Under The Bar: Planning a Powerlifting Meet

TAGS: under the bar, powerlifting, dave tate, strength training, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell

{This is in response to the many questions we get on the phone, e-mails, on the Q/A, at meets, at seminars and recently, some posts on an internet forum on whether or not Dave will host another powerlifting meet.}

Two questions:
1. Will you all run another meet?

2. What does it take to run a meet like you did the 2001 and 2002 IPA Nationals?

There are several reasons why we have not run meets over the past few years and they are all time and business related. We ran the IPA Nationals in 2001 and 2002 and since then our business has grown faster than I ever dreamed. November is the time of the year for the Nationals and also happens to be the busiest time of the year for us. We pride ourselves on service and we just can’t pull our people out of the office to run a meet during this time. One thing you have to remember is if the meet is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that our offices will have to be close Thursday and Monday as well. Because of this we would loose thousands of dollars in sales, as well as cause a burden to any customer who needs to reach us during this time.

Second, finding help for a meet is a total pain in the ass. I had to rely on family members and relatives to help out as well as a host of other people to get the job done. The problem is my family would spend all day, for four days, helping us get ready and run the meet and then have to deal with crap from certain lifters. 99% of the lifers are great but that 1% can cause more stress than you could ever believe. I could not ask my family to go through all that again. The other helpers were always unreliable. While some were awesome most would not show up or totally disappear. I can’t count the number of times I started a lifting session and still did not have all the spotters, loaders and judges. In 2002 if it was not for Jim Parrish and the rest of the Body Factory team, the meet would have been a disaster. Everyone else disappeared. They really stepped up to the plate and saved the day.

I still love the IPA and by not running meets in no way means I am against the federation. In fact I still believe it is one of the best federations out there. In the future we may run another meet but for now time is the greatest problem.

There are several factors involved in running a good meet. These are not universal and the best meet will always be the meet you break all your PR’s at. This is regardless of the venue, federation and who puts in on. You all do not want to forget this. We all got into this so we could experience the feeling of breaking your own records regardless if it is a 300 bench or 800 deadlift. This is the one aspect that keeps us all the same. So if you have a crappy meet set up but walk away with a 300 pound total PR then you had a great day! But, we all do not have days like these and we kept this in mind when we put on our meets. Here are some of the things we tried to accomplish with the meets we ran.

1. The meet is a family event. Regardless of what you think most of the spectators are family members who are also giving their time to be there. Because of this we wanted to make the venue easy to get to from the interstate and airport. We also wanted to keep the venue in a place that was accessible to other cheaper hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and other attractions.

2. I always liked lifting in the same hotel as I stayed at. It is just easier for those who may have to take a shuttle from the airport or do not know there way around town. The hotel should have a huge ballroom, pool, steam room and restaurant. This way, if the lifters wanted to, they would never have to leave the hotel. The warm up room and pit should be huge. No big, but huge. You may think it is large enough until you get the lifters in coaches in there.

3. You have to take care of the lifters and coaches first. They are the reason we are all there and should be held as kings. This means all lifters, not just the big names. 90% of the lifters who lift in the meet may never see an elite total but for one day they should feel like they are the main event. They should have refreshments in the warm up area. This should be more than water. We tried to provide fruit, Gatorade, protein bars, cookie and any other snacks the hotel could put together. You will pay out the ass for this but if you have ever coached a lifter, finding food can be a bitch. We also gave all lifters free t-shirts. This is a small price to pay and gives us year around advertising. The awards should be unique. We also went with custom metals. These are easy to travel with and can’t be duplicated.

4. The equipment should be the best you can offer. We always had new bars on the platform for each meet. The bars in the warm up area need to be the same as on the platform. This is also true with the equipment. If the equipment was beat up then we would buy new stuff or have the old stuff repainted with new pads. Impression is everything and I did not want to have old beat up stuff at the meet, especially since we sell it, it has to look great and be in excellent working order.

5. The meet needs to be well organized and well run. Every helper needs to know exactly what they are supposed to do and stay at their location until the session is over. The use of the meet director software helped us tremendously. We also used a LCD projector and large screen so the coaches would know the standing of the lifter. They would be able to look up and see how far out the lift was and what there current placing was. The meet has to begin on time and finish when it is supposed to. If it goes too fast the lifters will wear out, if it is too slow they will get too cold. It is better to have it too fast and then have the lifters tell you if they need more time. The key point is to listen to what they are telling you and make it work for them.

6. You need to begin planning one year in advance. It will take this long to negotiate the hotel. Most hotels work on sliding scales for payment. Try to get the number of rooms as low as you can. If not you will pay out the ass for the room. If you get a good deal the room will be free. The key is to know what the best and worst case will be before you sign anything. It also helps if you agree to buy meal tickets for the helpers. Finally, treat the hotel staff with respect. They are there to help you and will also have to put up with more shit than they do any other event. They will become frustrated very fast so make sure you are there to thank each and every one of them many times throughout the weekends. Tips are also a great way to them for their work. This means tip the people who set up the snacks in the warm up room, tip the shuttle driver, tip the desk attendants. Tip all of them. Yes, this will cost you money but you have no idea how much they help you out without asking for anything.

7. You have to market the meet. I was never very good at marketing the meet around town but we did place fliers in all the gyms. I could have done more to try and get TV coverage and radio spots but was too lazy to do the work. We did however market the meet to all the lifters. I called over 100 lifters 7 months out to make sure they knew we were running the meet and that I was concerned that they get there entries in on time. Big meets can sell out and I did not want anyone to miss out because they were late. Everyone I called appreciated the call and got the entries right out. Because of this we sold the meet out 6 months in advance. This is just good service and gives the respect they deserve.

8. The T-shirt and awards need to be designed and ordered well in advance. You do not want to worry about these things the last week of the meet. This will also give you time to change things if needed. If you give the shirts away for free then you will have a better idea on how many to order. We placed the word “LIFTER” on the sleeve and then ordered more without the logo to sell at the meet. This worked great because we sold more than we gave away and gave the lifters something different than other people could buy.

9. You will need upfront money. Running a meet can be expensive. If you are buying equipment, bars, Gatorade, water, protein bars, t-shirt, awards, ect it will add up very fast and run you in the thousands. To do this right and avoid stress much of this will have to be purchased before your entry money come in. Being a start up company this was hard for us to do and is even harder for those who have to rely on the entry money to do these things. At the very least have the stuff ready to go when you get the money from the entries?

10. You can try to get sponsors but from what I found it will never be close to enough and should not be counted on. Keep in mind that when you ask for money you will need to let them know what you can do for them. For example, if you call us and ask me for $1000.00 I will want to know what I will get for it. For me to agree you need to show me how my investment will return my money. This is advertising and has to have return on my investment. This is how the business world works. Keep in mind that if you ask for $1000.00 we are not interested in how we can get $1000.00 back. We want to know how we can get the lost profit back. That $1000.00 comes out of our profit. If we have a 10% profit margin you need to show us how that $1000.00 will bring in $10,000.00. And that is to just break even. If you can’t do that then do ask for the money.

11. Find other way to make money. You will be lucky to make money on the meet alone. See if you can set up a booth to sell shirts, drinks and other stuff. Just because you give Gatorade away in the warm up room does not mean you can’t sell it at a booth. We looked at it this way. We did well if we broke even on the meet. We would make our profit at the booth.

12. Take care of your help. Buy there meals, put them up in a room. Do whatever they need you to do. They are there to help you for free so let them know you appreciate it.

This is enough for now. The bottom line is, do not run the meet to make money. If you do then your focus is on the wrong thing. Lifters are not stupid and will know what you are doing. If you put them first then the money will be there. Maybe not the first meet but within a couple meets you will have more lifters than you know what to do with. This is because most meets suck and if you take care of them they will remember the meet and come back. Not only will they come back but they will bring more with them. You do not have to spend a shit load of money just take care of the lifters, have good equipment and treat them the way you wish you were treated. It really is not that hard it just takes time and planning.

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