7 Simple Steps to Improve Your Work Output with Activity

Are you feeling overwhelmed with stress, lacking in energy and struggling to focus and be productive? Are you finding it hard to get quality sleep?

Perhaps you think “I’m not athletic, exercise is not for me” or “I’ve tried it before and couldn’t do it”. Maybe you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable or don’t know where to start.

There is a huge amount of evidence suggesting that incorporating activity into your lifestyle can help address all of the above issues and deliver numerous other benefits. I have purposely used the term activity rather than exercise. You don’t need to be an athlete and it can be as simple as going for a walk or taking the stairs to the office instead of the elevator.

Below I have outlined 7 easy steps that I am confident can help anyone incorporate regular activity into their lifestyle.

7 Steps to a Healthier and More Productive Life

1.  Keep it simple

Make it as easy as possible. Choose an activity that doesn’t require investment in expensive equipment and lessons, e.g. you may think that cycling is your thing so be sure that you have the budget for a bike, helmet, gear and accessories as well as the time to go and buy it, get it fitted and serviced.

Likewise give some thought to where you will do your activity. Close to home or the office is perfect. As soon as you start having to travel to get there you can be sure things will get in the way and it will slide.

2.  Get a check-up and advice

Before you start, especially if you have been inactive for a while, it makes great sense to get a check-up from your doctor.

Then ask for advice to help you get started. That may be paid for support such as a personal trainer or coach but it doesn’t have to be. Check in with your friends and work mates who do similar exercise and of course use the internet.

3.  Find a partner or accountability buddy

Research has shown that most people like to do activities and exercise with others. It adds to the enjoyment but also helps keep you committed. When I was at university I used to race on the track and I had a training partner. Each day we would alternate the start of our morning run between his place and mine. Needless to say, we hardly ever missed a run and we helped each other through the inevitable hard days.

So, find yourself a partner or partners and commit to doing activity together. It is a great way to spend time with your life partner and family or perhaps you prefer to do it with a friend or work mate. Be sure to consider ease of meeting with them.

4.  Set a realistic goal

It can be as simple as “for the next three months, I’m going to walk for half an hour three times a week”. I always find that setting a target to participate in an event is a great motivator. If that’s your plan be sure to sign up as soon as you set the goal. I’m currently training for a cycling event in September.

5.  Schedule it

Block the time that you have committed to in your diary as non-negotiable. Make the commitment that only an emergency can over-ride it. Be sure to set a realistic time, e.g. if you are not a morning person perhaps it’s better to schedule it at night. I personally find that mornings are the best. It’s a great way to start the day and there is far less chance of it being bumped by the events of the day.

6.  Share it

Your training partner should help keep you accountable but there is nothing better than sharing your commitment with your friends and colleagues to help keep you going. Not only will they help keep you honest but you may be surprised at the huge amount of support and encouragement that you will receive.

7.  Reward yourself

Reward yourself along the way and also once you have achieved your goal. Part of my routine is cycling three or four mornings a week. I’m extremely fortunate to live in Bali where I have stunning rides through the rice fields and villages. I love the reward of finishing at my favourite cafe for coffee and sometimes breakfast.

As you can see the steps are simple and it can cost very little. The key is recognising the benefits and making the decision.

Are you prepared to step up and make the commitment to improve your personal wellbeing and work productivity? Start small and simple and build momentum over time. I’m certain you will not regret it.

Managing a Postponed or Cancelled Event: A Seven-Step Framework

During my 32 years in the mass participation industry, I have been involved with numerous event postponements and cancellations with many more close calls.

It is often challenging and each time there are key learnings that can be applied to future events. As with success in all aspects of a mass participation event, it essentially boils down to good planning.

My recommendation is that every time you plan an event, your contingency plan should address potential cancellation or postponement. The mistake that people often make is to focus their plan on event day cancellation but the reality is that you may be forced to postpone or cancel an event weeks or even months before it takes place.

Over the years, I have had to deal with actual and near cancellations or postponements for a myriad of reasons including the death of a participant, huge storms, haze, collapse of a major highway and even political demonstrations to name a few.

More recently in October, out of respect for the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, I made the decision to postpone the Mass Participation Asia conference originally scheduled for Bangkok in late November.
The conference has now been rescheduled for 3 and 4 of April 2017 at the Centara Grand in Bangkok. Managing the postponement helped reinforce a seven-step framework that I have successfully used many times in similar situations

1. Pause
In my opinion, the power of pausing cannot be overstated. Under pressure, it can be easy to rush into action and make decisions without all the facts. Ensure that you take a few minutes, hours or even days before making an informed and considered decision.

2. Evaluate
Together with your core or crisis team, gather as much information as possible and evaluate it, ideally against your existing contingency and crisis plan if you have one, before making a provisional decision and action plan.

3. Engage
Engage with key stakeholders, share your proposed course of action with them and seek their feedback. For example, in the case of MPA in Bangkok, this included Thai government officials, our event partner in Bangkok, sponsors, key speakers, staff and the venue.

Confidentiality is crucial at this stage if you are to manage the communication process effectively. Sometimes, you may be in the awkward position of deciding not to consult with a particular partner if you have concerns that they may leak the decision before you officially announce it. On occasion, the process may be more on a basis of ‘for your information rather than in consultation.

For example, “I wanted to let you know before making the public announcement that as a result of the impending cyclone we have decided, as per the contingency plan, to postpone the event”.

4. Re-Evaluate
Revisit your plan and be prepared to reconsider or tweak your initial decision based on feedback and impact on your key stakeholders or participants that you may not have initially considered.

Be confident in your decision and be conscious of the potential impact of politics from the usually multiple stakeholders.

5. Communicate
Once the final decision has been made, develop a very clear communication plan to be used across multiple channels including social, digital and mainstream media. Ensure that staff and stakeholders are fully briefed and that there are written answers to likely frequently asked questions. It is important to be clear on who will be the key spokesperson in the event of media enquiries.

6. Monitor
Once the decision has been announced, be sure to monitor the reaction from participants and public across all channels and be prepared to respond appropriately where necessary in a timely manner.

7. Review
At an appropriate time, conduct a formal review of the process and document any key learnings and recommended changes. Even though the cause of the next cancellation or postponement may be completely different, you can be certain that the learnings will be invaluable.

The seven-step framework is also covered in detail in my book Mass Participation Sports Events available HERE.

7 Considerations for Working with a Mentor

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and lonely in your business and wished that you had someone to turn to for advice and support?

In April one of my brightest guiding lights went out when my 92 year old Uncle Gordon passed away. It made me realise how fortunate I had been to have him as a mentor and role model since the age of 17. He literally changed my life when he persuaded me to continue with my education rather than leave school to take up an apprenticeship. His advice and guidance was invaluable as I built my businesses and grew as a person.

Then a few weeks ago I was talking with a friend who runs her own business and was surprised to discover that she did not have a mentor. She seemed unsure of why someone would want to mentor her and how to go about finding and working with a mentor.

Most successful people, even the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson, have mentors that they work with on a regular basis. I believe that mentors are a critical element of both personal and business success.

Below I have outlined 7 key considerations for a successful mentoring partnership

1. Be clear on your objectives
It is important to be clear on the areas where you are looking for advice and guidance. It may be simply to bounce off ideas and solve problems or it may be more specific eg marketing advice or scaling your business. Don’t overlook the value of mentors to support your personal development as well as your professional journey.

2. Step up with confidence
My friend didn’t think anyone would want to mentor her and also expected that she would need to pay for it. The reality is that there are many successful people from all areas of business that get great pleasure in giving some of their time to help others to learn and succeed. So be bold and ask someone you respect or admire. Perhaps start with your network or maybe even a former boss.

Also if for some reason it is not working as expected don’t be shy to re-evaluate and move on if necessary.

3. Set clear expectations from the start
Have a clear understanding of the time and structure of your interactions. I have a number of mentors for different areas of my life and business. Some of them are structured such as fortnightly or monthly calls or meetings and others are more informal and ad hoc on an “as needs” basis. The key is that I have had a discussion with each mentor to ensure that we are on the same page with regard to both time commitment and accessibility.

4. Pick someone who is going to challenge you
It may be great to get positive feedback and have someone to agree with your ideas but you will almost certainly benefit more from someone who is prepared to ask you the hard questions and keep you accountable. On the flip side, have the courage of your convictions to question their suggestions and recommendations yourself where appropriate.

5. Turn up fully every time
Prepare for every session and be clear what you are wanting to achieve. When necessary forward information in advance to your mentor and if you commit to doing something stick to your commitment. If there is nothing of significance to discuss in a planned session cancel it or postpone it rather than waste your mentors time.

6. They are not your agony aunt
Whilst there will no doubt be times, especially as the relationship evolves, where you may feel comfortable sharing your woes be sure that your mentor does not end up feeling like your counsellor.

7. Show appreciation
It should be obvious. An email or sms thank you from time to time, a dinner, lunch or small gift and keeping a look out for a referral that may benefit your mentor will surely help to strengthen the partnership.

Hopefully you are already working with a mentor and this article may serve as a prompt to take a step back and evaluate whether you are both getting the most out of the partnership. Maybe there are ways that it can be further enhanced.

If not, perhaps it’s time to outline a set of objectives, identify a short list of potential mentors and approach them with confidence.

Either way, it has the potential to enhance both your business and personal development to help take you to the next level.

The Power of Mass Participation Events as a Fundraising Vehicle

Mass participation events have long been used as a vehicle to raise massive amounts of money and awareness for a multitude of charities across the globe.

Many events such as the hugely successful Mother’s Day Classic in Australia and the Cancer Society’s Walk for a Cure have been specifically created and owned by charities. Some of the most iconic events, such as the London, New York and Chicago Marathons, include a strong charity component.

In the case of London, which is massively oversubscribed, charities pay the organisers a premium for race entries that they then onsell to participants who have missed out. Participants must commit to raising a minimum amount of funds for the charity. This has helped the event raise over 450 million pounds. There are some similar interesting insights into Chicago and New York City Marathons shared in this article.

As the industry continues to evolve, it creates interesting opportunities as well as challenges for fundraising.

I am sure there is hardly a week that passes for most of us without receiving shares and requests for fundraising support from our network across various social media platforms. The amplification of a cause or event can be massive compared to the pre-social media days and statistics seem to indicate that total contributions have increased significantly in recent years.

It’s not only the ability to create engagement and awareness that has changed but also the ease of making a contribution. The industry has spawned the growth of platforms such as Everyday Hero and Give Asia which make is easy for participants to set up their own fundraising pages and for supporters to make a contribution at the click of a mouse.

Long gone are the days of walking around the office or suburb haranguing friends and colleagues to sponsor you or spamming them with emails. In addition, the power of social media spreads the message and pool of potential donors on a global scale.

On the flip side, charities are facing a number of new challenges:
The sheer number of events and varied options for consumers with the growth in triathlons and cycling and new concepts such as Tough Mudder, Spartan, Color Run, Music Run and host of hardcore endurance events mean that competition for the fundraising dollar, participants and event dates are getting more intense. Some of the original charity events, particularly walks, have experienced declining numbers and in some cases disappeared completely.

Increased scrutiny from government regulators also creates challenges both with regard to how events can be structured as well as the time and resources that need to be allocated to compliance. For example, in Singapore, the 30:70 rule means that the cost of fundraising must not exceed 30% of the funds raised.

In Asia, the massive growth in mass participation events has spawned a number of charity events and the inclusion of a giving component into many existing events. The reality is that the dynamics can be quite different to other parts of the world. In some cultures, raising money for charity through events is not universally embraced. For example, a few years ago on the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, we decided to use the ekiden team relay component to drive fundraising.

The 300 teams usually sold out within a matter of days. We required teams of six to make a minimum donation of $500 to a charity of their choice to qualify for an entry. There was significant backlash on social media and we ultimately only sold 230 teams.

Accountability is also a key question that is asked by both individual and corporate contributors as well as events that are looking to partner with a charity. Is the cause we are supporting worthwhile? Do they do good work? How will contributions be utilised? How do we communicate the impact that each participant will be making? With a number of high profile cases of misappropriated funds, donors in some countries are now more cautious.

An interesting, relatively new entrant to the giving space, is an amazing organization called Buy1GIVE1 (B1G1). The core concept being that for every transaction, businesses or events can create a “Giving Impact”. So it’s not about the amount of money raised but the number of impacts created. For example, an event may decide that for every participant that enters they will give drinking water to a family in Ethiopia or the gift of sight to a person in Bali or a school uniform to a child in India.

All charities are meticulously screened and the process of selecting a beneficiary from hundreds of charities across the globe is as simple as a few clicks of a mouse. B1G1 is a matter of weeks away from making its one hundred millionth giving impact.

At the upcoming Mass Participation Asia conference, we have decided to partner with B1G1 to create giving impacts from each registration to benefit villagers in Tigray, Ethiopia to access clean, disease-free water. The impact of such an essential human necessity will reduce their average daily water collection time, reduce child mortality rates and allows children to receive a proper education instead of spending their time collecting water.

Why Ethiopia? Working with B1G1, we have identified WellWishers Trust as the beneficiary because water is such an important element in any mass participation event and the fact that Ethiopia has produced so many top athletes made it an obvious choice.

If you have a story about fundraising and mass participation events, or why and how you picked a charity of choice, I would love to start a conversation by commenting below.

We are in the final stages of assembling an exceptional panel of speakers, which will also include those in the fundraising space, for the second edition of the conference in Bangkok on 29/30 November. Information and super early bird tickets available at http://massparticipationasia.com/

If you can’t make it to the conference but would still like to contribute towards the cause we are supporting, you are welcome to make a donation here: https://www.b1g1.com/projectdetail/285

Permit Denied

Approval to stage an event is one of the key assets of any rights holder/event owner and the refusal of a permit creates significant risks for multiple parties including not only the rights holder but also sponsors and of course participants.

From discussions with many event organisers and my personal experience, it seems that generally permits are getting harder to obtain and in many cities, more permits are required than in the past. This seems to be the combination of increased demand on venues from mass participation sports events and other community events together with increasingly stringent regulations from authorities.

Approval processes seem to vary hugely from country to country and often within cities and towns in the same country. Whilst many cities embrace mass participation events and recognise the value that they bring both in terms of economic impact and community engagement, feedback seems to suggest that many still see them as an annoyance and accordingly are in no hurry to facilitate the approval process.

One of the most common industry complaints I hear is the time it takes for formal approval and a lack of clarity with regard to exactly what is required to get final sign off. In many cities, the actual permit is not issued until a few weeks or days before the event. I have personally experienced a number of nerve-wracking occasions in Asia where the formal permit has only been provided the day before the event. An unfortunate by-product of this kind of situation is the unwanted distraction and crucial time wasted in the final event implementation stage.

A fantastic example of a city that has clear guidelines and processes in place and takes a collaborative approach to the permit process is Sydney. A legacy of the hugely successful 2000 Olympics was the continuation of the Central Sydney Operations Group (CSOG) which was initially formed to facilitate inter-agency collaboration. CSOG meets on a monthly basis and events have the opportunity to present their initial plans to all major government agencies and key city stakeholders such as the Opera House in one room. My experience over many years was a spirit of cooperation and collaboration whereby those present would help identify potential issues and work together to find practical solutions to help facilitate the approval process.

Whilst many event focused cities around the world have a similar “one-stop shop” model my sense is that the majority have a more ad-hoc approach meaning that applicants have to “do the rounds” from agency to agency. Sometimes, especially in developing markets, the requirements and guidelines are unclear and seem to vary from event to event.

Sometimes a global, regional or local event may add another layer to the permit process such as the unfortunate impact of a tragic accident at a dance party in Taiwan where coloured dye ignited and 15 people died. The knock-on impact meant that IMG were forced to cancel or postpone a number of their Color Run events in Asia and had to go through a rigorous testing and permit process before resuming.

At the upcoming Mass Participation Asia conference in Bangkok on 3 and 4 April we are delighted to have Jack Caress, CEO of Pacific Sports in the USA, joining us to discuss “The Biggest and Least Talked about Secret of the Mass Participation Industry – Permits”.

I recently spoke to Jack and he shared a number of thought provoking questions and observations.

Aside from some of the points that I have already made, Jack highlights a potential challenge for even long established events. “Events that have had a long history at a site can be susceptible to new requirements for fees, insurance, and sponsor restrictions which can sometimes have a significant impact on commercial viability.”

With a charity angle to many events and in a world where there seems to be a growing desire for people to create a giving impact, Jack poses an interesting question: “Is there an advantage in your markets for the not-for-profit or charitable cause events over those that are for-profit? Are the permits different?.”

Whilst the focus of permits is often related to those issued by government or city authorities an area that is equally important is that of the host venue. Jack believes that “Increasingly, there are opportunities for creative long-term strategies or approaches to venue permits that help to secure the value of event properties.”

With the pace of industry consolidation seemingly gathering momentum, the importance of permits highlights the key dimension of their intrinsic balance sheet value in addition to the already crucial annual approval.

It would seem that the best outcomes for a more streamlined and cohesive approvals process are likely to be achieved by collaboration between the industry and various government agencies to help facilitate a “one stop approach” wherever possible.

For more details on how to hear Jack Caress and an exciting line up of almost 50 speakers at Mass Participation Asia 2017, visit http://www.massparticipationasia.com.

What the Participants Told Us

One key to success in any business is the ability to listen to your customers.

Listening to participants was one of the central themes in an interesting article by Diccon Loy titled ‘Participation Innovation’ that I shared last week.
A great example of listening to participants and turning an industry model on its head recently took place in the race photography sector.

For a long time, participants have complained that official photos are too expensive and take too long to be available. To be fair, the industry has evolved tremendously. I remember moonlighting for one of the early players in Australia, who weeks after an event, used to mail out thousands of prints to participants on a sale or return basis. The process was hugely labour intensive and costly – hence the end price to the consumer was not cheap.

With the advent of digital technology and especially digital recognition combined with some fantastic innovation, key suppliers such as Marathon Photos from New Zealand make photos as well as short videos available within a few hours of the race but still at a relatively expensive price point. I have sometimes wondered, albeit with no clear understanding of the business model and the significant costs of software development, if the sector may have perhaps missed a trick in the digital era by not reducing pricing in exchange for volume.

Combining the consumer feedback with the desire for sponsors to engage in meaningful ways with participants and the massive power of social sharing, Pic2Go, an Israeli company that appears to be rapidly spreading across the globe have significantly disrupted the industry by creating an automated race photo sharing technology and a model whereby participants get the photos for free.

I recently spoke to Pic2Go’s CEO, Eitan Hefetz.

“Instead of the traditional race photo model, I believe race organizers should offer their participants the level of service they expect to get these days – sharing their race photos, fast and free”.

“By adding sponsor branding (to the photos) and allowing almost-instant uploads to social media, events can generate hundreds of thousands of organic impressions within 24 hours after the race, and a massive social engagement around the photos. This also provides full visibility on the generated impact and easy ROI measuring which sponsors can look forward to”.

The traditional business model generally benefits both the supplier and the event with the rights holder being paid either an up-front fee or royalty on each photo sold or sometimes a combination of both. With the Pic2Go model, the opportunity can be sold to sponsors as part of their core investment or potentially allocated to their activation budget. The costs can even be absorbed by the race organiser. Other suppliers have now also developed a similar sponsor integration model.

The Pic2Go example is one of many where mass participation sports have evolved tremendously in today͛s digital age. Participants are more aware than ever thanks to the internet, social media and informative wearables, events are embracing technology such as live mapping and major global brands in the technology space such as TCS and HERE Maps are partnering with events.

Innovation continues to happen on a daily basis and I am personally very excited for what the next ten years and beyond could bring – whether it is a new event concept, an app or technology that would turn the industry on its head or something as simple as a design tweak that could save events hundreds of thousands of dollars or man hours.

The Pic2Go technology was on display as part Mass Participation Asia (MPA) conference 2017 where Eitan had also presented on the opportunities of combining the participants’ desire to share their race experience with technology for a more effective and engaging sponsorship.