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How do I scale to turnout? (TOing)


Smash Grimer
Aug 16, 2005
Ann Arbor, MI
Smash tournaments have been getting bigger and bigger in recent months. That's no secret. Yet the majority of TOs have failed to meet the demands required from bigger turnouts. This poses a problem, especially when tournaments that typically get just a few dozen entrants are exploding into triple-digit turnouts, potentially overwhelming TOs and creating a lackluster tournament experience for attendees.

Here are three things TOs can do to scale to turnout better.

1. Enforce Online Paid Pre-registration

Tournaments are too big these days to cater to the needs of Smashers who don't know if they'll attend until the day of. In order to host an A+ tournament, an organizer needs to make A+ preparations, and sometimes that means enforcing a commitment to attendance ahead of time. Admittedly, there are very few options for TOs when it comes to online paid pre-registration, and the options that do exist contain very little documentation. However, the concept remains the same: if you can create a system in which entrants and their entry fees are completely accounted for ahead of time, you will eliminate a ton of required maintenance and labor in favor of more productive work on the day of the tournament.

Online paid pre-registration organizes entrants data ahead of time, helping eliminate wasted time and effort on tournament weekend.

2. Use Technology to Automate Processes

We are surrounded by social media, technology, and software. Why not take full advantage? Cloud-based storage options, Excel spreadsheets, and other tools can effectively automate various tournament processes down to a science. If you choose to allow at-the-door registration and have a lot of repeat attendees, create a database of registrants and pulling information from it during registration to avoid wasting effort on redundant data entry. If you have a large number of TO staff members, create a shared folder on Dropbox or Google Drive (my personal preference) to quickly consolidate information. If you're tired of using pen and paper to manually seed entrants or transition pools into bracket, create an Excel spreadsheet with formulas that take care of your needs.

A basic Excel spreadsheet can make life way easier when it comes to tournament processes such as player registration.

3. Schedule Waves Within Events

The term "wave" is generally used to describe a time period during which only a subset of a tournament's entrants are playing. For example, if you run half of your pools from 12-2pm and then the other half from 2-4pm, you've incorporated two waves into your pools event. Waves are crucial for scaling to turnout because they allow you to separate your entrants into bite-sized chunks. It can be much easier to split your entrants into smaller subsets and run waves of pools, or even brackets, for the following reasons:

* Entrants are only required to be in the venue for a fraction of the time.
* Multi-game events can be run completely without overlap, assuming proper placement of entrants into waves.
* TOs are only required to manage a fraction of the entrants at any given time.

A wave-based schedule allows entrants to know exactly when their tournament obligations are and allows the TO staff to know exactly which subset of entrants are playing at a given time.

You may find yourself thinking: this is a good introduction on scaling to turnout, but it doesn't contain many specific examples of where to find an online paid pre-registration setup or the aforementioned Excel registration spreadsheet. That's because I want TOs everywhere to think fundamentally about what their needs are and work independently towards creating solutions. Every region is different and requires a different strategy to scale to the giant turnouts of the platinum age. TOs will learn twice as much by developing their own solutions rather than using a carbon copy of someone else's.

Overall, think of the work required to run a tournament as one big blob of effort that can be condensed into a timespan as narrow as the day of the tournament or as wide as the few weeks beforehand. Your goal should be to spread out the effort as much as possible such that tournament weekend is simply about execution. As tournaments get bigger, you will not be able to get away with doing all the work on the day of; it must be more efficient to account for all possible turnouts. Use these strategies to offload the majority of your work to the pre-tournament stages. The extra flexibility you free up on tournament weekend will allow you to accommodate a much larger spectrum of turnout scenarios.


Juggleguy is a national tournament organizer, Melee It On Me team member, and Smashboards contributor. You can follow him on Twitter: @JuggleRob
Last edited:


Dark Child - 3DS tag online
Jun 12, 2014
Columbus GA
Now we just need a tournament in Columbus or Atlanta GA!!


Unity Ruleset Committee Member
Aug 25, 2003
Switch FC
5440 9697 6404
I rarely use excel in anything i do. What formulas would i need for all this stuff?

The MC Clusky

Smash Lord
Jul 18, 2007
San Antonio, TX
You really should post ways to handle online registration, becausejust finding something reliable is hard when you have to worry about things like PayPal locking out accounts and other crap.


Smash Lord
Oct 16, 2013
Pittsburgh, PA
I find waves ineffective, unless you have two waves go at the same time and TOs to operate each as a smaller unit on different sides of the venue. I've seen waves ran where not even half the setups were used and it wasn't effective.

Element of Smash

Scrub Lord
Jul 3, 2013
Dallas, TX
I find waves ineffective, unless you have two waves go at the same time and TOs to operate each as a smaller unit on different sides of the venue. I've seen waves ran where not even half the setups were used and it wasn't effective.
Then you just witnessed ineffective use of waves, not waves being inefficient. There's a huge difference.


Smash Rookie
Feb 18, 2015
Philadelphia, Pa
Salty Smash Saturdays in West Chester, PA, has grown exponentially over the past few events, and it is taking much longer to seed everyone accurately (though there will always be that one guy complaining about seeding). Online registration is an excellent idea, and I will pitch it to my staff!
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