Hello. I was reading your blog and noticed that only 10 people have registered for the TNT event so far, and that you would like input from the readers, even if we don’t have all the answers either. Here are some of my thoughts.
The target audience for the event is: beginning chess players who don’t know their openings yet. Some of your marketing is directed to non-beginners who have already joined USCF. I don’t think it is necessary to require people to be a member of USCF to attend chess training. A non-rated tournament might attract more beginners. Dave Kuhns (from Minnesota) has had success organizing a team chess league without requiring USCF membership or rating any of the games. There is a lot of pressure in knowing that if you lose a game, you will also lose rating points. You could offer the option of playing non-rated games, and see if more people are willing to make a commitment to come.
Most of us know who Neil Diamond is. A lot of people may not know who Andrew Martin is. You could try writing a longer biography about our guest lecturer. He has his own chess academy. He has coached several teams. He has raised money for charities. He has prepared quite a few DVD training videos on chess. I recall seeing his name on a list at the BCF for winning a chess oscar prize, along with GMs Nigel Short, Mickey Adams and Luke McShane. This guy is incredibly talented and appreciated in England, but people in the midwestern USA may not realize that.
Then there is the travel involved. Davenport, Iowa may be a bit far for some people. I think it will be at least a 6½ hour drive for me. By plane, it would cost $370.00, and there aren’t many flights during the day from which to choose. I am able to take leave from work on Friday, and am hoping I will get an early enough start back on Sunday so that I can avoid driving in the dark and fog on the way back. Other people may not be able to get the time off work to travel. Maybe if you dropped the requirement to join USCF and play rated games, you could get a few more participants who live in the Davenport area.
I think you are fairly close to the Rock Island Army Arsenal. You could call their public affairs office and offer a small military discount and free autographs to their personnel to get a few more participants. I looked up their number recently. I think it was xxxx.
Another marketing technique is to write a detailed schedule, to appeal to people who feel a need to see a schedule. Your flyer was very colorful, but I don’t think it included a detailed schedule. I am guessing it might look something like this:
Friday, Oct 21.
1900 to 2000. Registration and check-in. Bob Long.
2000 to 2045. Lecture on the Ruy Lopez by IM Andrew Martin.
2100 to 2300. Round 1 using the Ruy Lopez opening. Registered participants.
Saturday, Oct 22.
0900 to 0945. Lecture on the Queen’s Gambit Declined (QGD) opening. IM Andrew Martin.
1000 to 1200. Round 2 using the QGD opening. Registered participants.
1200 to 1330. Lunch. (on your own)
1330 to 1415. Lecture on the Sicilian, Najdorf opening. IM Andrew Martin.
1430 to 1630. Round 3 using the Najdorf. Registered participants.
1630 to 1730. Admin announcements and chance to visit G&L sales table and review games. Bob Long.
1730 to 1930. Dinner. (Recom-mended restaurant with table reservations for those who RSVP by end of check-in on Friday; otherwise, on your own.)
1930 to 2015. Lecture on the English opening with 1.c4 e5. IM Andrew Martin.
2015 to 2215. Round 4 using the English opening. Registered participants.
2215 to 2300. Admin announcements, awards, thank-yous. Bob Long.
Sunday, Oct 23.
0800 to 0845. Register and set-up for Simul event. Bob Long.
0900 to 1300. Simultaneous chess exhibition. Registered participants play IM Andrew Martin.
1330. Depart for home station.
*I guessed at the times. I don’t know exactly what G60 means. Does it mean each player gets 60 minutes, or each player gets 30 minutes, or something else? Maybe other potential participants were not real clear on the time involved either.
I hope we get more people to come. I think you said that the room could hold 40 people, and it would be nice to fill all the seats. I guess you could remind people that the number of seats are limited, in case there are a few procrastinators out there who think they can wait until the last minute to register.
I hope this is helpful.
Char, I loved your letter because you actually raised points and commented on things instead of remaining silent as so many do. Steve Lamansky also wrote about why he isn’t coming. In fact, when I asked others about coming, directly, they gave me reasons.
My friend Sarah wished I had a full or part-time marketer to handle everything. Yep, great idea and I agree with it. That person would be responsible for determining how far in advance something like this should be announced and then all the follow up necessary.
Char also indicates I should get more great info from Andrew Martin about his persona and I have asked Andrew for more information. He said he will send it after having his morning coffee and so I will hold two columns open for him (Saturday!)
Perhaps these two fine people can be more persuasive than I have tried to be. I hope Char is right!
PS: This post first appears in the #7 issue of SCORE which goes out today on Friday.