickly adds up when you have hundreds of them out on the floor. Recall back to when I said to reverse-engineer an event and look at every piece you needed: all those pieces have a cost to them, and are necessary for your event to run in the first place, so you cannot skimp out on them either. Venues are oftentimes the biggest hurdles for organizers, and for a good reason.
Equipment: While there’s a lot of various equipment that make an event (laptops, clipboards, setup numbers, megaphones, etc.), many of those are often accumulated overtime, or can be bought for cheaper rates (they are still a cost obviously). However, tournament setups are by far the most expensive pieces of equipment you’ll be renting out for your event.
If you have a dedicated community, you’ll be able to rely solely on player setups for your event, and can avoid this cost entirely. However, this will only work for regional events up to a certain size, and you lose out on consistency and quality by doing this (third party adapters, laggy monitors, etc.). You also have to be able to trust your players to provide said setups.
If you’re looking to rent out equipment for your event, you have two options:
Local organizations & businesses: This requires a little bit more work, but is the cheaper option of the two. Talk to any LAN centers, gaming cafes, etc., and see if you are able to rent out their setups for an event. You may have to contact multiple groups in order to reach the desired amount, but this can be a cost effective way to get the setups you need.
Rental providers: This is the hassle-free, yet most expensive option of the two. Certain companies will be able to provide the full amount of setups you need (dock, console, game, adapter, DLC, monitor), along with setup & teardown, but will come at a much heftier price (rental, shipping & handling, etc.). There are a few notable providers in the US:
It is up to you to contact them and figure out a deal to see what the potential rate would be to rent them out, but keep in mind this is guaranteed to cost you multiple thousand dollars, so make sure you have the budget for it. You’re also able to rent out consoles and monitors separately, in case you only need one of the two.
Monitors are much easier to find, as there are a lot more businesses who have and are willing to rent out their screens. You can also partner up with a major brand and get a supply that way. Some examples include:
Make sure your monitors are 1-5ms as well, otherwise they are not suitable for competition. If you can, try to get those with sound too, although they can be harder to find in some cases.
Production: Yet another expensive component of events, this is another piece that can easily run you multiple thousand dollars depending on the case. If you run a production company, or have a local team that you work with already, then this cost will be heavily decreased, or better yet avoided altogether. But if you are looking to hire an entire team for it, then be prepared to pay a lot of money for it.
Most major regions have a large production company that does most of the bigger events, but a few also travel nationally for majors as well. There are too many to list, so it is up to you to look through every major region and see who interests you the most.
Staff: While many events rely heavily on volunteers to be able to run them, having a budget for staff is absolutely crucial, and one you should not avoid or skip out on whatsoever. Every established event has their own budget when it comes to staff, and most folks in the industry have their own rates for their services by now, so this is something that will vary heavily depending on your case. However, if you’re looking for a basic reference to go off of, these are some average rates you can write down:
- TOs: $20 per pool, or $50-100 per day (dependent on scale)
- Commentators: $50-100 per block (dependent on scale)
- Media: $100 a day OR a flat fee
- Check-In: $20/hour OR a flat fee
- Setup/Teardown: $20/hour OR a flat fee
Unfortunately, there is no “standard rate” when it comes to staffing, but hopefully the ones listed above give you a good starting point as to what you should expect to pay your team. If the people you are hiring have their own rates, aim to satisfy those instead.
Extras: When it comes to the additional amenities such as trophies, medals, etc., you can play around with those a little bit more. In terms of awards, I recommend Edco, as they have a wide variety of choices depending on your needs and budget. If you are looking for badges, you can use Smarty Pass (provided you already have the badge design). If you are looking to design a badge AND have them ordered, I recommend going through Creative Workshop, as they can take care of both for you very easily (again, rates dependent on what you need & how many).
Once again, keep in mind that there may be more costs to your event, and that these are just some of the basic necessities needed for the majority of events, so be prepared for any additional costs that may come your way.
Now, most of you reading probably already know what game you’ll be hosting your event for, so this may seem like an unnecessary step, but it is important to decide what brackets exactly you’ll be hosting. On top of your traditional Singles bracket, there’s also the option to add:
- Squad Strike
- Low Tiers
- Amateur Bracket/Ladder
- and more!
Most importantly, do not overload yourself with events, as it’ll cause too many overlaps in scheduling, and you simply won’t have the time or resources to run them properly. If you do decide to run a multi-game event, make sure you have everything necessary to run both, and that you have the proper restrictions in place so players don’t slow down your event accidentally by entering everything at once. This should be fairly straight-forward, but is always a good reminder in case anyone gets too ambitious.
Even though this became a necessity due to the pandemic, this is still a necessary step you need to take when hosting an event. The idea of a packed venue may get you excited, but it’s important to remember that having too many people at your event can be a detriment and ruin the experience, and even pose a safety threat.
My recommendation is to find out the fire code limit of your venue, and set the event cap to a number that would give you an equal, even amount of players per pool should you hit the cap. For example: if your venue can hold 300 players, set the cap of the event to 256. If your venue can hold 600 players, set the cap to 512.
If you are looking to get a perfect bracket, make sure your cap is a power of two (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, etc.) You can also use other values to get a clean bracket as well (6, 12, 24, 48, 96, 192, 384, 768, etc.)
Remember that on top of the players you’ll be hosting, you’ll also have tables, chairs, equipment, etc. taking up space, and you want everyone to be comfortable while attending, so this is why it’s really crucial to set a lower number than the fire code limit in order to achieve that.
This will also make your life much easier when making pools, allowing for everything to be evened out, and make the format/progressions much easier to manage as well.
Figuring out how much to charge attendees for your event is obviously dependent on the costs of said events, but there are some general guidelines you can follow to figure out a fair price.
Local: Typically, locals should not cost more than $5 to enter the door. If you are going above that, make sure you have a superb venue to back it up, or have great amenities to go along with it (free food/drinks, access to different venue amenities, etc.). This is specifically for the venue fee – in terms of a bracket fee, that is entirely up to you. Anywhere from $1-5 is generally acceptable for weekly events, but you need to figure out what the right balance is depending on your local scene’s interest. $5 is the generally accepted standard for it.
Regional: Once you get to bigger events, you can start justifying paying a bigger price for it. These events are generally in the $10-20 range, sometimes even up to $30 if you have the quality to back it up. However, this is where you’ll definitely need to have more than just a bracket to justify the fee, so make sure your attendees get the experience they’re paying for. As for the bracket fee, $10 is considered the standard when it comes to this scale.
Major: This is the most dependent on your budget, and one that can heavily fluctuate depending on your vision. The cheaper majors tend to run between $30-50, while the most expensive ones go anywhere from $50-80, sometimes even reaching upwards of $100. Bracket fees can also rise up to $15 depending on the event.
One method you can use to incentivize early registration is to set time periods for each registration costs: early bird, regular, and late registration (or even an emergency registration option). Early bird typically lasts no more than a month after the announcement, with late registration being more or less the last month of registration, and emergency being the last week or so. If you’re offering spectator passes as well, it’s best to charge slightly less than the standard venue fee, as they won’t be competing in the tournament, and won’t have the same experience that everyone else will.
If you’re wondering what the optimal spread is for payouts, you can use the following:
- Top 3: 60/30/10
- Top 4: 50/25/15/10
- Top 6: 45/20/15/10/5
- Top 8: 40/20/15/10/5/2.5
- Top 12: 35/20/10/8/6/4/1.75
- Top 16: 30/20/10/8/6/4/2/1
(Remember that multiple players tie for 5th, 7th, 9th, and 13th when distributing payouts).
Top 3 & 4 payouts are generally reserved for weekly events, as they hold the lowest amount of entrants and prize pots (you can go up to Top 6 if your total prize pot is over $250). For regionals and majors, Top 8 is the golden standard accepted amongst organizers, although you should not go up to Top 12 or Top 16 unless the players in the lowest spread are able to get their venue and entry fee back from placing in the money.
SPONSORS & PARTNERS
It’s no secret that finding sponsors for events has been a long-standing issue for the Smash community, with some even claiming that it’s been the primary reason why Smash hasn’t reached the same status as other popular esports titles. And while it is certainly very challenging to acquire big title sponsors, there are still certain methods and tactics to employ when looking for them.
Now, before going any further, it’s important to distinguish the difference between sponsors and partners:
Sponsors: A sponsor is an organization or individual who provides you with direct support to the event without having any responsibilities for organizing or running it. Typically, this is done via a direct financial contribution, or if they are providing a significant value to your event (such as setups, headphones, laptops, etc.) They can also offer additional marketing or outreach, although that is moreso due to the nature of the sponsorship rather than the contribution that they are making. A very popular example of this is Red Bull, who has been an important contributor to multiple events over the years.
Partners: A partnership is when an organization or individual supports your event by playing an integral role in the organization or execution of it. This can be done in a multitude of ways – being a primary supplier of equipment, handling all the marketing themselves, providing all the staffing required, etc. This is usually done when two groups have a long-standing relationship, and are looking to work together more closely on a project, rather than a one-and-done contribution. It is an excellent way to increase the value of your event, but as the partnership implies, you must have a lot of trust in the people you are teaming up with, as they now further represent your event and have more power over it. An example of this is the Low Tide City event series, where Low Tier City and Riptide have partnered up together to create a brand new tournament.
Now, the big question on everyone’s mind is: how exactly do you acquire one or the other?
If you are looking for a sponsor, start small and work your way up to the big leagues. Don’t contact major corporations just yet – look at local businesses and organizations to see if any of them are interested in supporting your event. The reason for that is they are typically better aware of who you are and what kind of event you’re putting together, so you’ll be able to get a better value out of them than an outside group who doesn’t know you at all. And if you already have an existing relationship with them, you might be surprised what they are able to offer. One small business may only contribute, say $100, but if you gather 5-6 of them together, that can quickly become a healthy pot bonus for a bracket for instance. Then from there, you can slowly move up to more well-known corporations.
When contacting potential sponsorships, it’s important to create a sponsorship deck for your event. This is essentially a PowerPoint presentation of who you are and what you’re putting together. Talk where you came from, what your story is, a general presentation of the event. But most importantly, make sure to showcase your reach on social media and how popular/well received your event has been. Some examples of metrics you can use are:
- Twitter followers
- Impressions on your post
- # of Likes & Retweets
- Regional Facebook groups you have influence in
- YouTube/Twitch stats
- Past events and projects you’ve worked on
Essentially, these groups want to make sure that their investment is worth the money. If they get no benefits from it, then they have no interest in contributing to your event. If they see that helping your event can help them reach a new community, or improve their PR (Public Relations), then they’ll be more inclined to contribute.
Which brings me to my next point: what does a sponsor want in return?
This will vary greatly, but the most common option is to maximize visibility of the brand that is sponsoring you. The company in question wants people to know that they are sponsoring the event, and should the event succeed, they want others to go to that same company for business. Some ways to increase brand visibility via your event are:
- Brand promotion before, during, and after the event (social media, announcements, etc.)
- Logo placements (badges, stream, smashgg page, etc.)
- Physical booths at your event
- Ad slides and videos
- Custom banners
Remember that when a company is sponsoring your event, they are putting their trust that you will respect and take care of their brand in association to your event. This means that you should NEVER talk negatively of your sponsor, bash them, or minimize their contribution in any way. They have no obligation to support you, and can back out at any point, so you must always treat them with the utmost respect and decency.
Now, let’s say you’re looking to move on up to bigger groups to sponsor your events, but don’t know how to reach out to them, or even what to say when you do get the chance to speak to them. What exactly do you do then?
First of all, you should look for sponsors that have common interests with your event. Obviously, you can contact major tech or gaming companies, as they’re in the same space as you are. But think about it a little more deeply: look at the type of branding your event has, the location, your player base, and see if you can find a group that has similar affiliations. If your event is hosted in a college, and has a large amount of students attending, see if you can find an educational group that is willing to sponsor your event. If your event has strong sports ties to it, speak to some sports teams from the area to see if they have any interest in it. You never know what kind of opportunities you’ll find this way.
Once you’ve found a group that you’d like to contact, look through their website or social media to see if they have a specific contact method for sponsorship opportunities. If not, then they’ll always have an email you can reach out to. However, do a little bit more digging online and see if you can find a representative of that company as opposed to the corporation email itself. If you are able to directly reach out to the person handling sponsorships for example, not only will you sometimes be able to gather better results from it, but it also shows that you made the extra effort of finding that person as opposed to simply going through the same route that everyone else has. Small signs of efforts like that go a long way, and can really be a deciding factor for them. In some cases, you may even be able to reach out to the CEO themselves and create a connection there. It’s riskier, but shows even more willingness to create a connection with that company. And remember: the worst thing they can say is no, so it never hurts to ask in the first place. They may even change their minds later as your event grows, or if you happen to contact them at the right time. Once you’ve settled on a company, figure out what works best for both parties and come to an agreement that works for both of you. If the contribution is significant enough, they may even ask to come a title sponsor, which can significantly boost the status of your event.
If you are looking for a partner, the first thing you should do is look at all the connections you’ve made overtime, and evaluate which ones you think can make a strong addition to your team. Whether it’s a team of TOs, production group, marketing team, or anything else, you have to pick someone you can trust to represent your event and help it grow to the next level. Having the right partner for your event can really bring it to the next level, but having the wrong partner can also significantly hurt you, so make sure you pick the right people.
Do some research around neighboring regions as well and see if there is anyone nearby who would be interested to team up on your event – this can create a bridge between two communities, increase attendance, viewership, and potentially lead into bigger opportunities in the future. If there is a crucial component you are missing, another group could be the key to it, and vice versa. This is where paying attention to the scene comes in handy, as you don’t want to approach someone with something they are not familiar with, or with an idea that wouldn’t interest them at all. Similar methods from sponsorships apply to partnerships as well: have a presentation deck ready if said group isn’t as familiar with you already, figure out their best interests, satisfy their needs as well as yours, and you should be able to create some amazing connections that way. And if a partnership doesn’t work out – don’t sweat it! You can always simply ask for help pushing your event on social media, or even just inviting them out to attend your event. Every little bit counts.
SAFETY & SECURITY
When you take on the role of organizing an event, you are the person in charge of every single attendee that walks through the door. If there are any issues, concerns, or other problematic incidents that erupt, it is your responsibility to take care of them and keep everyone as safe as possible. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to keep everyone secure when enjoying your event:
Global Ban Database: This document includes every individual who has infringed on the safety of the Super Smash Bros. community in some way, shape, or form, and is enforced in the grand majority of events throughout the world. You can easily apply this list to the registration process on smashgg, and prevent anyone on that list from registering for your events. If you’re looking to gain access to it, please contact @Cagt3000 on Twitter.
Consent Forms: These forms allow minors to gain consent from their parents or legal guardians to attend your event, and ensure both the organizers and responsible adults are aware that an individual under 18 is attending your tournament. It allows both parties to have all the necessary information should anything happen, and allow an extra layer of safety for your attendees. You can find examples of these on the Let’s Make Big Moves smashgg page.
Fire Code Limit: As described earlier in the section about venues, every space will have a fire code limit – meaning the maximum number of people that can fit in that space as determined by the local fire department. You can find out this information when discussing with the venue, but above all, NEVER EXCEED THIS LIMIT. You can get in serious trouble for it, and the last thing you need is for your event to be shutdown because there’s too many people in it.
Hiring Security: If you’re looking to host major-scale events, you will inevitably have to look into hiring security for it. Some venues and hotels will have a security team on-site that you can use, which will either be included in the cost or come at a separate price. If not, then you will need to look for other groups to handle that. You can either choose to work with the city’s police department, or hire a private security firm for it. Keep in mind that both options can be very expensive, especially if you need more security officers as your event grows in size. Talk to your venue about the surrounding area, and figure out what the appropriate amount of security needed would be. You can also hire folks from the community for tasks such as bag checks and all, but if you are able to afford it, then definitely go with a professional security team.
Prohibited Items: While pretty evident for most, it’s always good to put a reminder that any harmful, illegal, or inappropriate objects should not be allowed at events. More importantly, you should not allow alcohol at Smash events – even though there is a culture in some regions to drink before/during/after bracket, you are in an environment that fosters a lot of minors, and even amongst adults, there have been numerous cases of individuals who have not behaved properly after being affected by alcohol. Make sure to have someone check at the door that no one is sneaking anything in.
Now, given we are in a pandemic, there are some extra measures you should be looking to take as well on top of the ones listed above:
Masks: This is the easiest guideline you can enforce, and requires no extra work from you apart from, well, making sure everyone is wearing one at all times. Any type of mask is acceptable (face mask, surgical masks, N95 masks, etc.), as long as they are worn appropriately – meaning over the nose and mouth at all times.
Proof of Vaccination: This is another easy and effective way to make sure your attendees are safe when attending the event. Having at the minimum two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine should suffice, although you should highly encourage everyone to get their booster shots as well. Once the players arrive at your event, either ask for their COVID card directly, or a picture of it, with an ID to match so you can make sure it’s them. Some regions, especially international countries, will have an app or specific COVID to show proof of vaccination, so keep an eye out for those as well should you have any international travelers attending. Make sure the latest vaccine taken was at the very least 2 weeks before the event itself, to make sure it’s taken the full effect on the person’s body.
Negative COVID Test: This is the third and final method you can employ on entry to really make sure everyone is safe when attending. It is recommended to allow both Antigen and PCR tests performed no earlier than the week of the event to make sure the results are still accurate. You may also allow at-home tests as well, but make sure that players show appropriate proof that they are the ones who administered the test, and that it was taken within range of the event, otherwise you could be putting your attendees at risk.
Social Distancing: While it may be hard to enforce at times, it’s important to have social distance guidelines in place to make sure people aren’t huddled up close to each other 24/7. Essentially, this boils down to having ample space in your venue for people to move around, and to make sure that setups have appropriate distance between them. 6ft is the generally acceptable distance when it comes to it, so try to setup your floorplan around that if possible.
Sanitation: Stock up on disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizers before the event so you can spread them around for people to use. Encourage your players and staff to clean up between matches as well, to make sure everything is as clean and sanitary as possible. These can often be bought in bulk online, so you can place a large order and be set for a while. See if you can get a provider for sanitation equipment as well to avoid the hassle of getting them yourself.
Now, in regards to COVID-19 guidelines, it is CRUCIAL to look up local state laws on what you can and cannot do, as every region handles the pandemic very differently. Talk to your venue as well, as they may have their own guidelines in place already, or have some restrictions in terms of what they can and cannot enforce. Look at other events in the area to see what they’ve done as well, and always make sure to be as transparent as possible online so people know that you are taking every step possible to ensure their safety and security.
As much as you may not want to think about it, being prepared for a crisis situation is crucial as an organizer, and there are a few key points to keep in mind in case shit hits the fan. Whatever happens, remember to stay calm, level-headed, and think through every option carefully before making a decision. Make sure you are fully informed on the situation, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice when handling delicate scenarios. Let’s go over some important topics:
Force Majeure: This is a very common clause you’ll find in event contracts, which essentially states what should be done in the event that your tournament cannot occur due to something that is beyond your control, typically referred to as an “Act of God”. This includes scenarios such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes – essentially natural disasters. But most relevant recently is pandemic.
When signing a contract with the venue, make sure a Force Majeure clause is present in the first place, and review it in detail before signing. Discuss with the venue what the appropriate action should be in the event that there’s a large rise in COVID cases near you, a new variant has been discovered, etc. This clause can save you from bankruptcy if done properly, or prevent you from canceling altogether if not worded correctly. Consult with other organizers (or a lawyer if possible) about what the appropriate force majeure clause is and how to argue for it.
On top of Acts of God, make sure that government action is included in the clause as well. For instance – if the local or federal government imposes any sort of lockdown, attendee limitation, or traveling restriction, that can be grounds for Force Majeure. If you are hosting a major international event, and international travel becomes heavily restricted, that can come into play with Force Majeure. Multiple events have been unable to postpone or cancel due to not meeting this clause, and venues are very strict when it comes to it, so make sure to back yourself up in case you are in this scenario. Try to include travel restrictions between your hosting country and the one you are expecting high attendance from to be included as a trigger for Force Majeure.
Now, imagine your event is in such a situation – what do you do?
Cancel: This is the first option most people look to, and oftentimes the best solution if you want to be as safe as possible. However, this can be the most costly for organizers, and can be impossible in certain scenarios altogether, so be very careful if you do decide to go down this route. Keep in mind how far out you are from your event too if you do decide to cancel. If you’re months away from it, then you’ll have an easier time aborting everything you’re doing. But if you’re only a few weeks out, or even a few days away, then canceling is not recommended, since you’ve most likely already confirmed all your plans for the event, and attendees have already made financial commitments to attend (especially flight/hotel).
Postpone: Moving your event can be another good option if possible depending on your contract, and also be an excellent solution to avoid bankruptcy. But just like canceling, you need to make sure your contract allows it, and that the timing of it in relation to your event isn’t poor, otherwise you will have similar negative reactions from the public about financial commitments and such. You also need to make sure that the date you are moving to does not conflict with any other planned events, so I would recommend following the steps detailed earlier in this guide regarding finding a good date for your tournament.
Run It: If all other options are off the table, and are forced to run it despite the situation, then it’s important to not drastically change the format of your event and continue with what you have planned already. The more you change last minute, the more people you will upset, and the more damages you will cause. If folks decide to cancel their registration, that is completely okay. If you get a large amount of DQs, that’s completely okay. Take all the support you can, and make the best event possible despite the dire circumstances.
It is highly recommended to implement a no refund policy to your event as well when you announce it, as if you find yourself in a situation where you get a large amount of refund requests right before your event, it can seriously put you in financial trouble, and potentially bankruptcy. It’s important to note that if you cancel or postpone your event, you should absolutely offer refunds. But in case you are forced to run it, you will need every penny you can get to stay afloat. Event organizing is a very large financial commitment, and players need to understand that when registering. Especially given some of the recent troubles organizers have been going through (for example: Genesis), financial stability is a must. However, look into offering registration transfers for your attendees so they can give off their pass to someone who is looking to attend and not feel like their money has gone to waste (this is especially important if your event is capped).
Now that you’ve locked down all the core, logistical details of your event, it’s time to get to the fun part and figure out what you’ll need in order to make the event run efficiently. Many of these items you may own already, or have accumulated overtime, but it’s a good idea to get them all on paper and figure out if there’s anything you’re missing. The last thing you need is to find out something crucial is missing the day-of, and you’re scrambling to make things work.
In terms of general equipment, you’ll need the following:
- Microphone & Speaker
- Number Cards
Some optional items include:
- Clipboards & Pens
Now, most of you reading this guide will most likely have a laptop already, but if you don’t, then it is absolutely the first item you should get, since it’ll be your main workstation throughout the event, and will absolutely need to move around with it when needed. Sometimes venues have a computer already that you can use (especially if you’re using a classroom or auditorium as a venue), but having your own is definitely the way to go. Alongside that, having a microphone & speaker is also vital to running events efficiently, no matter the scale. Not only will it allow you to save your vocal chords significantly, but it will also greatly improve the communication with your attendees and staff during the event. Whether it’s for announcing the start of a new wave, calling a player to stream, or making an important announcement, you will be glad you have it available. Again, some venues will have a PA system installed already, but if not, you should look to invest in a proper speaker set with XLR Microphone (wireless if you can afford it), so you have that peace of mind day-of.
In terms of equipment related to the bracket itself, number cards also significantly help organize your setups better, make it easier to manage mid-bracket, help your players figure out where they’re playing, and make your pool captain’s lives easier. You can buy these in packs of 100 right here on Amazon, and can also buy number card holders to go along with it if you so desire.
Lastly, while not 100% required, but definitely useful, are clipboards & pens. Depending on the method you’ll be using to run your pools, you may need to buy clipboards in order to hold your paper brackets with. These can be found at any general store like Walmart, or you can buy them in bulk online as well. Same for a stack of pens – you can go with pencils if you’d like since you can more easily erase any mistakes you make, but pens are generally easier to read and use. If you’re going the digital route however and running pools directly on smashgg, you can purchase small tablets for your pool captains to use (provided you also have internet access for them in the venue). I recommend the Amazon Fire 7 tablets, as they’re fairly cheap, and you won’t be needing them for anything but smashgg. If your pool captains are able to bring their own laptops however (or even run it on their phones), then you can avoid this entirely.
If you want to improve communication between your staff, you can also invest in walkie talkies, which can avoid the stress of running around the venue to convey urgent information. You can find some online easily, like these.
It’s obvious you’ll need setups for your event, but knowing how many to get is also another small hurdle that you need to overcome. Thankfully, the number isn’t nearly as high as you’d imagine.
Assuming you are running pools, this is the minimum amount of setup you should be looking to get:
- 128-256 entrants: 16 setups
- 257-384 entrants: 24 setups
- 384-512 entrants: 32 setups
- 512-768 entrants: 48 setups
- 768-1,024 entrants: 64 setups
- 1,024-2,048 entrants: 128 setups
(If you have under 128 entrants, there isn’t a strict minimum amount of setups needed, as you can still run the bracket regardless, but obviously aim to have as many setups as possible).
In the case that you are looking to run an event over 256 entrants in one day, then you will most likely need to double the amount of setups you have in order to avoid having too many waves of pools. Otherwise, if you’re extending into 2 or 3 days, then you can use the reference above.
Now obviously, the more setups the better, as you’d have more room for friendlies, and if you are running multiple events simultaneously, then you’ll be needing more as well. But the amounts listed above should satisfy a standard singles bracket within a reasonable timeframe. However, there is a case where you might have too many setups, although that rarely happens. In a scenario where you have access to an infinite amount of setups, you would be looking to have 1/4 ratio (one setup for every 4 player), that way everyone can play at any time. But as you can imagine, this is an unrealistic goal to have for both financial and spatial reasons.
If you’re looking for Gamecube adapters, the three accepted brands are the following:
Any other type of adapter is not recommended, as they’re lower quality and have caused issues in the past for controllers.
On top of the setups themselves, there are a couple additional items you can grab:
- Dock Security
- Headset Splitters
Most providers will include dock security with their setup, either in the form of custom 3D printed cases, or good old zip ties. But if not, you can find some yourself online, such as right here. And if you want to make sure every setup has sound, you can buy portable USB speakers such as these, or buy headset splitters to plug into the Switches themselves.
Before I elaborate on this section, it’s important to make the distinction between having a stream at your event vs having production at your event.
If you want a stream, it is much easier to put together – in fact, you probably already can right now, or already have a setup for it. All that is required is:
- Desktop or laptop
- Capture card
However, if you’re looking to have a better quality stream, you’ll need to invest in the following:
- Headsets w/ Microphone
- Headset Splitters for players
- HDMI Splitters
These will increase the overall presentation of your event online, and make it a more enjoyable experience for viewers at home. If you’re hiring someone or a group for it, then you won’t need to worry about this at all. But if you’re looking to get your own equipment, that’s what you should be looking to buy.
If you want production, then it is a much more complicated list that I cannot explain in this guide, as there are far too many components to buy. It is highly recommended you hire a production team for your event for this, or do your own research if you’d like to get the equipment yourself. Be aware that it will also cost you more money to get the equipment rather than hiring a team directly, on top of setting it up and learning how to use it all. Should you want to host a major-scale event, then you will most definitely be needing production. But if your event is 256 entrants or lower, then you don’t necessarily need to go all out and can stick to a simpler stream. Again, make sure to look at your budget and see what you can afford.
Before heading into the actual execution of your event, there’s a few goodies you can acquire that can help give more life to your event, and really make it feel extra special. If you’ve attended majors events before, these are a must-have, but if you’re running regional-scale events or smaller, then you can always use these to spice up your tournament.
Trophies: Having a trophy or medal to award to the winner and/or Top 8 of your event can really make their placement feel extra special, and give more flair to your event as well. You can find these on Edco as mentioned earlier in the guide, and choose whichever one suits your event the best.
Badges: These not only help you identify who has checked in to your event, but also give a sense of identity to your event, especially when players go home and look back at all the badges they’ve collected over the years. Again, you can either order them from Smarty Pass if you have a design already, or get one made as well as the badges themselves from Creative Workshop to make the whole process easier.
Signs: If you’ve gone to majors, you probably have seen those signs showing you where pools, vendors, etc. are, or simply banners advertising the event in some way (such as backdrops behind the stream, or for the commentators themselves). Those are usually reserved for major events, but don’t be afraid to get them for your regional too! Look for a local print shop such as Target Copy if you want it made on site, but if you’re looking to order some, you can either contact Gaming Generations or Creative Workshop for them.
Don’t be afraid to brainstorm and figure out if there’s anything else that would help your event feel extra special! The smallest things can sometimes be the most memorable ones.
Now that you’ve assembled all the pieces for your event, it’s time to announce it and promote it to the world! Getting the word out about a tournament can be incredibly difficult if you don’t already have a solid platform to go off of, and with so many events happening at the same time, it can be very challenging to stand out amongst the crowd. Fortunately, there’re a lot of methods you can utilize to make sure your event gets as much visibility as possible.
Facebook: This is a very old-school method of advertising, but one you should definitely not pass by regardless. Before the community moved onto Twitter and Discord, Facebook was the primary method of communication, and you will still find some great places to advertise there. Every region should have a central group dedicated to competitive Smash – use that to your advantage. These groups often have thousands of members, with some even still being active to this day. You can also utilize Facebook ads if you’re looking to get more casual folks who are not as in-touch with the community. Use your own personal account as well and get some traction there too.
Twitter: By far the most common and effective method to advertise events nowadays, but also the most challenging to use if you don’t have a lot of followers. Twitter is where the heart of the community lies, interacts, and follows, so use that to your advantage. One of the most important factors of using this platform effectively is consistency – you want to be regularly tweeting about your event, and promoting it when you can. Now that doesn’t mean tweeting about it every day, otherwise you’ll seem like a bot and it’ll drive away interaction more than anything (unless you’re very close to the event and need more entrants of course). For most events, using your own personal platform should suffice, but if you’re looking to establish a major series, then look into creating a dedicated Twitter account to it. Your event’s brand needs to live through that account, so that it’s not just another faceless corporate entity. Give it a personality, make some relevant jokes – essentially give some life to it. It really helps build a connection between your event and your attendees.
The initial reveal of the event is most crucial: once you’ve announced it, keep posting about it regularly for the next 1-2 weeks. This can either be in the form of reminders about registration being open, highlighting different aspects of your events, mentioning featured players, etc. The idea behind this is to seal the event in people’s minds, so that they won’t forget it as time goes by. You don’t want to have to “re-announce” your event later on, so making sure it sticks from the get-go is crucial. It’s important to also plan out your first week or two of announcement tweets, so you don’t have to come up with them on the fly.
Once you’ve established a strong base, then you can start to slow down a little bit. Post about your event once a week or every other week, just as an occasional reminder. Now don’t get me wrong: you are free to talk about your event as much as you’d like, whenever you’d like. This is moreso in reference to direct advertising tweets, such as “Don’t forget to register!“, or “Reminder that this event is happening!“. You should be proud of what you’ve put together and the work you’ve done, but there is a difference between simply talking about your event vs. advertising it, if that makes sense.
Then, once you approach the final month of your event, this is where you need to kick gears into motion again. Start increasing the amount of posts you get, whether it’s reminders about registration deadlines, event caps, prize pots, etc. This is the make or break period of advertising, as you’re not only reminding players that your event is imminent, but also catching any last-minute signups (which, let’s be honest, is the majority of the community). Again, you don’t want to necessarily be spamming everyone’s timeline, but being more aggressive in this time period is really important to your event’s success.
If you have some trouble getting proper outreach on your tweets, reach out to some of the more notable, active users in your local community, and get them to like/RT all your content. Make sure your local scene is spreading your tweets as much as possible, that way you can maximize the visibility from them. Don’t be afraid to directly @ or message players as well to get their attention – some people don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter, but have large followings anyways. Those can sometimes be the key in getting the right traction. Same goes for other TOs and organizations near you, don’t be afraid to reach out to them as well. Twitter is a very wide network, and you don’t need to limit yourself to the people that follow you to get people to pay attention to you.
Discord: This is another very effective method of marketing, and one that is more effective specifically for local and regional events. Similar to Facebook groups, there are probably Discord servers specific to your region where you can advertise your event there and any updates about it. However, the best places to advertise on Discord are actually servers based around crews and friend groups. The reason being is that those places are where players will be interacting the most amongst each other, and where they have the highest likelihood of seeing your posts, so you’ll have an easier time getting people to register that way. Now you obviously won’t know or have access to those servers, but that’s okay! Talk to those who do, and get them to share your posts there whenever possible. It doesn’t need to be all the time, but doing it just a few times can go a long way in making sure your local community is aware of everything going on with your tournament.
Twitch: Live streaming is an amazing way to create passive advertising for your event without having to commit to posting about it regularly like the previously mentioned platforms. As you know, there are events happening every single day of the week, with the majority of them being streamed at all times. Tournaments will have some dead-time between matches, and will often have ad slides advertising future events – this is where you need to be! Contact organizers in your area and make sure to have an ad slide of your event on every local stream, so that everyone is constantly reminded about it whenever they watch over events. If there are any upcoming majors, contact them as well and see what the costs would be to include your slide on there. You can even take it a step further and contact notable individuals in the community who have a big streaming community to advertise your event there. This will be an additional cost on your budget however, so make sure you have the funds to make it happen (you can often work out deals with said channels as well to advertise their events in return, as a form of partnership).
YouTube: While it’s not the first platform you may think of apart from uploading your trailer there, YouTube can be another effective method of advertising. Similar to Twitch, you can partner up with different YouTubers and help advertise your event to a broader audience. This can either be a small ad in the beginning of each video, or even making a dedication video on your event if you’re able to secure such a deal. As more and more streamers are jumping to YouTube as well, you may find yourself in a similar situation as Twitch with advertising, so make sure to keep this place in mind when trying to get the word out about your event.
Throughout your marketing adventures, make sure to consider your audience and brand in mind when getting your event out there. What is your biggest selling point? What will get people to attend your event and continue to come back in the future? Try to look at it from a player perspective, or ask for feedback from players who are already registered, and see what they enjoy/are looking forward to the most about your event.
If you’re not sure what direction to take with marketing, don’t be afraid to look at how other events do it to get some inspiration from them. You never know what ideas you can get from it. No matter what though, always answer event questions on social media – it shows you pay attention to everyone, and are listening to any feedback or concerns anyone might have. If you’re looking to outsource marketing entirely to another team, then look into contacting Angry Burly Bros. They are one of the primary organizations up in Canada and have played an essential role in many of the major events up north.
Setting up a bracket is one of the most straight-forward aspects of organizing a tournament, and one you thankfully won’t have to spend too much time on, as it has been narrowed down to a science. There are a few variations you can employ, but the general idea remains the same across the board.
Now, for this section, we will be following the Double Elimination format, as it is the most commonly accepted and used system for tournaments. Some events do run Round Robin, Waterfall, or even Ladder formats, but those are either for smaller-scale events or side events that aren’t the main focus, and should be kept as such unless your event is specifically catered to these bracket types.
Here is the optimal reference when it comes to pools:
- 64-96 Entrants: 2 Pools
- 96-128 Entrants: 4 Pools
- 129-256 Entrants: 8 Pools
- 257-512 Entrants: 16 Pools
- 513-1,024 Entrants: 32 Pools
- 1,025-2,048 Entrants: 64 Pools
(If your event has under 64 entrants, you can simply run it as a straightforward bracket. You can also do this up to 128 entrants if you are experienced enough and have the amount of setups necessary to run it smoothly, but anything over 128 entrants should always be run in pools.)
Similar to setting an event cap, the amount of pools should always be a power of two to ensure a perfect bracket progression from start to finish, and the amount of players per pool should not exceed 32 players unless under specific scenarios. The reason for this is that the more players you have per pool, the more matches you’ll be running, and the higher likelihood you have of running into slowdowns and potential issues (if you have a lot of Game 3s or campy players in a pool, this can become a huge issue). Having no more than 32 players is the perfect sweet spot for it, and allows you to get as many players out of the bracket as possible without making waves unnecessarily long.
From there, you should always have Top 4 players make it out of each pool to avoid Double Jeopardy. For those unaware, this is a scenario where a player gets eliminated twice by the same person within a pool. While it is not 100% impossible for it to occur, it is extremely unlikely to happen in this format, whereas you are guaranteed to encounter Double Jeopardy in some form if you have Top 3 make it out of pools. If you want to truly avoid this, you can make it up to Top 8 out of pools to completely avoid this issue (this may be necessary if you have a lower amount of entrants, and wish to have a bigger top cut), but otherwise, stick to Top 4.
Assuming your event has capped, you should aim to have 8 setups per pool, as this will allow you to run all your matches as efficiently as possible without making anyone wait too long for their sets to start. If you are running low on setups, or would like to allocate more to friendlies, you can go down to 6 setups per pool, but you should never be going down to 4 setups unless your pool is no bigger than 16 entrants. Having anything above 8 setups per pool can be a little overkill, so you don’t need to add anything beyond that.
Once you’ve done that, then your bracket should always transition into a final Top 8 finale. Your structure should look as such:
- 2 Pools > Top 8
- 4 Pools > Top 16 > Top 8
- ALTERNATIVE: 4 Pools > Top 32 > Top 8
- 8 Pools > Top 32 > Top 8
- 16 Pools > Top 64 > Top 8
- 32 Pools > Top 128 (4 Pools of 32) > Top 16 > Top 8
- ALTERNATIVE A: 32 Pools > Top 128 (4 Pools of 32) > Top 32 > Top 8
- ALTERNATIVE B: 32 Pools > Top 128 (2 Pools of 64) > Top 8
- 64 Pools > Top 256 > Top 32 > Top 8
If you do wish your pools in the other formats mentioned at the beginning of this section, keep in mind that your entire structure will change, and you’ll need to rework some of the basic logistics of your tournament. If you have limited venue space and aren’t able to designate as many pool areas as you’d like, or if you do not have enough setups to accommodate the optimal amount of pools, that may also affect your bracket structure.
Scheduling your event goes hand-in-hand with setting up your bracket format, so make sure to keep both in mind when planning your tournament. Assuming every match is ran optimally, each pool should take the following amount of time:
- 8-16 Player Pools: 1h
- 17-24 Player Pools: 1h15
- 25-32 Player Pools: 1h30
However, this does NOT mean you should schedule your waves according to the times above, as it is very unlikely for every single one of your brackets to run perfectly. You should always schedule your pool waves to last 2 hours long – if you have smaller sized pools and a sufficient amount of setups in each one, you can go down to 1h30, although this is an uncommon scenario. Giving yourself extra time allows you to anticipate any potential delays while running pools, and also allows you to appropriately transition into the next wave so you’re not rushing through anything.
As far as later sections of your bracket, they should also be scheduled for 2 hours, although there are two factors that can justify a longer schedule: Best of 5 and Prioritizing Stream. The former will, obviously, result in longer sets, which means you’ll need more time to complete all matches before moving on through the bracket. The latter, however, can slow down the pace of your bracket if you choose to prioritize it, since more of your matches will go on stream, you won’t be able to run them simultaneously. This is often done at major events who really value their production highly, although some organizers prefer to run their event as quickly as possible.
In general, this is the guideline you should follow:
- Top 32 / 128 (4 Pools of 32) / 256 (8 Pools of 32)
- BO3 / No Prioritizing: 2 Hours
- BO5 / No Prioritizing: 2 Hours
- BO3 / Prioritizing: 3 Hours
- BO5 / Prioritizing: 3 Hours
- Top 64 / 128 (2 Pools of 64) / 256 (4 Pools of 64)
- BO3 / No Prioritizing: 2 Hours
- BO5 / No Prioritizing: 3 Hours
- BO3 / Prioritizing: 3 Hours
- BO5 / Prioritizing: 4 Hours
Assuming your schedule allows it, you should always be looking to run BO5 after pools at your event, as the more serious matches get, the more games should be played between two players to really determine the winner of the set. It is not as significant of a time sink as many believe it to be, and you will get much more positive feedback from your players.
In terms of scheduling Top 8, you should always allocate 4 hours for it to complete, assuming every set is BO5 and streamed. It requires a minimum of 3 hours for every set to be played out, but when you factor in ad breaks, potential Game 5s, transitions between matches, etc., it really drags things out. Having Top 8 start anywhere between 6-8PM local time is the optimal range to be in, as it gives you ample time during the day to finish the earlier parts of bracket, and also allows for prime time viewership. You can start it earlier if you have the ability to, but make sure not to start it too early, as players need to be well-rested and warmed up for it, and your viewers need to be tuned in at the right time.
In addition to figuring out the length of each block, the start time is crucial as well. If you have the resources to do so, you should always aim to start no earlier than 12PM local time. It gives your attendees ample time to get some rest, get to the venue, and warm up for their bracket. Some multi-game majors are forced to start at 10AM due to a tight schedule, but starting at noon is the general preferred time slot if you can finish everything on time that day. Additionally, avoid scheduling events simultaneously as much as possible – this allows you to disregard any potential conflicts of players competing in two events at the same time, and avoids any potential slowdowns as well. If you are forced to run events simultaneously, make sure they have as little cross-over as possible, for the same reasons listed previously.
If you’re planning a multi-day event, try to follow the layout below:
- 2-Day Event
- Saturday: Side Event Pools > Singles Pools
- Sunday: Side Event Finals > Singles Top Cut >Singles Finals
- 3-Day Event
- Friday: Side Events
- Saturday: Singles Pools
- Sunday: Singles Top Cut > Singles Finals
This allows you to get the side events out of the way at the least cumbersome time possible, while also getting the main event done on time. It also allows players to properly warm up for it without having to find an open setup somewhere on their own.
All in all, there is one golden rule you should always keep in mind: it is better to finish each block earlier than later. Remember that at the end of the day, the player experience matters more than anything, and if you are able to get through everyone’s matches as quickly as possible, that will give them more time to enjoy the event they’re attending. It also allows you to properly prepare for each upcoming block without the need to rush anything. Now evidently, you don’t want to leave too much dead-air on your stream either, but there is always a balance you can find between running your pools efficiently and making sure there is ample stream content as well. Which leads into our next section…
Balancing a stream queue while following a schedule and running a bracket efficiently can be a difficult task to manage when you’re not used to the flow of a tournament, and you can never predict how long certain sets will take to finish. Despite all that, there is a methodology to follow if you want to stay on-time and still have sufficient content.
First and foremost: you should only have two active matches at a time – one playing, and one waiting. Having any more sets queued up only slows down the bracket and makes your players wait longer. Only once your wave is close to wrapping up, and that there are no future matches to be selected that would further delay your block should you have more than two active sets at a time on stream. Keep in mind as well that sets take longer to complete due to having to coordinate players to the stream setup, and then have them return to their original pools to report the scores and move on. Additionally, it is not recommended to pre-select stream matches in advance, as you cannot predict when that match will be ready, or if you will get the matchup you were looking for. Follow the flow of the bracket, see what players are making it far/dropping to losers, what pools are about to finish, and grab matches as you go so you match the pace of your event. If you preemptively block out certain sets for stream, it can quickly pile up and slow down your event, making players wait forever, which makes everyone involved more frustrated.
Beyond Top 8, the only sets you should prioritize for stream by default are qualifier matches for the next waves, meaning:
- Winners Semis/Finals to make it out of pools
- Winners Top Cut qualifiers
- Winners/Losers Top 8 qualifiers
You may also grab Losers matches to make it out of pools/qualifiers for Top Cut, but only once you have exhausted all your Winners side sets, and if you have enough time remaining in your wave. Before that, try to only grab 1-2 matches from each Winners Round per stream to keep the flow of bracket going smoothly. Some major events like to prioritize the majority of Top 32/64 for stream, which is heavily not recommended unless you have multiple streams to help speed things up, and have ample time to do so. But keep in mind this will hurt the experience of players who are attending the event, as they’ll be forced to wait a long time to play (and should those sets take a long time, will slow down the rest of the event).
Thankfully, offline events don’t require nearly as much setup and scrutiny regarding rulesets, as you’re not confined to what smashgg offers you, and can make sure to have a print-out of the stagelist at every station at your event. However, it’s still important to figure it out early and announce it in advance so players can prepare for it.
If you are running a local or regional, you can simply run the ruleset that your local region prefers. For majors however, you should pay attention to the national scene and figure out what the best ruleset would be, as what your region prefers might not match with what the general community feels is best. If you’re trying to set a new trend, that is a different story. But if you’re looking to follow the competitive standard, then it’s important to do your research before making any decisions on it.
If you recall my online TO guide, you’ll remember how I went over a certain tool that we used to seed events, and the process to use that. Well, good news: it’s the same for offline! If you haven’t read it though, let me catch you up to speed:
Firstly: DO NOT USE THE SEED GENERATOR. Not only is it more difficult to use than any other method, it is also known to be quite glitchy and is extremely slow. If your event surpasses a certain number of entrants, you may not be able to load the tab at all, and would be forced to reload smashgg in order to go back to the admin settings of your event.
Secondly, if your event is reasonably-enough sized to seed manually, then you should utilize SmashData. This website allows you to view every player’s stats, including win rates, placements, wins/losses, etc. It also allows you to view Head 2 Head matchups between players, which can help you figure out any conflicts along the way. The interface is very simple and easy to use, so make sure to use this to your full advantage.
Now, what if you have to seed a very large event?
Your best friend in this case will be SmashSeeder – a tool developed by L4st and John Amin that spits out a spreadsheet of all your players sorted by win rates found on SmashData, which you can then upload on Google Sheets for editing (this works for both Ultimate and Melee). It is an absolute lifesaver, and allows you to easily see who the strong players are in your event, arrange them as you please, and then upload directly to smashgg. If you’re not sure how to run the tool, there are two How To tabs placed at the top of the page.
Once you’ve completed seeding, fill up the “Phase Seeding” tab in order from 1-finish, and head on over to ggseed, which will allow you to directly upload it onto smashgg. Follow the instructions on screen, and your bracket will be automatically seeded as you see fit within minutes.
You should be publishing the seeding for your event as soon as registration has closed. Ideally, this should be done 2 weeks before the event to give you ample time to address any bracket feedback, and finalize the bracket the week of the event for everyone to practice and prepare for. If registration closes the week of the event, seeding should be published no later than the Monday-of, with seeding finalized Wednesday or Thursday before your event. Many events have still published their seeding quite late, and it is an issue that should not be occurring anymore given what’s available for us to use.
The last, but certainly not least, piece to putting your event together: your staff team. These are the people that will help you execute everything day-of, and represent your event to the best of their abilities. Having the right folks for the job will make your life infinitely easier, and further elevate the quality of the event. Remember that while you are the one who put it all together, they are the ones who will execute on your planning and listen to your directives, so make sure to be organized and to have a proper structure for the flow of your event.
Bracket Staff: Also known as pool captains/runners, these are the folks who will be handling the brackets day-of, such as calling matches, reporting scores, etc. These are the heart of your team, and hold the most responsibility in making sure your event runs smoothly, so make sure to pick the right folks for the job. The more bracket staff the better, as it avoids people from having to run multiple shifts back to back, or even worse, having to run multiple pools at the same time (which you should always avoid at all costs). In an idea world, you’ll have as many bracket runners as you do pools, but it’s absolutely not a necessity.
Once you’ve assembled your squad, there are a few directives you should follow to ensure everything runs smoothly:
- The DQ Timer should always be 5 minutes after the wave’s start time – no more, no less. This gives enough leeway for players to check-in to their pool should they be running late, and avoids your pool from running behind. You may give extra time for the first wave of the day, as people may be held up by the check-in line, but every wave after that should stick to a strict timer. Additionally, make sure to DQ in both winners and losers. If they come back before their losers match is called, you can speak to your TO to see if they’ll allow them to compete. But in most scenarios, if a player has not checked in to their Winners set, they most likely won’t check-in to their losers set either. Never cancel out a DQ unless specifically approved by the TO for a legitimate reason.
- Follow the Queue System. This is the optimal way to run a bracket, and is used by many TOs around the world. Fortunately for you, I’ve written a guide on it that you can read at your own convenience!
- Do not hold matches for stream, that is the job of the Stream Runner! Simply run matches as you call them, and let the person in charge of the stream to pick out sets for you instead. If you’re wondering what the role of a Stream Runner is, then you can refer to the Stream section of this guide written above.
- Start checking in players to their pool 5-10 minutes before the designated start time. This allows you to have a head start on who is present for your pool so that you can start bracket right away and not waste any time.
- Whatever you do, do not swap out DQ’d players for non-registered attendees. This may seem like an obvious rule, but there will be people who try to slide into the bracket last minute, and this can cause a myriad of issues if it happens, so make sure not to allow anyone to do so.
If there are any issues that occur during bracket, you should always be calling the person in charge to resolve these conflicts, unless your staff has been specifically instructed to resolve it themselves. Otherwise, it can lead to conflicting information being shared around, which can confuse your players.
Commentators: Picking commentators is another crucial aspect of your team, as they will be directly representing your event on stream and talking about it live on the mic, so make sure you are confident in who you choose and trust them fully to deliver a good quality experience for all the viewers at home. While every TO has their own methodology when it comes to picking casters, it’s important to be as objective as possible, and measure their skills and resume to ensure an entertaining, professional broadcast. Look for commentator reels, as they can also give you a good overview of each commentator’s style without having to dig back through the tournaments they’ve worked at either. Ask them what kind of commentator they consider themselves as, who they would like to be picked with, and anything else that can help improve their experience at the event. It goes a very long way.
If you would like to go the extra mile, you can setup a small summary of notes you would like commentators to promote on stream about your event (whether it’d be merch, upcoming tournaments, specific aspects of the event, etc.), as well as any do’s and don’ts that you want to remind them of. It can be a great help when your casters aren’t as familiar with your event series or what you’re looking for.
Check-In: These folks are in charge of greeting your players when they first enter the venue, giving them their badges, and checking for any other important information, such as IDs, vaccination records, etc. Typically, you should aim to have 3-5 check-in staff at the start of your event, since that’s where everyone will be rushing in the most, and you can slowly reduce that number as the day goes by. Make sure they have the list of attendees handy, or direct access to the smashgg page so they look on there instead.
Setup/Teardown: Otherwise known as a Strike Team, these are the folks in charge of setting up and packing up your event before/after, Usually, these are the same people that are running your event, although you may also have a dedicated team for it if possible. Oftentimes, the venue itself will also have a team that setup the basic essentials for you, so you should speak with them to see what they can provide.
Media: While you’re busy running the ship, these people will be there to capture it all live! Whether it’s through photos, videos, or any other sort of media, they will be able to convey a story and showcase your event to those who weren’t able to attend. Some of your best memories and moments could be captured through here, so make sure to hire some folks dedicated to the job. Either give them a certain directive as to how you would like your event to be portrayed, or let them run loose to their heart’s content – personally, I believe giving them creative freedom yields the best results, although you may also have certain sponsor or creative obligations as well to fulfill.
Now obviously, you can also hire staff to handle the logistical planning of your event (finances, marketing, etc.), but these people are the heart and soul of the execution of your tournament, so don’t slack on that end.
All logistics aside, events are made to be fun and enjoyed by anyone who attends them, and adding any extra amenities to make it a more enjoyable experience can really brighten up someone’s day, so if you have room for it, take the extra step to make it happen!
Vendors: Having different booths and artists at your event can really elevate your event to a different level, and gives your attendees some things to do outside of bracket. Whether it’s through custom controllers, custom artwork, VR stands, or anything else, try to think of fun activities that you would enjoy doing outside of a tournament setting. You can also do some research online, such as Etsy, for any creative individuals in the area who might be interested in showcasing their work at your event. It can both boost their visibility and give more variety for your players to explore. You never know what’s out there!
Merch: People love custom clothing, so if you can create something themed around your event, it can leave an everlasting impression on anyone that attended. Whether it’d be shirts, jackets, pants, or even non-clothing items such as posters, controllers, etc., they let you express your event beyond just the tournament itself. This, alongside vendors, can turn a simple tournament into a full-on convention, and incentivize even more people to attend.
Food: Everyone needs to eat to stay alive, and what better way to make your attendees happy than by providing food at your event in the form of catering, or having additional food vendors! This avoids the hassle of having to go out for food, and can also be more time-saving so they don’t have to rush back to the venue for their matches. However, keep in mind that this can be a very expensive option, and that you will need to consider dietary restrictions as well.
Once again, talk to your community and see if there’s anything specific that would interest them – follow recent trends, include some non-gaming related activities. They can really improve the overall atmosphere of your event.
Congratulations, you made it to the end!
This is definitely a lot of information to take in, so please feel free to read through it multiple times and go at your own pace. Organizing an event is not an easy job whatsoever, and it takes years of experience to really improve at your craft. And even if you do, there is no such thing as a perfect event – there’s always going to be something you can improve on or do differently. Remember that not everyone may enjoy your event either, and that’s okay! Everyone has different preferences, and you should never look to satisfy every single person on earth, only to make the best product you can. There is a criminal lack of information out there for TOs to look up when it comes to organizing events, and I hope this guide was helpful in that front.
Thank you to everyone who’s supported this guide and my events – if you have any questions, please don’t be afraid to reach out. I am more than willing to help out anyone who needs it. If you’re looking for more guides to read, you can check out my online TO guide below, or the offline one made by Muk a few years ago.
I would also like to thank the following people for helping me proofread my guide and adding any additional useful information:
- Joe “Toronto Joe” Cribari – @TorontoJoe
- Kyle “Grayola” Gray – @Grayolaa
- Wesley “Muk” Meijer – @ssbMuk
- Kombo “Allen” A. – @Allentoing
- Jeff “Jeff” Cosenza – @PushBlock_Jeff
- Luke “Nitro” Farag – @LukeFarag
Until next time!
Cyrus “Cagt” Gharakhanian – @Cagt3000