This was my first experience leading side events, and I was possibly excessively nervous going into it. While I was far from perfect in my role, I feel I came away with some good tips and suggestions to share with anyone interested in tackling leading Sides in the future.
Tip #1 – Come in with a plan, but be flexible
Prior to this event, I was contacted by Riki Hayashi with some information on the side events lead role. Within his message to the sides leads for the invitational weekend was a goal to have each scheduled event finish before the next event of the same format begun, so that players could jump into the next event if they wanted to. The scheduled side events for Saturday were:
11:00 – Modern Challenge
11:00 – Sealed Spectacular
12:00 – Legacy Challenge
13:00 – Standard Challenge
14:00 – Two-Headed Giant Sealed Spectacular
15:00 – Modern Challenge
16:00 – Legacy Challenge
17:00 – Standard Challenge
While some may believe the plan I prepared to be overboard, I wanted to spend ample time preparing a plan that I felt would give the greatest chance for meeting the stated goal. The idea was that by ensuring that every scheduled event had a judge assigned as the primary resource and that no judge had to juggle more than 2 events, the goal would be easier to attain while still ensuring ODEs were constantly covered. I additionally challenged myself to make a schedule where no judge would have to be the primary judge for the same format more than once.
Note that time blocks where the primary judge for an event was supposed to be on break, another judge was assigned to help manage their event. This schedule functioned almost without modification; though ultimately Spencer and I ended up swapping the 11:00 Sealed and the 13:00 Standard events after the latter got going due to the situation covered by my next point. The swap was absolutely the right decision based on how things were working out logistically, and holding to the original plan without compromise would have been a major mistake. While it is good to have a plan, it is even better to be open and able to adjust that plan when it is clear another approach is superior.
Tip #2 – Be unbreakable
No, I am not suggesting one requires diamond resolve or titanium fortitude to succeed here. What I am suggesting is that it is not a good idea to split your events across a large physical gap. The way the room had been laid out, the Open was on the “front” side of the stage and the invitational was behind the stage in the far corner of the room. There was a large contiguous set of tables behind the stage that could be used for sides, but there was also a column of tables that would be mostly unoccupied in front of the stage from the Open. My initial plan was to set aside a block of tables behind the stage for ODEs and then start the first scheduled side where that block ended, extending for each subsequent scheduled event from there. This would have ended up organizing the sides area as:
Continuing from there with subsequent events possibly filling in where earlier ones had finished, space permitting. This would’ve allowed all four sides judges (or three when one was on break) to cover the floor for all active side events, only having a problem with coverage in the perfect storm scenario of every judge rolling a new scheduled round and the ODE judge also gathering up another draft.
At the beginning of the day I had a conversation with Patrick Vorbroker about where to put sides for the day. It was suggested to me that it would be nice if we could use the column of tables next to the Open to keep the players closer to that event and not have large gaps of empty table between the Open, sides, and the Invitational. I folded to that suggestion without asserting with confidence why my original plan had value. Do not do this, and do not split your events, as the result was:
Which not only left ODEs stranded at the end of the day, but also split judges 2 and 2 across either side of the stage for a significant portion of the day, breaking up our team and hindering our ability to leverage all of our resources for better floor coverage. This, coupled with some other circumstances, resulted in some calls taking quite a long time to get a judge on them for events on the back side of the stage.
Tip #3 – Two-Heads require more preparation
I had put myself as the primary judge on the Two-Headed Giant Sealed event, and this one got off to a rocky start. The table numbers in the area we wanted to use were still spaced one per table, and this had to be brought to my attention by event staff as I had not even been thinking about it prior to the event starting. As we were using WERSE for this event, matches would be seated with teams per table rather than individual players per table. This coupled with some issues with actually getting the correct starting table number and not having the product prepped resulted in a late start for the event. Additionally, the printout for seating for construction had players on the same team sitting across from each other, a fact I was unaware of when those seatings got posted. This meant table numbers for construction would have to be spaced differently than table numbers for matches. We ended up just having the players sit wherever and start construction before we had all of the table numbers figured out in order to get the event moving.
Remember when you have a Two-Headed Giant Sealed event you need to account for these possibilities. Figure out how players are going to be seated for construction, and also how matches are going to be seated, and get your area for that event prepared accordingly. Maybe you will have to adjust the table numbers during construction, prior to the matches starting, but as players have an hour for construction that should be plenty of time to accomplish that.
Tip #4 – Don’t Panic!
Not much more to say on this point. Sometimes things are not going to go according to plan. Sometimes things are not going to go as well as you would have liked. It is important, especially when you’re in the team lead role, to keep your composure and try to find solutions where you can. You may encounter, as I did, that you appear to be managing everything fine up until the point where you do not even have the bandwidth to request help because that would delay time-sensitive tasks getting done and you’ve already delegated tasks to everyone else. Take a deep breath, get your tasks done, and then consider if the situation you were just in is likely to come up again. If it is, think about requesting another resource to at least be on hand for those crunch times.
Finally, try not to stress or fuss too much the night before leading sides. If you’ve done your preparation work and you make an effort to stay on top of things, you will do just fine.