Advice for event organizers

Stu Brennan from TE/AE has graciously volunteered to share their experiences of organizing a sucessful car meet. We're making it available on our web site as a service (guideline) for any group trying to organize a car event such as a Tigers United event. I'd like to ask that any suggested changes to this be submitted to the tigers mailing list for discussion.

I really want to thank Stu for editing this info for us.

From Stu Brennan

Here are the remnants of our 1993 TE/AE United planning records. A lot got flushed, but I think these three memos are a good summary.

"CHAIR1" was my memo from the late fall of 1992 (the United was in August of the following year). We had just selected the site, and set out the basic structure of the event. We had started the previous JANUARY, investigating sites and the required activities. We had some ambitious plans, but as you can see, most of them came off.

"0404" was our meeting memo from early April. Plans were changing, but things were under control.

"RETRO" is our retrospective report. We passed this on to the later United planners.

I am not sure it is clear from the memos, but here are the things we identified as necessary elements for any United:

A site with lots of interesting things to do nearby, other than Sunbeam stuff. We were within walking distance of a downtown shopping mall full of cute little shoppes, restaurants, etc, and also within a short walk to the dinner cruise dock, and the lake.

Technical information presentations

Parts sales, both swap meet and vendors

A performance event, usually an autocross, but they did do drag racing one year

Some fun local non-car activities. We had a dinner cruise on the lake.

Awards Banquet.

Club business meeting, board of directors meeting.

Local car related activity. We had a rally that was also a tour of the local scenic roads.

Concours site with a more to do than just look at cars. We were at a local historic site, and included a BBQ lunch.

Some FREE TIME in the schedule, so people have time to relax, or do something different.

Baby sitting for the banquet. Our own people, not the hotel's

As you can see, we did a pretty good job of accomplishing everything we attempted. Mother's rules came into play several times, as I took on a couple of tasks from overloaded people. But, we had allowed for this sort of thing, with me trying to confine myself to the chairman's role, leaving me available to fill gaps.

We had no serious complaints about our event, that reached our ears, and certainly nothing along the lines of the recent TUXX meltdown. Sure, a few people didn't like the rally, and the comment that the event was too far north for many members was countered by our attendance figures.

I could go on for hours, as the readers of the TE/AE newsletter know, but enough is enough. Let me know if you have any questions.

Stu Brennan

Item Subject: chair1.txt 9/14/95 8:24P

Phase one is finally over. We have decided on the Radisson, on August 12-15. Before we sit back, relax, and congratulate ourselves, please remember one little detail: Now all we have to do is everything else.


As we proceed with our planning, let us keep a few guidelines in mind:

1. DON'T BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW. I know how tempting it can be to volunteer to get involved in something when you initially hear about it. Please, stop and think before accepting a task. Do you really have the time and the ability to do a quality job?

2. IF YOU BITE IT OFF, CHEW IT AND SWALLOW IT. If you commit to something, DO IT! Do it as you said you would, on time or earlier.

3. TALKING WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL IS ENCOURAGED. Please don't accept a job, then disappear. Report your progress, or lack thereof. Talk to me and to those your task impacts. If you suddenly find a problem, it's your responsibility to wave the red flag as soon as possible. Problems caught early are easier to solve.


Up until now, we've made our decisions by consensus, or by a vote of whoever showed up at the committee meetings. This isn't going to be practical for the next phase. There will be so many things to be decided, that we could spend the whole winter having meetings and voting. So, from now on, when you take on a job, you will be making most of the decisions yourself, by working it out with those your decision impacts. You should keep me informed on what you are doing, and it will be my job to make sure that all of the individual pieces fit together. It's always possible that something major will come up, that would deserve a committee decision. If this happens, we'll call another gathering, or do a conference call.

Unless there is an objection, we will limit our voting membership to the present team: Ron, Stu, Steve, Kevin, Rande, Marvin, and Robert. That's an odd number, so there shouldn't be a problem. All get to vote, whether present or not. The more is not necessarily the merrier.


What we are involved in here is not unlike the startup phase of a small business. We are producing a product that our friends and associates are going to be purchasing for no small amount of money. Consider just two items:

($82/night) x ( 3 nights) x (100 rooms) = $24,600

(200 People) x ($20/plate Banquet) = $4000

This is not a "nickel and dime" operation. Our customers will be paying top dollar, and they deserve nothing less than a first class effort on our part.

No small business should start operations without a business plan, a statement of what they are trying to accomplish and how they are planning to do it. To that end, I am asking each person who accepts a responsibility to take a minute to write down exactly what they are and are not going to do, then send it to me. I do not mean for this to be a tool that I can use to play "GOTCHA" at some later date. All I want is an easy way for all of us to understand what our tasks are, and aren't. I fully expect that many of these task descriptions will evolve as our planning progresses.

Example: Registration. Are you taking care of both mail in and on-site registration? Will you determine what the printing requirements are? Will you get the printing done? Will you assemble the registration packages? Will you collect the "freebie" materials for the registration packages? What sort of data base will you use? Will you need helpers? Etc.

Here's another way to think of it. Each task you might take on has a set of "deliverables", the results expected from your efforts. Understanding what your deliverables are will lead directly to the processes you must go thru to produce them, and the resources you will require.

Assembled, these task descriptions should describe everything we are trying to accomplish, and how we are going to accomplish it.

So, to get the ball rolling, here's my job description:


Coordinate all aspects of United planning to insure a quality event. Represent the planning team to outside entities. Resolve problems and disputes as they arise. Deflect all of the S**T we'll get when the room rate gets out. Coordinate post-event publicity.

So far, here's the team that we have:

Chairman: Stu Brennan

Co-Chairman: Ron Barrette

Registration: Steve and Jan Towle

Trophies: Marvin Johnson

Treasurer: Marvin Johnson

Hotel Relations : Ron Barrette

Tech Sessions: Steve Hansen

Banquet: Ron Barrette

Publicity: Stu Brennan

Concours Chief: Mike Smith


Rallymaster: Robert Jaarsma

Tour Guide:

Parts room:


Hospitality Suite:

Please note the vacant positions, and find people to help us out!


What's that, you ask? I'm sure you will all agree that the coverage in our newsletters, of previous Uniteds, has been a bit lacking. This time will be different. I propose that we take it upon ourselves to produce the articles required to fully document our United, both writing and photography. Let us get a commitment from Bobbie, perhaps with some outside influence, to have them published as a group, no matter how many stamps it takes to mail that issue.

How about another tack? Anybody ever see a magazine called "British Car"? Let's plan to do an article on our United for them. Or, might they send a reporter? This will be nothing less than great publicity for the club, if we can pull it off.


Keep track of your direct expenses, because you will be reimbursed. Qualifying expenses will include postage, telephone calls, and things you have to buy for sole purpose of supporting the United. I don't think such things as travel , meals, or your new word processor would be considered as legitimate expenses.


One of my big concerns is the overall event budget, and how we are going to be sure we keep this thing "in the black". To this end, we must identify all of the costs associated with each activity and service we will provide, and then figure out how we are going to pay for them. Some things will have to be part of the blanket registration fee, and some must be optional selections. Remember, we did go a bit high on the room rates, so we must make every effort to keep the basic registration fee reasonable.


We're still accepting suggestions for an event logo, to be used on our Dash Plaques, on all of our printing, and in our advertising. We are also considering magnetic signs, similar to the "Monte Carlo Rally" car number plaques, to be used for the car numbers at the concours, in the rally, etc. The logo would figure in this as well. We'll get a design rouged out, and then get a cost estimate, to see if it's possible to fit it into our budget.

Item Subject: 0404.txt 9/14/95 8:37P
Summary of the April 4 United planning meeting, Merrimack, NH.

Attending: Steve Towle (host), Stu Brennan, Rande Bellman, Ron Barrette, Mike Chase, Robert Jaarsma, Kevin Reid.


We will use Robert Jaarsma's address for the mail in registration. Steve will add checkoff boxes to registration form to encourage people to volunteer for registration, hospitality, etc. We need prices for everything we are planning to do for the next meeting. Registration and hospitality must be manned at all times.

Goodie Bags

Ron and Mary are working on it. They will work with the Hansens, who have some ideas that could help. The first letters should go out by mid April.


We have the paperwork on the National Guard site. It is 600' by 300' of flat concrete, with no poles or other obstructions. It's their helicopter pad. Will we need porta potties? Where can we get enough cones? How many will we need? Marvin will contact Barry Schonberger, the Autocross Chairman. Can we charge for entry or pass the hat for Starbase, the N. G.'s anti-drug program? Do they firmly expect a contribution? All TBD. How will site access work? There must be an official presentation of the trophy after the event. Doug Jennings must stick around? SAB? Or can Barry do it? Who is appropriate?


We will prepare a camera ready ad for other club's newsletters. CAT, CATO, STOA, Pacific Tigers, SSOC, etc. I will check with Bobbie on who to send to and how to handle it. We could print inserts if necessary. I'll do the text, and Ron will try to get the logo to an artist. I will send info to British Marque Car Club News, and Classic and Sportscar (England).

Concours, site

We need a site with something else to do, and we should lock it up ASAP. (See post meeting notes.)

Can we find a way to display a photo of the winning cars at the awards? How long does it tike to compile results? How many Trophies? Classes? SAB to call Mike Smith.

Parts room

We set some approximate hours for the room to be open. See attached schedule.


We will try to have it available for the banquet, the Friday night cruise, and the Rally, in order of priority. Who can do it?

Friday Evening Cruise

Ron will talk to the boat captain and make arrangements.


Ron will ask about specifics on choices: Beef, chicken, maybe fish and veggie too? This will have to be a checkoff on the registration form. Doug Jennings will MC.


We need a count of how many we will need for next time, in order to do our cost projections. After viewing the Towle Collection, we agreed on a plaque, maybe similar to the SUNI award, with the logo on it.

Magnetic signs

Ron will try to get a cost estimate. It looks like we may not be able to give these away, so we will have to decide the ifs and hows of this project.


Our next meeting will be about a month before we have to print our registration forms. We NEED to identify all costs by the next meeting, so that we can confirm them during the next month, and print in early June.


May 2 at an appropriate site. Burlington, it there is something to look at. Otherwise at Robert's. WE NEED PRICES FOR EVERYTHING AT THIS MEETING!!! If we don't have a price, WE DON'TDO IT!!!

Happenings since the meeting:

There are about 100 old name tags in The Box, so we will have to print our own. There is also a large roll of numbered tickets that could be used for door prize drawings

Dave Chambers called to offer his services. I referred him to Rande for the parts room, and he would be willing to help with Hospitality, registration, etc.

Ron has tentative arrangements for the cruise. They can feed 125, and carry 150 on the boat. It will be first come first served. The price will be about $24 per person, and about $14 for kids. We will make it first come first served, by postmark, on the 125, and sell the others on site.

Ron has the logo back from the artist, and says it looks good. A bit more processing by the printer, and we will start using it.

The Hansens have some great inputs for Ron on freebie hunting, and want to come to our next meeting.

Marvin has called to report we may have a concours site: The Ethan Allen Homestead and Museum. More details to follow. So, we may have the meeting in Burlington to check it out.

Kevin Reid sent in some ad suggestions, which caused me to flush everything I had done on the subject. K. I. S. S. is a good rule. Thanks, Kevin.

Barry Schonberger sent a list of trophies given at a previous United- it looks like we give trophies for first thru third in all classes. I will come up with a count for everything shortly, and pass it on to Marvin to get a cost estimate.

The location of the next meeting is still to be determined, but Burlington is looking better. Stay tuned.

Item Subject: retro.txt 9/14/95 9:31P

United XVI Planning Process
Prepared by
Stu Brennan
The United XVI Committee

There are lots of ways to organize things. Past Uniteds had from two to 40 people putting them together. The following is how we did it, and some hindsight. Take from it what ever makes sense for your situation.

Chairman's Position

The job of the United chairman is mostly to make sure that everybody else does their job. Sure, he or she may take on a few tasks themselves, but their main task should be to develop and support the team, and to make sure that all of the pieces are there, and that they fit together. I created Mother's Rules to try to describe how we were to work. They go something like this:


Sure, it's easy to volunteer for a job, but you should really think about it first. Most of the tasks ended up taking anywhere from 2 to 5 times the effort we initially estimated. Can you really devote that much time? Are you really capable of executing the task? Is anyone overloaded?


Whatever task you accept, do it. Start early. Finish early. Let everybody know what you are up to. If you have a problem, see rule three.


Don't listen to Mom on this one. Communication within the team is of prime importance. Do not trust the fellow who says "I'll take care of it! Just leave it to me!" Your responsibility as chairman is to make sure the pieces fit together, and you must be sure everyone's piece is shaping up properly. Hold periodic meetings, conference calls, issue monthly newsletters, or whatever, to keep everyone and yourself updated. Encourage people to surface problems early, when they are easier to solve. Encourage people to seek help on tasks they are having a problem with.

Organizational Structure

We had a chairman, a co-chairman, and five more members of what could be called an executive committee. We didn't want to get too many more people on this committee, to avoid confusion. Many others were called upon for assistance, but these seven made the big decisions. We planned to work by consensus, unless any conflicts came up. Then, a vote of the committee would decide it. The only vote we ended up taking was the site selection. With an odd number on the committee, there could be no tie.

Despite what others have said, it is absolutely necessary to have one or more members of the planning committee be local residents in the selected area. It is simply too difficult for outsiders to make all of the local contacts necessary to insure a great event. Sure, we have had one instance in the past where we got lucky and planned a United by remote control, but it could have just as easily been a disaster.

It is important to have several people involved in the major decisions. No one person has the proper perspective to anticipate everything that our membership would want or need. I was chairman, but very few of the events ended up the way I initially envisioned them. The team investigated, found better ideas, improved on each other's suggestions, and finally set the eventual course. .

On the other hand, everything can't be put to a vote. The individual function chairman should be able to make independent decisions, but should be fully aware of what framework they have to fit into, so that everything fits into the big picture. The committee should be notified ASAP after. Example: The hotel wanted to swap some of our function rooms around, from what had been initially agreed. A decision was needed quickly, and our hotel negotiator authorized the change, which was fine because he was also aware of the needs of the others who would be effected by the decisions.

Team stability throughout the planing process is important. We all came to know and trust each other. The military calls it "unit cohesion", or something like that. If people had been dropping in and out, things might not have gone so smoothly.

Require that all team members involved in the setup functions get to the site at least several hours ahead of the time that their function begins. Example: Whoever is controlling the parts room should have things checked out, and all problems solved, before exhibitors will want to begin moving things in.


Do not expect to find an autocross or concours site a couple weeks before the United. Start negotiations as soon as you decide on a site, even if this is a YEAR ahead. Get the deals on paper and signed ASAP.

Plan on having everything done ONE MONTH before the event. Sure, there are always a few things that have to be done at the last minute, but keep a lot of time available near the end for emergencies. Example: With a week to go, we found out that Mike Smith , traditional concours chairman, could not come. We had to identify a new chairman, and get some printing designed and executed before the United started. If we had already been fully loaded with things to do, this would have been a lot more difficult.

Site Selection

There are so many options here you can go crazy, so here are some things to consider.

That gorgeous hotel in the middle of nowhere might seem to have great potential, but history shows that people want other stuff somewhere nearby. What sort of stuff?

-A variety of restaurants, including fast food. People sometimes find it easier to hit The Arches rather than endure the overpriced cafe in the hotel, especially if the family comes along.

-Shopping, for tourist stuff, quality goods, factory outlets, or whatever.

-Non Car related Tourist Stuff, historic, scenic, or fun stuff to do, all with broad family interest.

On the other hand, you don't want to be in the middle of everything, either. There is plenty to do in the center of many large American cities, but I doubt that anyone would seriously consider having a United there. Sunbeams are not about driving between stoplights. High traffic areas, high crime areas should be avoided for obvious reasons.

The hotel should have more than enough room to service our needs. They should have a real operating convention facility, not just a couple of banquet rooms. There should be a variety of room types available so that people will be able to upgrade to suites, or whatever, it that's what they want or need. Make sure the staff is used to working with car clubs. Try to get some car club references, if possible.

A good hotel will be willing to go to some lengths to accommodate your needs, and to get your business. By all means have as many members of the committee visit as many potential sites as possible.

Touring the Area

You will probably be selecting the area based on what it has to offer besides "Car Stuff". Be sure, then, to take advantage of the region, and plan to see some of it as a formal event. We had a rally that also served as a tour of the surrounding area, and a dinner cruise on the lake. Whatever you plan, make sure that you try out the recommended routes at the same time of day, and on the same weekday that they will be used. Traffic, parking, or whatever else can differ greatly depending on day and time. Check with the local Police and DPW to see if they are going to dig anything up, or change traffic patterns during your events. Confirm that no other events in the area will effect parking or traffic (another reason that local residents MUST be part of your committee).

Trophies and Dash Plaques

For our event logo, we had an artist adapt the Burlington city logo to the side badge surround, based on our suggestions. Even if the world's best graphic artist does your logo, have the committee review it for appropriateness before it is adopted. It is most important that you have a good quality artwork for the dash plaque, trophy, and printing people to work with. Get this done as soon as you decide on a site, because it always takes longer than you think.

We used Daytona Trophy from Florida (904-253-2806) for both the dash plaques and the trophies. We had also looked at Rally Productions from Wisconsin (414-797-9888), but their prices were a bit higher, and you ended up applying all of the metalwork to the wood bases yourself. They used "solid hardwood" bases, whereas the Florida guys used veneer over particle board, but unless you study the back, the Daytona stuff looked fine.

Daytona was able to clean up our artwork, and touch up the final layout of our design for no extra charge. They claimed they would only do 4 colors on this small a quantity of plaques (we ordered 150), but after we waved the additional trophy order in front of them, they came around, and gave us the fifth color for the standard cost increment. The trophies arrived on schedule, for the quoted price.

We had about 60 cars, 70 registrations, and probably 150 people at the banquet . With one dash Plaque given with each registration, plus eight made into special awards, some sold, and a few that just wandered off, we had about 30 dash plaques left over.

We ordered 40 trophies (actually 7"x 9" wall plaques), 38 for known categories and two spares, which we needed for the Autocross. Daytona was willing to do the post event engraving (to cover last minute category changes) by producing the new engraving strips and shipping them out, but we chose to get the new strips done locally.

Even using the "Pantone Color System", which is supposed to be some sort of industry color standard, the logo colors we received from the trophy/dash plaque vendor were OK, but were noticeably different from the T-Shirt and Program colors. It is best to send color samples.


Check with the other clubs (the Canadians too, if you are anywhere near the border) before finalizing your date selection. We found that our date conflicted with a Canadian event, so not many Canadians came to ours. As soon as your date is firm, let everybody know, again to avoid conflicts. Another British Marque club having a meet nearby on the same weekend? Give them a call. You might be able to work out a joint cruise to a drive in, a meeting on your tour of the region (for more fun, don't tell anybody), or a shared concours or autocross site.

It is tempting to plan every minute of the entire event, but this is probably a bad idea. Include some gaps and optional activities. Many people want some time within the schedule to see the area, shop, try that interesting looking restaurant, fix their cars, relax, etc. Our dinner cruise was optional. Some people chose to go out on their own to one of the many fine local restaurants.


A closed off portion of an enclosed facility is the ultimate. There were always people out looking at the cars, fixing things, or polishing for the concours. The enclosed garage can also be an alternate concours site if the weather does not cooperate. Instead of a real "Rent-A Cop" for overnight security ($22 per hour), we were able to use a local young man from some sort of youth police auxiliary organization, at a much cheaper rate. Also, make sure that you have a safe spot for trailers, and taller vans and campers. Washing facilities for the cars, at least a couple hoses, should also be available there.


If you have a good club treasurer, like we did, the reimbursements will only take a short time, and you will not need to maintain a slush fund of seed money to get things started. This is the way we worked, and we would frequently receive checks in about a week. The club will pay for your telephone calls (even team conference calls), postage, supplies, etc. Plan on documenting your expenses.

Develop a proposed budget as early as possible, since it will be a key planning tool. As each event is developed, keep the budget updated. This way, you will not get any nasty surprises when it's too late. This doesn't have to be a rigorous "to the penny" deal. You should just know if something is going to cost one or two or five hundred dollars, which will let you estimate it's impact on registration costs.


All registered for the United should wear event name badges. We made special, more prominent badges for the organizing committee, the club officers, and a few significant club contributors, such as the newsletter editor, and the membership chairman. This way, they were more visible to those who might want to ask a question or just say hi. I think it also helped with relations with the hotel staff, since they would automatically know that it was a member of the committee making a request.

Other Things To Consider

Locate a local towing service that has those "rampback" trucks, rather than "the hook". Which would you rather be towed by? Put it in your program, or get the info to everybody, just in case.

Another "Just in case": Determine where someone could leave a seriously dead car for a while, safely. Ideally a local member would have a big yard or barn, and maybe a good home workshop for more serious repairs.

In case of medical emergencies, supply the phone #'s for local ambulance, fire, police 24 hour pharmacy, etc. Include directions to the nearest Emergency care facility.


Several members of the committee met a couple months later, and conducted a retrospective. These are some of the comments that emerged.

Stu Brennan presented little "Well Done!" plaques to the committee members, as a gesture of thanks. These were well received, I guess, but there was agreement that something more should be done for the committee. Free basic registration, perhaps? The problem is, where do you draw the line on something like this? We had a well defined committee that stayed together for the whole time. Others might have people dropping in and out, and how much participation would qualify them? This would certainly lead to some fights. The final opinion was that something more should be done, but we could not recommend what or how.

The rally should have been easier, directed at novices.

Organizers should realize that they will not be able to participate in all of the events and carry out their duties at the same time.

No loners allowed! Everyone should keep others well enough informed of their activities, so that if they became unavailable, it would not be a disaster.

Locals should be employed on a planned basis to lead any caravans, etc. We blew this bad, especially for the concours.

Some felt we needed better on site communications between team members, for when an important answer is needed ASAP. Radios? Pagers? Cellular phones? All might cost more than they were worth. but there must be something that could be done.

The hospitality suite was nice, but it was too far from parts, registration, etc. They should all be adjacent.

We arranged to project slides of the winning cars during the banquet awards . This was well received, and should be done every year.

The banquet length was at the limit. Any longer and it would have been too much.

We should have had official photographers for events, and especially the banquet.

That's about it. Feel free to contact any of us for info or advice as you put your event together.

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