6 Things We Did Wrong When Organising Our BBQ Contest And You’ll Probably Do To.

This a post is about all the lessons learned when we organised the first and second edition of the Belgian Championship Low And Slow BBQ.

Low and slow BBQ is growing at a fast pace in Europe. Therefore we hope by sharing our experiences with everyone that we can contribute to the quality of the competitions and make organizers aware about the pitfalls on the road to D-Day.

It is just…

When we made the decision to organise our own competition we thought: “It is just inviting some teams and judges. It is simply…”. The fact is: there are a gazillion odds and ends. Expect that your to-do list will grow to a the tenfold of what you had in mind. We started with a list of things we wanted at our competition. We where determined to stick to our plan and to just organise a good competition. Great idea’s were parked on a nice to have list.

But we quickly knew that we couldn’t differentiate ourselves from others by parking our great ideas for a later event. We shifted gears and decided to change, adapt and execute immediately.

No Flow Management

Our venue is great and is something we can truly brag about. But every great thing has its downside: we can’t allow cars to be parked on the terrain, they are only allowed on the terrain for packing and unpacking purposes. In our first edition we decided to allow every team directly on the terrain when they arrived. We can tell you now that it’s chaotic. Do not do it!

Instead let every team check-in at an external place away from the terrain. So that you can control the flow from that point forward. Only allow 3–5 teams on the terrain. For each team leaving the terrain allow a new team to enter. It will be a much more relaxing experience for you and for your teams.

No Branding

Until our third competition we did not have any branding possibilities. We had no logo which proved our identity and like most of you we did not have any budget. Really we had €0,00 to start with. It’s actually obvious to have a logo from the start. But we decided to invest our energy and sponsor money in the structural foundation of our competition. A real logo was parked on the nice to have list. Like I said: do not do it.

Having a logo is critical for your social footprint. Though it will not give you any revenue, invest early in it. Marketing materials are much more appealing with a well design logo. So for our 3rd competition we hired a graphical designer which created our logo for us.

Handling Registrations Via Email

Ooh boy did we waist some time on this. In our case it was only for judges because we already had an online registration system for teams. But I can imagine organizers handling the registrations for both teams and judges via email. It is the worst thing you can do.

Why? For starters, your registrations are probably saved in an Excel sheet on your computer or some cloud storage. But you can so easily lose the file or the file gets overwritten with changes from your co-worker who is editing the file at the same time. Or you will have a file called ‘teams_registration_final’ together with another one called ‘teams_registration_final_final’. Losing track of all the versions is right around the corner and secondly: it is time consuming. All of the information of every contestant or judge must be entered in your master document. Are you kidding me? Can you image copying al the information of 20,40…70 teams in a document.

Automate early. Right from the start. With our first and second edition all team registrations were already automated with a form on our website. But the judges still needed to email us. For our third edition we redeveloped our online platform which we use to organise our competitions so judges can register via a form on our website. Teams and judges are automatically displayed in a list on our website when their registration is successful. We have zero work on our registrations now

Reserve Now. Pay Later.

Like every contest organizer in Europe we also provided the possibility for a team to reserve a place in our competition and confirm your place by paying it. Why we did it we do not know. Most likely for the reason that we can brag with a long list of teams of which we had no idea of if they would show up. But honestly, it is like air in a jar: it is useless to have such a list. You need to send tons of email to chase payments. Or to ask if they will come/pay. You need to work with confirmed and unconfirmed lists on your website which you’ll need to update regularly. Until the payment is received you are not sure about your budget. We are the first organizers who decided that if a team is dedicated to come to our competition that they are willing to pay at the moment they sign up. We also kept in mind that registration would occur on a later moment.

Therefore we redeveloped our online registration platform we use to organise our contest so it can work with Paypal. We ask for an immediate payment of the registration fee and in the same time the team is sure of their spot in the competition.

Be gracious to those who are found of your competition and sign up early. Give something back to compensate their early spending. We provided every early bird €25 Filous coins which they can use at our competition for drinks and stuff. It’s a win-win situation. After all it’s no difference then going to a concert of festival where you also need to pay for the tickets when decide to buy them.

Inadequate Statistics

I assume every organizer wants to see some facts about their competitions: How many did I sell? How many countries are involved? What is the actual live count of the teams and judges? In our first and second edition we always needed to manually analyse Excel sheets to answer these questions. If the list wasn’t up-to-date we needed to do check the list and do a recount. It was a way you can’t run a business.

Our renewed online registration platform solved this problem instantly. We have all of the numbers in the database so we can easily visualize everything. We can now see everything in an blink of an eye.

BBQ Competition organizers tool: Competition dashboard

Are you interested in our organizers tool? Contact me at bbq@defilous.be for more info.