40 Step Guide to Running a Live Esports Tournament

This is my full step-by-step guide for hosting a live esports tournament. If you follow this simple process, you will be able to run your own esports tournament without issue.

This article has been tailored for live events. If you are running an online event, I recommend reading “5 Step Guide to Host an Online Esports Tournament” as it removes a large number of steps you can avoid when running an online tournament (each step is basically how I broke down each module).

Quick Introduction:

This content was intended for a full-scale paid course I was building. I decided to stop working on the course, because as you can tell from all the content that there I wanted to include, it became too long and I decided to discontinue it for the time being.

I’ve changed my mentality on the type of products I want to create on Esport How and I’ve very excited for what I have in store because I know it’ll be 10x more valuable (it will likely take at least 2 years to launch considering the scale of that project).

That all said, the steps of the course were intended to be very clear on the direction you need to go and act as a checklist. I’ve included a downloadable checklist on the Esport How Discord server (more information about that directly below).

The course was going to be broken down into 6 modules. The modules are as follows:

  • Module 1 – Introduction (excluded from this article)
  • Module 2 – Understanding Your Goals, Objectives & Parametres (steps 1 and 2, had a lot more steps in the actual course)
  • Module 3 – Building Up Your Tournament Assets (steps 3 to 12)
  • Module 4 – Marketing & Planning (steps 13 to 24)
  • Module 5 – Execution (step 25 to 33)
  • Module 6 – Post-Event (steps 34 to 39)

The course was intended to exclude everything related to sponsorships and streaming your tournament. I have thrown a few nuggets of information related to both, but the course doesn’t dive into how to execute on either of those. For information on getting sponsorships, click here (was also going to a course but also has a massive scale).

With this article, I didn’t want to make it as crazy-long as the course started to get, therefore I will have to exclude a lot of examples and information I was including in the course.

If this article has helped you or if you have questions, please let me know at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com. Also, if you are looking for information on esports as a whole or need assistance running your first tournament, I do consulting as well (just shoot me an email).

Main Resource

This article comes with a complete to-do list with additional information supplement to this article, completely free. That to-do list is meant for you to use for your actual event, built on both Google Sheets and as an Excel file, whatever you prefer (also available in PDF but uneditable).

That will greatly aid you in your attempt of building your tournament and help with documentation for future events. It also contains additional steps not included in this article.

To acquire this free resource, join the Esport How Discord server by clicking here and navigate to the #blog-resources channel. From there, search up the term “Complete Esports Live Tournament Checklist” and download either file. I also put a PDF in case you can’t open the other 2 file types.

If you need help getting it, ask on our Discord’s #help-me channel or send me an email at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com if you aren’t used to using Discord. 

Table of Contents show

How to Run an Esports Tournament

1. Understand Your Tournament Objectives

This is the beginning of Phase 1, “Brainstorming & Project Scope Signoff”, from the resource “Complete Esports Live Tournament Checklist” available on the Esport How Discord server.

What is your reason for running an esports event? What are you hoping to gain? Below is a list of reasons why you may want to run an esports tournament:

  • Financial Reasons
    • Generate revenue
    • Get paid by a company to run the tournament (staff only or for business marketing and led magnet)
    • Build a brand for future revenue
  • Business Reasons
    • Generate new traffic to your products and services
    • Retain and/or re-engage old traffic
  • Career Development Reasons
    • Gain portfolio experience as a leader
    • Gain portfolio experience under a specific skill-set (marketing, sponsorship acquisition, sales, project management)
    • Gain portfolio experience in esports
  • Game Publishers Hosting Tournaments
    • Engage the community and increase the shelf-life of a game
    • Pitch as an exciting event for new traffic
    • Develop a tier-1 scene for future revenue or as a marketing endeavor
  • Additional Services
    • Provide additional value to attendees of an event (eg Canadian International Autoshow convention’s integration of a Forza Tournament)
    • Provide additional learning experiences and recreational opportunities to students (high schools, colleges, after school programs and middle schools)
    • Create a greater selling proposition for your services (Minecraft Code Camp, Library programs with gaming built-in, cultural community packaged services and recreational facilities packaged services

Once you’ve understood why it is you are running a tournament, you can frame everything you do around that.

That is where you can start thinking about your ROI – Return On Investment. Too many new tournament organizers just think of the concept of running a tournament and get overwhelmed by all the things they need to do.

2. Determine What Elements Support the Objective

I’m a major advocate of the Pareto Principle; 80% of the value comes from 20% of the actions. In our context, we want to do the 20% of work that gives you the 80% of value.

For 80% of the most player enjoyment, the work related to ensuring fair play, solid ruleset and good overall player communication is all you need for that 20%. The players don’t care about how nice your stream is and doing small things such as providing food is negligible compared to just having a good and fair tournament to them.

For 80% of the spectator’s enjoyment, the 20% work is related to decorations, functional streams, good seating area, food provided, etc. They don’t care how fair the rules are or how comfortable the chairs are for the players. They may consider small things such as the production quality of the stream but that’s negligible compared to being able to see gameplay.

Now that you know what your business objectives are, decide what is the 20% of the work you’ll do to get 80% of your goal and only focus and incorporate that.

3. Decide the Tournament’s Game, Location and Other Key Elements

Almost all of you reading this aren’t experience tournament organizers or event organizers, you won’t know what you are doing. You will make mistakes, you will get overwhelmed. Why not negate that by doing less.

You can scale up over multiple events but doing too much at the start will result in a terrible event because you may less up on something that falls under the 20% like the actual rulesets for the tournament and hurt that 80% enjoyment while adding small things like freehand sanitizer for players.

Here is a list of elements that I would have broken down further in the course of which you may add to or adjust for your tournament to align with your specific goals:

  • Choosing the Game
    • Financial: Look at the market size and determine in your geographical area what is request yet not served.
    • Business: Survey your customers, see what games they like and use that to both retain current customers and also gain new traffic as they likely also will have the shared interest of your product as your current consumers do.
    • Publisher: Your game you are developing and/or publishing for obvious reasons.
    • Additional Services: Decide games that are open, friendly and acceptable to parents. Fortnite, Minecraft, sports games, Rocket League and racer games are all good ideas.

  • Physical vs Virtual Event (for hosting virtual events, click here for online tournament hosting guide)
    • Financial: Physical pays a lot more per ROI of players and a lot more money from sponsors. Virtual is cheaper, easier and has more reach. For both, either may work depending on your business model and reach.
    • Business: If you are a bricks and mortar, always physically. If you are geographically bounded, physical is better. If you are purely an online business, virtual will provide you best bang for the buck. However, physical will allow you to have a greater conversion which may be good for high-costing products and services. That said, if you are a high-costing product or service you are looking to pitch via a physical event, you are better off sponsoring an established tournament instead of running your own.
    • Publisher: Virtual is always the best option. Physical should only be annual massive events with a lot of the marketing budget invested.  I only recommend this to games with larger player bases and a competitive scene already established.
    • Additional Services: Physical is always better as you can provide a lot more low-costing additional value for the attendees to enjoy more and have a better experience. Virtual works, but nowhere to the scale that physical would.

  • Event Duration
    • Financial: The scale itself won’t affect net profit. Longer events can have higher gross revenue but higher gross cost. Take it on a case-by-case basis.
    • Business: Longer events will allow you to pitch your products and services longer.
    • Publisher: Scale doesn’t matter as much as consistency. If you are going to run a weekly tournament but can only do it for 2 hours, run those instead of an 8-hour event once a month. The goal with these is community engagement primarily and all the community wants to do is play for a chance to win the prize.
    • Additional Services: Longer events are better as it helps shape the experience for players. Longer events, such as 6 to 8 hour events, are more memorable and allow you to provide more value throughout.

  • Event Participant Scale
    • Financial: More players = more money (based on your consumer lifetime value) and larger sponsorship dollars. That said, if you can increase the CLV with fewer players have niching down or tailor certain elements, your better bet is to have fewer players. Most of the time, you’ll benefit from more players
    • Business: You mainly want to reach players that may be receptive to your products and services. We are focused on more similar-minded players or individuals that struggle with the problem your business solves. The general rule, more players is better
    • Publisher: More players are always better in this case. The only exception would be an invitational celebrity tournament for promotional reasons.
    • Additional Services: Fewer players are better to provide a better experience per individual than the group as large. Be mindful that too few players will shrink the duration of the tournament and will impact the overall experience. Find a good rule of thumb for a player amount that is small but not too small (based on the specific game being played) and focus on providing the best experience to them.
  • Streaming
    • Financial: Steaming = more money. Stream ad revenue (slight revenue), online sales if you provide any and most importantly larger sponsorship dollars with decent streaming metrics.
    • Business: Streaming = more reach and engagement. Don’t focus too much on streaming your early events, but worth scaling up to as a medium to further promote your products and services.
    • Publisher: Streaming is always a good idea, but a requirement though and not recommended for your first few tournaments. Once you systemize how you stream, it’ll become a non-issue and something you do for all your tournaments but gain little views (unless the specific tournament is a larger annual/quarterly one).
    • Additional Services: Streaming is a waste of effort unless you are looking to run a viewing party element, but even then you could keep everything LAN for latency.

  • Sponsorships and Partnerships (click here for a guide to sponsorship acquisition)
    • Financial: 100%. Sponsorships makeup 58% of the esports industry’s revenue and even more so for non-tier 1 tournament organizers. Massive amount of money not worth leaving on the table. That said, you want to have experience running a tournament, having metrics and have activation ideas in place for sponsorships.
    • Business: Nope! You can, but why run your own tournament if you will give out your clear path for advertising your own service. If you are considering getting sponsorships, you may as well just sponsor another tournament instead of running your won (the exception would be bricks and mortar but even then you have more reason why to not pursue sponsorship).
    • Publisher: Totally can help cover the costs of these events and scale them up. Even without experience, you likely have systems in place to run a decent initial tournament, therefore it makes sense to even get them for your earliest tournaments.
    • Additional Services: Situational to the type of additional service. Educational will definitely benefit from it, but shouldn’t attempt for the earlier tournaments. Every other option should stray clear until they are comfortable running tournaments and are certain this won’t hinder what they currently do and aren’t an issue for their consumers. Take it on a case-by-case basis, but don’t even consider until you know what you are doing and what’s on the line.

  • Viewing Party Element
    • Financial: Only if you have paid entry for viewing (sometimes known as a venue fee, specifically in FGC). Otherwise, discard.
    • Business: Bricks and mortars should highly consider this but should be careful about how this is executed and not to disturb other shoppers while still taking advantage of the visual effect of showing what you are doing. For the most part, I’d do this in the open, but take it on a case-by-case basis based on your specifics. Other businesses can discard this initially but may consider incorporating it in the future if the ROI makes sense.
    • Publisher: You shouldn’t even be doing live events. Assuming you are, it better be a massive event and in those, you’d be crazy not to incorporate a viewing party element.
    • Additional Services: Situational to what you’re doing, can be a great hook for foot traffic. Take it on a case-by-case basis, but discard for initial events and only incorporate in the future if the ROI makes sense.

  • Quality of Life Elements (food, discounts, personally-assigned computers, medallions, trophies, fake cheque, etc)
    • Financial: Avoid in the early days, but start to add as you scale for better player retainment and increasing the quality of your services (in your case, your tournament is typically your service, at least the one I’m referring to here).
    • Business:  Avoid it unless this is an annual/quarterly event. Typically if are going to go this far, it’s not worth the extra effort. Just focus on using tournaments on bringing people to the end and pitching your actual products and services. We don’t care too much how much the players actually enjoyed the tournament. Don’t lose focus on your actual goal.
    • Publisher: 100%. Everything I said for additional services (which I strangely wrote first for this section) applies to publishers with the exception that you don’t need to start off with these. Remember, consistency is king in your case!
    • Additional Services: 100%. The cost of these items is low and the increased enjoyment for players is crazy. Specifically getting medallions and a trophy. You can get medallions for about $5 to 10 a pop and custom-etched glass trophies (or other various trophy types) for $35 to 70. The feeling players have for winning and seeing them is massively worth it. Below is an image example of some of the trophies designed we used for the Lambton Esports Open (LEO) event.

Above are the sketch-up for the trophies. Below are the trophies irl:

  • Required Manpower and Equipment
    • Financial: The lower, the better. Always take volunteers (where can be done legally) overpaying people unless you need a specific skill or increased professionalism and responsibility. Especially when you start off, almost everything should be volunteer. The more the merrier, but management becomes an issue. Have a core team of no more than 7 people (can be as small as just you).
    • Business: Case-by-case basis, but you should already have staff. For most business-based tournaments, you won’t need any more from 2 to 4 staff on-hand focusing on it. That number will change as you scale up, but for the most part, you don’t need external people unless you need consulting support (feel free to email me at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com).
    • Publisher: Case-by-case basis, everything I said for business applies here as publishers too are businesses in their own right.
    • Additional Services: Case-by-case basis, everything I said for business also applies here.

With that breakdown, you should know have a good idea of what elements you’ll want to incorporate and discard for your tournament.

As you run more and more tournaments, you’ll start to realize you want to incorporate more and more elements. Doing this gradual introduction, even to elements that provide low or negative ROI is much better because using step 32 (Gather Data and Metrics During the Event), you will be able to directly determine the ROI of each newly added element.

4. Build a To-Do List of Your Required Tasks

This is the beginning of Phase 2, “Building Up Your Tournament Assets”, from the resource “Complete Esports Live Tournament Checklist” available on the Esport How Discord server.

I’ve only written 3 steps and we are already 3000 words in, my objective for this article was only suppose to be 6000 words max (with 37 steps remaining) and I even actively avoided explaining each of the elements in-depth in step 3.

Therefore, in the next few step I’m going to skip over a lot of details so I can actually get this done. If there is enough request, I may revisit the article and update it. Let me know via email (uzair.hasan@esporthow.com) or our Discord server if you wanted clarity on anything specific or if certain sections needed a bit more information and with each request that comes in, I will specifically bulk up those answers.

Now, back to the article.

You want to build a to-do list with everything you need to do. Again, I’ve already built you a to-do list as both a Google Sheets and Excel file with all our steps here that you use as your official to-do list or as a template.

To access it, simply go to the Esport How Discord, go to #blog-resources and search up “Complete Esports Tournament Checklist”.

You will want to fill in the empty elements that relate specifically to your project and feel free to add any other aspects.

The reason to use a to-do list is to systemize your hosting. Especially if you are hosting the same event over and over again, the better systems you have in place, the easier it’ll be and the more you can automate or outsource.

You could also make your own to-do list (what’s the point if I’m giving you one for free), and you can follow a more basic look like the image below.

Or you could even run something like a gantt chart. Below is an image of what we were calling a gantt chart (but between you and me, we just wanted to look fancy and made a fancy looking to-do list).

But again, I spent all this time making that to-do list, you may as well use that. Grab the template, modify if needed and begin!

p.s. I made that pretty waterfall since it’s a proven step-by-step system. As you build out more complex tournaments, you want to take a more agile or iterative approach. As a certified agile project manager, I could go into detail on how to do that, but it’ll get too long for this article.

5. Create an Event and Brand Identity

Brand identity is very important if you are looking to run a business off of your TOing. Even if this is a subsection of a larger business, you want branding specifically for your esports-related endeavors.

As per examples of the specifics of creating a logo and examples of other esports logos, check out this article 7 Steps to Making An Esports Logo For Teams, Streams & Orgs.

In short, you will want to consider:

  • Color scheme
  • Logo variations
  • Theme, focus or mascot
  • Design type
  • Symbolism

6. Generate a Finacial Budgeting Sheet

Below is an example of a financial budgeting sheet we used for a live hackathon event.

You’ll want this to ensure you know exactly where all the money is going out and going in. For some of you, your document will be very simple, but you still want it to allow for growth, scaling and to track changes over time.

Documentation will be key throughout this process as you’ll soon learn.

7. Make an Equipment Acquisition List

The same applies to the equipment you’ll need. The required equipment will be based on the objectives you are looking to fulfill for your attendees.

Are you providing gaming stations? Are you running a viewing party element? Will there be food?

Think of the following elements:

  • Gaming Equipment
    • Computers
    • Internet (if brought externally for the event)
    • Mouse
    • Keyboard
    • Headset
    • Microphone
    • Gamer’s Chairs
    • Table
    • Consoles
    • Game Copies
    • Controllers
  • Streaming
    • Streaming PC
    • Microphone
    • Camera
    • Streaming Deck
  • Viewing Party
    • Display
    • Cords
    • Display Computer

That’s just to list a few. I could go on and on with different things you could add onto it, just think it through as if it was any other event.

One thing I’ll add is to have extra stuff on deck. Extra peripherals, extra cords, extra chairs. Extra will save you if you run into trouble.

8. Create a Draft Event Timeline

You want to now envision what elements will take place during your tournament. You want to mold your tournament structure around the time you allotted it, not the other way around. Just know the less time you have for the tournament and the less equipment you have, the fewer games are going to be played (no brainer) which can impact the experience for the player and the ROI for their money and time.

Draft out a block for when the game will be and block off anything else that may occupy the time. Below I have an example where I did that for a real event:

For documentation purposes, I even ended up creating an actual schedule with what really happened. I thought it was worth sharing as well:

9. Secure a Venue

For anyone who already has a venue, you can skip this step.

I could write an entire article on this subject alone (and perhaps I one day will), but in short you need to get a venue. I’ve made so many mistakes with this both in the type of venue and my process of securing it.

One thing I’ll say is to sign a detailed contract. Get a lawyer involved and protect yourself and make things very clear. At least have a very clear and detailed email exchange with a clear statement showing both parties agree to the email.

The more the venue comes with the better. PCs, consoles, tables, chairs, etc.

Also, try to get a venue for free. There is a lot of ways to make that happen, I can’t go into that here as per my limited words and the time I allocated to this, but you should try to land free places before any paid one.

Above are images I took of a VR arcade I was supposed to run a VR tournament for several years back. I never ended up running that tournament due to my inexperience at the time.

Before finalizing the venue, get to see their floor plan, see the venue in person (a must), understand their electrical limitations, cooling limitations (hot pcs = bad. hot gamers = worse), lighting systems. Learn if they have structures to hinder vision and hinder sound. Ask about food, confetti, music. Figure out if cleaning is something they’ll do.

Again, I could write an article on this alone and if you want more info, shoot me an email or mention it on the #blog-article-suggestions on Discord.

10. Investigate Tournament Bracket Building Tool Options

These sites will play a role in the next step and will determine how you proceed on many of the tournament organizing steps.

Basically, there are companies that provide tournament-hosting platforms where they provide you free marketing based on their site’s traffic (it’s usually nothing special unless you have a really large amount of prize money) and provide you tools to allow you to smooth out how you run your own tournament.

They automate a lot of stuff and although they aren’t needed, very handy and I’d almost always use them besides for point-based battle royale tournaments (such as Fortnite and Apex Legends).

Some examples worth investing in are:

There are more but honestly they all do more or less the same. My favorite is Battlefy.com, but the specific platform doesn’t matter. The only real differences is the UIs, their traffic based on specific games and game genres and the nuances of their functionalities.

11. Build Out Your Online Assets

Online assets include your landing page and your website. Those can be one in the same or they could be different. You could have both or just a landing page.

Your landing page would typically be a page that you direct all your traffic from your other promotional means that should provide them all the information about your tournament and a call-to-action for them to be able to signup for your tournament.

Your website is your home base that provides more credibility, tells your consumers who you are and what you are doing.

Your landing page can be tournament-hosting services-based sites as we outlined in step 10.

Your landing page can also be your own website. This is especially helpful if you want to increase your website traffic and use that as a selling proposition to sponsors. This will be a must if you aren’t using a tournament-hosting service.

Even if you are using a tournament hosting service, you can still have your own landing page that will have all the customization you’d want plus track website traffic.

Tracking website traffic directly through your own website will allow you to directly track the ROI of a promotional method to the traffic. There are other means to do that such as tracking links, but having that full control is nice.

You don’t have to have a website at all, but if you are looking to build a business or get sponsors, you’ll really want a site and let it start to rank on search engines for credibility with business relationships and networking.

12. Construct the Tournament Rules

I know this is a massive step for many of the people who are here as business owners or are not too endemic to esports, but hear me out.

I can’t teach you how to write your tournament rules here because that would take too long. Luckily for you, it’s a very common practice in esports to just steal and/or slightly alter another organization’s ruleset.

That said, it’s technically illegal to do that and I’m not promoting you to do that nor am I admitting nor denying that I and colleagues I know do that. I’m simply stating that it is a common practice and you’ll from time to time see people doing that.

And to be fair, regardless of what you do, it’s just a ruleset for a tournament. There are typically standard rules that players expect for most tournaments to run with, so even leveraging another organization’s rulesets could also be interpreted as just following the proper parameters.

That said, what you could do under your own discretion (not legal advice 🙂 ) is steal look at another organization’s rulebook and repurpose take inspiration from their rulings.

I wrote an article on rulings and different tournament formats for Fortnite and League of Legends 1v1, but you can go down this road any way you choose.

That all said, you could write up your own rules with what you see fit. I did that for our PUBG Mobile series as there were no good rulesets for PUBG Mobile duos out. I also have another colleague who had to make his Valorant 1v1 and 2v2 rules from scratch. It’s not impossible to do, but you almost always want to at least cross-reference with other organization’s rulesets when available.

The way to make your own ruleset from scratch without reference notes is to get community input, test it and keep getting input until it feels right. That’s the big issue, if you don’t fully know the game or don’t have accessible means to test it (I don’t recommend testing it at your own live event), it could ruin the experience for your players. Especially if you made some big mistakes and did some looked down upon rulings such as not banning new champions on LoL or using the wrong game mode on Valorant as examples.

13. Make a Communications Plan

This is the beginning of Phase 3, “Marketing & Event Planning”, from the resource “Complete Esports Live Tournament Checklist” available on the Esport How Discord server.

I really really wish I could go into detail with this one but I can’t because of word limitations. I may make a full article for this, we will have to see (let me know if you are interested in it).

Basically, you will want to plan out all your marketing and communication. What will you post on social media and when? What external promotion will you be doing, such as radio, podcasts, in-person promotion, paid promotion, etc?

14. Build Your Marketing Material

Once you know what you are going to post, what you are going say and how/where you will be doing it, start building it out.

Building it all upfront will get it out of the way, leaving it on autopilot and let you focus on working on the tournament itself.

Below are just a few quick examples for events I was a part of running (I just threw a bunch, didn’t pick from my best or worst events. Whatever I could find. If people find this useful, I can actually just make an article and post all my posters as inspiration, let me know via email or Discord):

 

 

 

15. Create Your Event-Communication Platform

This isn’t a necessity but highly recommend it. Create a platform for event communication and that can even be used to communicate before the event.

The most common one would be Discord. A Discord server can act as a good funnel and also be a very streamlined way to communicate with participants during your tournament.

Below is an example of all the channels we used for the event’s message I displayed above (all on Discord).

16. Market Your Event

Start marketing your event! Don’t wait until the last second. Yes, I know you aren’t done doing everything. But you’ve done enough that anything worth marketing is set and you need to get on it asap.

For larger general events, you want anywhere from 1 to 3 months to advertise it. That means without a doubt you’ll be doing work while the promotion is going on.

Don’t wait until everything is done because that’s not only a waste of time but you may end up being unable to advertise for as long as you wanted or needed.

Credit Conference Managers.

Be sure to also continuously track your metrics. Track how many signups you have and have goals at certain times. Esports is known for having most of your signups within the last few days and last week having a large spike of signups, so take that into account, but have goals and make adjustments to your efforts where it seems fit.

If you aren’t getting enough signups to hit your goal, why is that? What can you do to bolster that effort? What if you are getting too much? That isn’t the worst situation to be in, but you could also consider which paid promotion could you terminate to save money.

17. Create Your During-Event Marketing Plan

You’ll also need a marketing plan to be executed during the event itself on your social media to show everyone who didn’t attend the event how amazing it is.

Just have stuff planned beforehand, this doesn’t have to be anything super complicated, and let this stuff run on auto-pilot for the most part during the event.

I blurred the image because the content is irrelevant to the actual step, but the format in terms of how a during-event content plan is the same.

Obviously, images and stuff would have to be from the actual event and cannot be automated beforehand, but do all that you can beforehand. The less work on the day of, the better.

18. Finalize the Tournament-Games Scheduling Sequence and Tournament Structure

This one is a lot of explaining, once again too much for me to do here (I feel like a broken record and only at step 18).

I do have an article on the subject that you will need to read to get an understanding of this. It’s called All Tournament Formats in Esports – Complete Guide.

Now, as per your structuring. Use that methodology from your article to determine how long each game and match will take to make sense of it for your tournament.

In the other article called 5 Step Guide to Host an Online Esports Tournament, I go a lot more in-depth on setting these up (still not as much as I’d like to though). In the near future, I hope to add more content to this part of the article to provide more information on how to put this together for your tournament.

For now, you should be able to figure it out with the resources I linked above. If not, I linked the Esport How Discord, so feel free to ask around and someone would be willing and able to help.

19. Finalize the Event Schedule

Once you know how your durations (step 18), you can plug them into your drafted event planner and make any adjustments to finalize this.

Do you remember the image from the drafted planned image we included earlier in the article? Here is the actual final version of the schedule we created.

20. Construct a Broadcast Schedule

I’m not going to go into the details of how to do this if you are streaming as I’m not mentioning streaming-related stuff here.

That said, too many new TOs that do end up streaming don’t think about creating a broadcast schedule so this step’s purpose is to tell you that you will need to have one.

Include when certain advertisements will be streamed, what will happen during downtime, etc.

21. Construct a Volunteer Management System

If you are getting volunteers, you better have a good system in place to communicate what they need to do, a communication platform during the event and a good way to ensure your volunteers are doing what they need to do when they do them.

There are various ways on getting this done, if you aren’t sure you can find tons of ideas, examples and systems online.

22. Scout for Volunteers

Now you have to scout for those actual volunteers. Ask your friends or your pre-existing community. Do whatever you have to do to find them, but get them ideally for free. I mean, if you have to pay to find free labour, what’s the point.

Considering your event is live, you’d be best off reaching out to contacts through your network and through the network of your colleagues.

I’ve had most success volunteering at other events and networking with their volunteers for my event (which is why I had a Hack the 6ix volunteer post in the step above, I got some of their volunteers to want to volunteer for my own hackathon approaching a few months after).

However, you could take the approach of posting on sites like Hitmarker or eFuse, but don’t expect much success with a live event.

23. Create a Day-of Action Plan and Day-of To-Do List

The name says it all. What will you be doing during your event, step by step, 15 minutes by 15 minutes (could be every 30 min block, doesn’t matter; The point is to have a very precise schedule).

Building out some form of a detailed plan for everyone on the backend (volunteers and organizers) to have is fundamental to ensuring everything goes smoothly and everyone knows exactly what they need to do.

Hack the 6ix had a really good one but I can’t seem to find it anymore :(. I’ve never seen one so detailed out of any of the events I’ve volunteered at, but it was also one of my favorite events to volunteer at due to how well they treated us and how organized they were.

Regardless, here’s another example that will still do this step justice:

Be smart about this and ensure everything has a good balance.

24. Complete a Full-Scale Contingency Planning Process

I wrote a good article called “Top 10 Mistakes New Esports Event Organizers Make When Running Their First Esports Event” and it goes into a bit about the importance of contingency planning.

Basically, grab your team. Grab your event schedule, day-of to-do list and any other lists you have at this point. Go through any and everything within your event, think about what could go wrong and determine how to resolve it.

This is fundamental to any good event, ever. Murphy’s law states what can go wrong, will go wrong. This isn’t more true anywhere in the world as it is for event planning.

Go through each detail, determine if you need backup items, backup servers, backup tournament-hosting service (one time I actually bad Battlefy break down turning a League tournament I was hosting. It was brutal), etc.

The idea here is to be prepared for all that can go wrong. All tournaments and events run into issues. What separates good event organizers from great event organizers is their ability to be prepared when you-know-what hits the fan.

25. Prepare for your Opening and Closing Ceremony

This is the beginning of Phase 4, “Nearing Execution Date Tasks”, from the resource “Complete Esports Live Tournament Checklist” available on the Esport How Discord server.

At this point, the event is starting to come close and all the following steps are things that need to be done specifically as the event date nears.

Opening and closing ceremonies and your introduction and outros to your overall event. Your opening in particular is supposed to be tailored to feel special. Meanwhile, your closing will be special by default due to the fact that you are awarding winners after the final tournament match.

Above was a closing ceremony during another hackathon (you can see be to the left with the matching shirts). As you can tell, hackathons really helped me understand how to run good interactive events for players (or in their case, hackers) off a more experienced industry.

Be sure to know what you will say and practice it to ensure you fit under the time allocations you’ve had set for yourself.

If sponsors are going to be speaking during the opening ceremony, make sure they are time-bounded as per your contract and make it anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on how much you want to provide them.

The last thing people want (and I see this at hackathons all the time) is a 45-minute opening ceremony with 30 minutes is just sponsors pitching themselves.

26. Manage Your Tournament-Management Platform

We are reaching the word cap, bare with me here (5400 and 14 steps left) with the last few steps. I’ll rush through them, they are fairly straightforward anyway. 

Depending on the specific platform you are using (and the contingency platform you should have), ensure all the setting is right, you know how to fully use it and ensure it functions as it should.

To learn about that, each site I listed above have their own set of FAQs and tutorials to watch and read.

27. Create an If-Then Document and Educate Your Staff on the Subject Matter

This one is going to be more advanced knowledge and not something you need-need for your first tournament, but rather something that is really good, looks professional and benefits you as you scale.

Basically, questions will come up along the lines of “My opponent did XYZ” or “The internet turned off and I was about to win with only 2 minutes remaining”. With these questions, a common theme will be there is a gray area.

In an ideal world, your ruleset would cover these, but you likely aren’t going to be a 300-page rulebook and so a bit of unclear information and judgement calls need to come into play.

Above are the rules for a match dispute system I used for one of my online LoL 1v1 tournaments. Basically, a match dispute procedure in your rules will allow you to streamline how issues between play reach the organizers and how the organizers will deal with them.

The issues come from when an admin or volunteer doesn’t know how to respond and he asks another admin or volunteer and this continues where no one has an answer, a bunch of the admin leave their post to discuss this and now a bunch of admins are huddled together to determine how to solve this.

It looks pretty unorganized from the player’s perspective and for the time the admin leave their other responsibilities, it could lead to other issues (and again, just looks bad).

Not to mention that once you come to a verdict, the emotions of players will be taken into account, especially if someone feels like your organization is being prejudiced or biased.

For example, if one of the players was a regular and the other was new. Or if one was a girl and the other a guy. Obviously from a business perspective, you want to keep the regular and you want to please the girl to have a more healthy demographic (which is very beneficial in tournament organizing), but that likely (at least it shouldn’t) play into your decision for the outcome.

High school esports tournament back in my early days.

Now, if you are deciding on the fly, the players don’t actually know and can believe you took that into account, accusing your organization of being biased (hurting a part of the 20% for players that bring 80% of their enjoyment, tournament integrity).

However, if you had some way that you already listed “If XYZ, then ABC”, you are in luck.

Not only can the initial admin or volunteer address the issue on their own without the needing of a full team huddle, but you also have a concrete justification that this is either included into the rules more subtly while also being something as conclusive you have written proof of.

That removes any emotions or biases that could come into play and definitely dispels the notion that you are evoking either.

This is something, again, that you will develop over time and doesn’t have to be made right at the start.

28. Prepare Your Volunteers

Going to rapid-fire the new few, exceeded the word limit!

Show them your day-off to-do list. Assign them specific things to do.

A good practice is to group 1 or 2 volunteers together to give each other company while also ensuring that if 1 of your volunteers is an idiot, at least the other one can take care of it (unless both of them are idiots, in which case I’d ask where you are recruiting your volunteers from).

Answer any question they have and don’t let them feel overwhelmed or nervous. Be sure to also be open to feedback from them before and after the event.

29. Take Care of Your Sponsors at the Live Event

We aren’t into details about sponsorships, but if you have a sponsor, specifically an employee coming to the event, you sure as hell better treat him/her as a king/queen.

That can make or break future agreements, you have no idea. But it just bothers me seeing people just treating their sponsor like another player. That’s a perfect way not to get resigned!

30. Build the Team’s Morale and Ensure Communication During the Event

Avoid letting people be nervous, that’s unproductive. Don’t let people be unexcited, that will spread like a plague to the players.

Get everyone cheery and excited.

Also, ensure everyone knows the importance of communication and have a good communication method and plan in place for the event. Walkie Talkies work exceptionally well for emergencies.

31. Be a Good Leader During the Event

The title says it all. Lead, make quick decisions and need input during situations where you don’t have time to take input from the team.

They are relying on you to carry through.

Above was me actually leading, speaking to our main bracket manager for the SSBU for the exact event whose schedule I’ve already shown above. 

32. Gather Data and Metrics During the Event

Take headcounts, ask questions and take surveys. If you can use QR codes, barcodes or NFC tags to get hard numbers accurately, that’s better. The more data and metrics you have, the better.

33. Run a Consumer-First Model During the Event

Treat the sponsors like kings and treat the players like princes (or the female counterparts, don’t come after me PG police you know what I mean).

Acted as lead organizer for the LC PUBG Mobile tournament in 2019 (closing ceremony photo)

Actually talk with them and have an actual genuine interest in them while actually genuinely wanting them to have a good time.

Too many staff on the floor of events couldn’t care less about the feelings of an attendee and just do their job. That’s the wrong mentality and it rubs off to the players. Yet for some reason so many grassroots and volunteer organizations do this and it bothers me so much!

Like do you want the players to enjoy the event or not? You’ve got this one day for an event, you may as well put 120% and make it special. If you as a leader are reading it, it’s your job to ingrain this in the heads of your volunteers and admins.

34. Provide a Post-Event Survey After the Completion of the Event

The title says it all. Provide a survey and get more feedback. Do a giveaway for 1 random draw winner who fills it out to incentivize people to fill it out. But even with that, at least half won’t fill it out.

If you can get them to do surveys at the event, that’s easier to get more people.

35. Conduct an Event Debrief and Retrospective

This is the beginning of Phase 5, “Post-Event Tasks”, from the resource “Complete Esports Live Tournament Checklist” available on the Esport How Discord server.

At this point, your event should have concluded and you are doing post-event-related tasks (as the name suggests).

Grab your team sit together exactly 1 day after the event and no sooner or later. Too soon and the team will be mad that they had to attend a meeting after the long successful event.

Too late and the team will forget all the things that went wrong and right. Make this an hour-long meeting and go around in a circle. Make people write down their ideas before you guys start sharing so you don’t have 1 person’s insights influence another’s.

36. Generate Social Proof

Retweets, share people’s feedback. A lot I could go in on this, but I’m nearing the end of time.

37. Followup With Sponsors and Players

Send a thank-you email to your sponsor with your current metrics and images and you can also send a thank you email to players.

The above image is a random example and I don’t really like it, but it communicates the point.

If you have yet to send out the prizing for the winning players or reimbursements that were promised, now is the time to do so.

38. Save Any Documentation Created

I know so far you have had many ups and downs during this process and want to take a break for a bit. But taking a break right after the event is a mistake. We want to instead while everything is fresh in your mind, go through and pull all the lists and documents you’ve made and compile them into a complete document.

This will allow anyone else in your organization or even future you to run the event following the same procedure without having to reinvest the wheel. Free free to explain anything that isn’t clear in that document and reference this blog post as a great source of knowledge.

Hopefully, by the time you revisit it, I’ve gotten enough requested upgrades that it becomes 10x more valuable to the next person to read it from your organization.

39. Complete Final Tasks Such as Bills and Legal Obligations

This step is void for whatever final things you have left to do. You likely have several bills to pay off, final metrics to provide sponsors, certain equipment to return and a bit of extra cash to spend on a celebration party.

Be sure to check over your financial sheet to confirm everything was paid off. With any extra leftover cash, be careful of saving a portion of it for taxation.

Speaking of celebrations…

40. Pat Yourself on the Back and Celebrate

Congratulations! You’ve successfully hosted your very own esports tournament! Rinse and repeat the process (which is where your complete document comes into play) to accomplish whatever objectives you like in esports.

As you run new tournaments, be sure to start adding some of the things we mentioned in step 3 that you didn’t have the first time around.

The more you run events, the more experienced you’ll get. When I first rank tournaments, I made my tournament bracket on paint.exe (real example below). To be fair I was a high school student, but hopefully with this guide, you’ll be a lot more clear and a lot more prepared than I to host a successful esports tournament.

Again, if you have any questions, want any updates to this article or want consulting directly from me, feel free to reach out on the Esport How Discord or email me at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com.