Running Large Events

Very Large Participation Games

If you have an activity where you want to run simultaneous games for very large numbers, it is entirely practical to do so. The biggest event I have ever run was for 650 participants taking part simultaneously and spread across several acres. This could feasibly be scaled even larger. I can't claim any originality for the concept, it being regularly used for Student Scout and Guide Organisation (SSAGO) rallies, but I haven't seen the idea published anywhere else.

Key to running this type of event is to ensure every individual game can cope with two teams at once and with variation in the number of participants rather than a fixed number. This generally means running games that can work effectively as relays. Each game must be capable of running for the same amount of time, including the time taken to setup/ reset. Typically I would use 5 minutes but this can of course be tailored for the individual event.

All games are arranged in a loop, and each given a number. It is worth making signs for the numbers, and making them very obvious- this can be especially important if you aren't carrying out the event on an obviously flat field where all games can be easily seen. The event starts with a quick briefing about how the event runs, followed by splitting people into teams. If there aren't teams already in place for the event, this will possibly be the most difficult task. I have run this mostly with Scout and Guide teams, so often there are pre-existing patrols that can make the task easier. If these teams don't exist, creating a funnel from rope and stakes, counting people off from the narrow end, and then telling them which game to go to start with works well. At this point teams are issued with a scorecard. This splitting into teams needs to be slick with large numbers.

It will help massively to know how many people will be taking part in advance so that team sizes can be planned. The other key is to split people into an even number of teams to ensure every team will always have someone to meet. To get capacity for larger numbers of participants, each game could take 4 teams, with all running head to head otherwise team sizes become unwieldy and people tend to drift off. I would recommend teams of no more than 10 and preferably around 6.

Each individual game will need manning by at least one member of staff who has been briefed in advance- It will usually be best to have at least two people at each base, possibly more.

Once you have participants in place, you can start the games. You will need something that can be heard over the general noise to do this- if you only have a few teams then this might be a whistle, but may well need to be a PA/ Megaphone or air horn. We use the same signal to stop the games after the allotted time.

When the individual game has been finished the teams have their scorecards marked by the staff member. Scoring can be as simple as recording a win or could be more complicated- including such things as teamwork and bonus points for amusing the people running the game.

The teams then move on to the next game, one moving clockwise the other anticlockwise. For the sake of argument, in an event with 10 games and with 20 teams, team A would start at game 1 and move consecutively to game 2, then 3 and so on. Team B would also start at game 1, but move to game 10, then 9 and so on. This happens until all games have been played. We usually allow 1-2 minutes for people to move.

The event may be themed, although this is not something we have done regularly. The most notable was a 'Food' themed event where games included giant representations of food such as burgers. This can be a good way of linking games together, or can work well if the whole event is themed.

To staff and manage this type of event, we have generally worked with 2-3 key management staff who plan the activity and ensure all supplies and staff are in place. You will need to scale the staff requirements depending on the type of event, but typically the management staff are supplemented by a few dedicated helpers. This team manage the setup and laying out of the event. Every game is then staffed by at least one person who has been briefed prior to the games- we typically take these people from volunteers from the Scout groups attending the event. These can then be supplemented with more people when the games are running. To ensure that everyone knows what is happening at each game laminated instructions with key pointers are supplied. When the games are running the management staff time the activity and circle the games making sure all are running correctly, refilling and troubleshooting where necessary.

When all teams have played all games the scorecards are collected in and logged. Dependent on the type of event there may be many things done with these points;
Points gained are added to the running total of the team on other activities over the event
Prizes or certificates are awarded to 'winners' or teams over a certain score.
The top few teams come back for a head to head finale in front of everyone else This can be immediately (can be awkward getting scores calculated quickly), or later on (can be difficult getting teams back). Some finale ideas are listed below, but bear in mind these need to be visually interesting or exciting for those not taking part.

As and when I have a chance I will update this page to cover more games that can be used.

We have tried finales a few times, but not always found them suitable for every event. One was fairly simple and involved a foam machine suspended so that it covered an area on a groundsheet with a significant amount of foam. Hidden in this were interlocking foam letters- several teams had to search in turn looking for the letters to complete a word- the first to get to this was the winner.

The second finale we tried took place in the evening when it was dark and consisted of four teams running head to head in an obstacle course, although it was a bit more complicated than you would first think. Teams were dressed in disposable boiler suits onto which had been painted stripes of fluorescent paint of one colour per team. The whole area was lit (in addition to some floodlighting) with UV floodlights so that the teams glowed.
Each team member was linked together with bungee and given something to carry (toy wheelbarrow, rubber ring etc). As a team they had to get themselves, their objects and some water down the course to a waiting container. These containers were connected to a gunge tank above a leader (see the gunge tanks page for more details on this). The first team to gunge their leader by getting sufficient water in their container was the winner- it took several runs of the course to get sufficient water to their tank.

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(c) M.Pantrey 2012