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The Race Management Program Summit returns to focus on The New Wave of Running

After several years of change and pivoting, Chicago Event Management was excited to host a 3-day in-person Summit to reunite members of the Race Management Program. To inspire creativity and forward thinking, the theme of the 2022 Summit was “The New Wave of Running,” with a variety of topics all focusing on looking to the future of the industry!

The week started off with a special 8-hour session from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), providing participants with specific information regarding targeted cyberattacks including advanced persistent threats. Tips from avoiding public Wi-Fi networks to varying your passwords were shared to help event organizers keep their information safe!

After a fun night at Flight Club on Monday, some brave attendees woke up early for a humid run along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan before starting a full day of sessions. The day began with a summary of the TEEX security session, and then Tim Rossi, former Nike employee and Head of Experiences for Bandit Running, took the stage to talk about how to get new faces into our sport. Rossi strongly encouraged event organizers lean into their community and focus on those relationships to help reach new runners and strengthen the experience before, during and after the event.

“We [Bandit] are telling stories of local runners in New York that embody what we think a Bandit customer would be, would look like, would shop and would run, and ideally people are able to see themselves in what we are doing,” Rossi said. “With races, you are able to control the narrative of who you want coming to your events and who you want to show up in those races, if you are able to story tell around younger audiences, that’s going to make people feel more welcome.”

Following Rossi was a four-part breakout session with vendors sharing the latest technology in their product. Participants heard from Haku, RTRT, CP Comms, and Mika Timing, who each shared how they could improve the race experience with new innovations.

The last panel on Tuesday focused on bringing new faces into our workforce. As many races have seen a lot of turn over in their staffing, RMP brought in Rebecca Petrovich from KraftHeinz, Ana Sarmousakis from JMJ Philip Group and Coach Brendan Cournane to share best practices and trends on how to cast a wider net when recruiting for roles. The group advised events to identify their brand, be upfront about the opening and potential within the role, and be open-minded for the development of the role itself. As far as retention, Petrovich and Sarmousakis agreed to use the uniqueness of our industry to our benefit to keep employees engaged.

“You have to be conscious of how goals shift and the promotability of the role. A lot of times, especially in smaller organizations, that unfortunately isn’t quite as real,” Petrovich said. “So why can’t somebody take a new turn on race day in a position they’ve never tried before but might be interested in? There’s a lot of things you can do to keep them engaged, but you have to remember that asking somebody to do the same thing year after year isn’t going to be exciting.”

Day two ended with the presentation of the Break the Tape Award, which was awarded to Jan Seeley, the Race Director of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon. Seeley was nominated for her creativity and innovation during the pandemic and keeping Champaign-area runners engaged with various virtual challenges and new events when the larger events couldn’t be held.

Day three continued the theme of identifying trends to be in tune with younger generations with a full session dedicated to social media with the team from the Philadelphia Marathon. Race Director Kathleen Titus and her Social Media Manager Al Cimino shared tips on how to create more engaging content, building off of Rossi’s perspective on creating a community within your channels.

“We take an analysis of what’s going on in the city of Philadelphia and see how we can tie it back to runners. Philadelphia is a massive city, so we want to tap into those folks that are going to tell our story but then also relate it to other things that could interest people nationally and internationally,” Titus said.

The two stressed the importance of making sure whoever is running the social media channels is up on current trends, and right now, that’s Reels. They took the group through a step-by-step process on how to create a Reel, showing them how simple it is to increase engagement for their events.

The final session of the 2022 RMP Summit took Day 2’s conversation on recruitment one step further to talk about volunteers. Every event is feeling the struggle of volunteer recruitment post-pandemic, and Samantha Furlong from CEM, Donna Finney from New York Road Runners and Maya Tatum-Lattimore from ChicagoCares shared suggestions on how to identify new groups and ensure your current volunteers keep coming back.

“There’s a burnout and sometimes people need to rotate, and we needed to do that. So we brought on 80 new volunteer leaders this year alone, but every single new leader we met with individually to get to know who they are as a human being,” Finney explained. “We are a team of two, so we did not streamline this process, but I really believe in the value of building that relationship with the individuals supporting our mission. Once they are that unofficial ambassador, they are out there recruiting as well.”

A huge thank you to our sponsors for supporting CEM in bringing back the Race Management Program Summit:

  • Heatsheets
  • Always Advancing
  • Associated Agencies
  • Haku
  • Marathon Sportswear
  • MarathonFoto
  • Mika Timing
  • MyLaps
  • Start Right
  • Hightech Signs
  • Lakeshore Athletic Services
  • Blooming Color
  • RTRT
  • EventHub
  • CP Communications
  • My Sporting Times

We look forward to seeing everyone at the RMP Race Weekend Experience at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October!