All great race directors could be compared to and actually considered "conductors" of their own special orchestras.
One would never consider world-renown orchestra conductors the likes of Arthur Fiedler, Keith Lockhart, John Williams or Seiji Ozawa to be race directors. However, I would argue that all great race directors could be compared to and actually considered "conductors" of their own special orchestras.
A conductor has the uncanny skill of tying all the parts together to make up the whole. One word truly sums up what he does best – communicates. Without question, communications is perhaps the single most important and critical ingredient that separates a good event from a great event.
Like a conductor, it is necessary for an event director to communicate well in order to create a harmonious event. A director first must communicate their thoughts with regard to what their objectives and goals are. They must communicate effectively with the media, with sponsors, with volunteers and, of course, with the participants.
But first, the director must understand all the communicative tools and skills at their disposal. Below I have listed just a few of the important ones:
TELEPHONE – even in this high tech world, make sure you do not neglect maintaining consistent, verbal dialogue with all the players.
FOLLOW UP – no matter what your choice of communication, never feel like you are insulting someone by following up with all the details.
PUT IT IN WRITING – you never want to get in a situation where two parties are debating what was agreed to…if it is in writing and signed by all parties, confrontation and debate will be kept to a minimum.
INTERNET – the advent of the Internet has given all of us opportunities never ever imagined. Take utmost advantage of it. Whether it is simply using email to communicate or perusing a web site or downloading information from the World Wide Web, having the Internet at our disposal has allow us to do the work of ten people at once.
OPERATIONS MANUAL – this is the "bible" of event directing. I cannnot imagine how any director can "keep it all together" without having produced a handbook with all the event details at their fingertips. Not only is it important for the director to have but it is equally or even more important for all the key committee members to have this important piece in their possession at least one or two weeks before event day.
EVENT DAY COMMUNICATIONS – all the months and months of planning can come apart at the seams if the director is not able to communicate with all the key players on event day. Whether that is done face-to-face, with 2-way radios, cellular phones or by using any other method, do not allow this single aspect ruin all your months of hard work.
One interesting story of how my ability to quickly communicate with my staff on event day helped maintain relations between the United States and Afghanistan.
I was hired as part of Venue Management for all the eight road events at the Atlanta Olympics. The last event of the games was the men’s marathon. We were told that the tunnel leading inside the stadium would be closed 2 and a half hours after the start of the race to set up for closing ceremonies and that if there were any runners still out on the course after that time, we were to direct them to an alternative high school grass field to finish. One runner from Afghanistan was having a lot of physical difficulty and as a result did not make the cut off time. In fact, he was on a 3-½ hour pace. However, I just did not think it was ethical to redirect this poor guy away from the Olympic Stadium into a grass field where there were about ten people and three pigeons waiting for him. After all, by his presence, he was an Olympian representing this small country.
I got on the 2-way radio (communications!) and instructed my team to ignore the order from above, which we were sending this guy into the stadium no matter what. I ran down to the track and begged the band that was there practicing for closing ceremonies to instead play a tune for this last lonely runner. They were psyched to do it. Laborers were busy covering the track with tarp – we asked them to rip up a section so the runner could run down one lane of the track. I immediately looked around for a breaktape. I ripped up some white duct tape that was holding down TV cables. I asked a medical person for a black marker and hurriedly wrote Atlanta ’96 on the tape.
Live television broke in from other programming when they heard about all the commotion at the Olympic Stadium. With not even the slightest hesitancy, we moved the Olympic road cones and redirected the last runner right past security and into the Olympic tunnel. He completed one lap of the track and crossed the finish, breaking the tape I was holding. He collapsed in tears, as did all of us. Later, I noticed that in my haste, I misspelled Atlanta on the breaktape! That night this incident was mentioned on television by the President of the United States as an example of a wonderful PR move by the US with the country of Afghanistan!