Using Trello as a GP Public Event Manager (PEM)

Written by Jeremie Granat

Written by Jeremie Granat

Magic has seen a constant growth of players attending GPs. To offer a better play experience to the growing crowd, last-chance Grand Prix Trials on Fridays have been streamlined to start as often and as quickly as possible. Public-event tournaments are becoming more numerous and bigger as well. It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage event size and complexity and keep a comprehensive overview of who is doing what and when. The public event manager cannot do everything by himself and needs to share information with others to delegate tasks, which is itself problematic.

The tasks of a Public Event Manager (PEM) differ a lot between days of a GP. On Friday, the biggest task is handling the On-Demand Grand Prix Trials. On Saturday, the most important task is finding the space to handle the different tournaments as well as staffing them. On Sunday, the bulk of the staff is in the PEM’s hands. On each day, the PEM will need to staff the different tournaments depending on attendance, make sure the head judge of each tournament is on time and gives their team regular breaks, handle happy hour in the on-demand section and place the different tournaments in such a way that the break-down crew can start dismantling the venue early. Of course, the PEM is not alone and can delegate some of the tasks to someone else (the PM shift leader when on duty or other “captains” responsible for different management aspects).

The first few times I was put in this role, I had a few sheets of paper allowing me to keep an overview of who was where, who had been sent on break and which tournament was at what table and in what round. Most of the time, the papers were obsolete as soon as I made a new version and it was very difficult working with someone else on it as we could not duplicate the documents without wasting too much time syncing our copies.


Going Digital

At GP Paris 2015, I asked the TO (Bazaar of Moxen) if I could try a new management tool to  track everything and everyone. It’s always a good idea to ask the TO and/or the Head Judge if they are okay with trying something new, as they are ultimately responsible for the whole event.

The tool is named Trello, a Web interface with an app for easier access on mobile devices and is used in iterative computer science projects. The basic tools are Boards (like a blackboard), lists (columns) and Cards (analog to post-its). The application allows multiple users to edit the boards at the same time and sync the different opened views. It is also easy to drag-and-drop cards to change lists (horizontal shift) or the order of the cards in a list (vertical shift). Lists themselves can also be reordered through drag-and-drop. The cards themselves can have rich text comments, pictures and checklists as well as labels or “tags” (small colored ribbons).

A few weeks before the event, I created a Trello board with each judge being a card and each tournament being a list as well as a few “internal” lists (ex.: available judges). The tournament lists had cards at the top to allow me to add starting table, number of players / rounds and other information. On top of that each judge had a tag to tell me their shift and a checklist allowing me to easily see if the judge had taken their breaks yet.


Some Example Boards

Sunday Board – Click for an Example

Here is a fictional Board from GP Paris Sunday. From this screenshot, the following information can be read:

  • Some of the judges have not arrived yet (Available Judges)
  • Who do I need to release when (shifts are in color and beside the name)
  • Who is on break in each tournament (all judges below the card “Break”)
  • When does each tournament start as well as the starting table number and the number of players
  • Who is the HJ (first judge card in each tournament)
  • How many of their 2 breaks (early and late) they have taken

Sunday Board


Friday Board – Click for an Example

A Friday Board would look different from a Sunday board mostly because the number of on-demand events is a lot bigger and the events require a lot more judges. The board will also change drastically depending on the Friday organization. A Friday with a dedicated staff for each trial will not have the same needs as a Friday where everything is centralized, for example. For GP Lille, we used a system where the Top 4 Area had a dedicated space overseen by its own staff and each judge had a set of tables to administer. Depending on the number of events fired, each judge could then have up to 2 tournaments at the same time in the morning. As more judges come in, early shift judges were sent on break and more judge were sent on the floor to take over a tournament. Friday doesn’t really need a list for each tournament and the breaks were handled in a dedicated list. The judges just reported to the PEM to be assigned a new job when they were was back from break.

Here is the Board for GP Lille Friday. From this screenshot, the following information can be read:

  • Who is available / Not on shift yet
  • Who do I need to release when (shifts are in color)
  • Who is on break in each tournament (again done using a checklist)
  • Who is on Deck Check (we had a dedicated DC team)
  • Which Judge is at what table handling which tournament (ex. : Jack Doyle is at table 101 and the HJ of GPT 30)
  • Which tournament is in the top4 Area
  • If the tournaments are kept in ascending order, it is possible to know which one are done (ex. : Trial 1-15 as well as 17 and 18 are done)

Friday Board


Lessons learned

We quickly found out that Trello works best if all managers are able to somehow connect to the internet. The TO allowed us to use their Wifi to connect to the boards and manage everything. This is not always available by default and needs to be discussed with the TO as part of the preparation for the tournament.

The Trello Board for a whole day can have 20-30 lists and it is very difficult to have a real overview using a normal phone (ex.: 5-inch and smaller). I tried using a 7-inch tablet and was able to quickly grasp what was going on as I was seeing 4-5 lists at once instead of 2-3. I would recommend 7-inch tablet minimum with 10-inch tablets a preferred choice for the PEM.

Take a battery pack! The tablet is always on as you need to shift judges around all the time and use the board for administration and to show people around you the current status of the public events. Having a battery with a 2A output connected to the tablet all the time enabled me to work without worry of emergency shutdown.

It can be very difficult to learn Trello on the floor so it is important for every manager using Trello to familiarize themselves before their event starts. The tool allows multiple users to make changes in the same board so different managers can focus on different parts of the tournament. The PEM sees an overview of every change. 

Do not share the boards with too many managers, or only give a few managers the rights to change things. It can be very confusing when too many things change at the same time. Captains should know what area they are in charge of and not meddle in the other areas.

Like any new toy, people tend to do too much with it. Having too much information on one board can make it hard to read and manage.You will have to change things on your board all the time to keep up with changes. The more you focus on the management part, the less time you have to actually do something.



We are far from finished learning how to properly use Trello and are still in the process of really taking advantage of it! Some of the boards I’ve used were suboptimal and became chaotic very quickly. We’ve created a PEM project to improve the use of Trello at large events to operate faster and better than with pen and paper. Even if we are still in the discovery phase right now and trying to find the limit of the tool, I think it works really well for our current needs.



I’d like to thank Bazaar of Moxen and especially Kevin Desprez for supporting the development of this tool at GP Paris. The Bazaar of Moxen organization was very supportive and helpful, going so far as to install the needed application on all the Android devices handed out to key judges for the duration of the event. We’re especially thankful for their willingness to tolerate complications during testing and to help advance the process.