By Joann Collins

This Valentine’s Day has us all sentimental and waxing poetic about the many things we love about live events. Last year was full of virtual experiences, and it was great to connect with friends and teammates near and far, but our true love is real, live, in-person events.

Because we are, at heart, events people, we love the little things that most people don’t even notice. So this year, our Valentines go out to:

💘 Well-placed signage. Most people only notice signs when they’re not there, or when they point you in the wrong direction. But we can really appreciate when the perfect direction sign shows up at exactly the moment you need it.

💘 A route with a view. On long-distance endurance events in particular, a beautiful park or a stunning lakefront view that appears over the horizon just as your enthusiasm starts to lag, can make a world of difference. We appreciate a skilled route planner who can make this magic happen.

💘 A playlist that can get you dancing, even after a full day on your feet. The right series of songs can take you on a journey. And if that journey gets you up and dancing, even after you’ve just walked 20 miles or run a 5K—that’s the power of music.

💘 A smooth check-in process. Our inaugural 5x5K FOR GOOD in Denver piloted a new type of contactless check-in that’s perfect for the COVID-compliant era. Each participant gets an individual QR code, a socially-distanced staff member scans it from their phone, and then they’re off and running!

💘 Participant smiles. Nothing warms our heart more than seeing the joy on a participant’s face when they cross the finish line.

💘 Souvenir swag. Each lanyard, pin, wristband, bib and T-shirt tells a story. Every little piece of souvenir swag we have stored in a closet shoebox brings back memories of an amazing event.

💘 Texting technology taking things to the next level. 2020 saw us expanding our use of text messaging in all kinds of different directions. When we couldn’t hold the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in person, we used Hustle to connect with participants and have personal one-on-one conversations with them via text. On the 5x5K FOR GOOD, we delivered turn-by-turn course directions to the participants’ phones via text and the RunGo app.

💘 Meaningful moments. It can be a moving speech, or as simple as a sign that says, “For Mom.” When we hear a participant’s story of why they are committed to a cause, and what it means to them personally, it reminds us why we do what we do.

We’re looking forward to bringing live events safely back in 2021. Like the 5x5K FOR GOOD Dallas, Florida AIDS Walk, and the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. Who or what do you send your Valentines out to this year?

A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Southern California, Joann Buckley Collins has been writing and implementing communication strategies for nonprofits for more than 20 years. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons, and a mischievous cat. You can find Joann on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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