The 6 STEPPS to signing up more people, more often

Kat is 35, lives on the Gold Coast, is a primary school teacher, dietitian, runs a yoga business, completes marathons, and she is even setting up a charity in Sierra Leone, which enables orphaned and vulnerable youth to go to the Sierra Leone Marathon each year. She says running, wellbeing, and the active world, as you might suspect, “is a huge part of my life". But in reality, if Kat was like many of us, she wouldn’t be moving much at all.

That is because Kat has a condition that has caused her to collapse not once, but four times during running events. But she keeps coming back...

Kat’s story is remarkable, and even more so considering her condition. Despite her challenges, Kat has overcome barriers, to live an active lifestyle.

Kat is an example of someone who, partly through the influence of events, has become an advocate for the active world, an evangelist even, living and preaching an active lifestyle, not just for her, but for others, including kids in Sierra Leone, and at home in Australia where she works in schools creating positive experiences around food and nutrition. It’s across her life, her work, and even in her personal purpose. She’s doing it all.

But why? And how? What’s behind all of it?

Kat’s story is special and unique, and we can't do it all justice here. But each of us has a story, obstacles and motives in life, and there are many different but similar stories across the active world, where obstacles prevent us from signing up and showing up to events, overcoming motivations and aspirations. Thankfully we also see many sign up for the opportunity, they show up, and start bringing others with them.

But a basic question will always remain, how do we get different people, to sign up, more often?

Photo Credit: Paul Manning (@thesundaylongrun)

The Influence of Events

While our mass participation events can be great motivators to be active, there isn’t a lot of research as to why they are drivers to activity, beyond what we already know, or to prove what we already suspect. And even more importantly, how we can amplify these levers and try to have an even greater, positive influence.

Elite and recreational sport have been well researched over the years, but mass participation events much less so. Or if they have, the findings and learnings have not been broadly shared, such is the fragmented nature of the industry, and not having had a ‘peak body’ as such. Although with the establishment of AMPSEA and MPW, that’s changing. Which is leading the sharing of knowledge, and how big a role events play.

AMPSEA estimating 3.4 million Australians participate in mass participation sporting events each year, bring people together for great personal health, social, economic, and other benefits, and benefits for the organisers of them.

The Influential STEPPS

So Register Now, who manage the sign-up process for some of the largest events in the mass participation world, including The City to Surf, and over 4,000 other events each (normal) year, together with Andrew O’Loughlin and his ‘Sport Experience Design’ approach, we are looking at what drives people to sign up and show up again, and, importantly for you, how you might use this knowledge on your events.

We’ve developed a framework called STEPPS, looking at the critical elements to why people sign up, and how you can get them to sign up and show up again.

These are the 6 common elements, which play a role in whether people sign up and show up again.

The STEPPS are within each event, for each participant, for us to use behind the scenes. For Kat, the sport, the activity is at the heart of it, and will always be a focal point for anyone who is looking to sign up. “What” activity they will be doing. And then, when and where it is, the timing, the physical locations, and online platforms, all play a significant role. And then who will be involved, who the organisers are, and the “who” else will be participating. This creates a culture around the event, supported by systems, all of which ultimately provides experiences of value, on various levels, the personal, the social, emotional and aspirational.

The ‘GC30’ and ‘STEPPS’

The GC 30 is an example of an event that provides these STEPPS. A relatively new experience, it started recently as a potential stepping stone between half to full marathons, and has become a must do milestone on the calendar. We can see the influential elements within the GC 30, the ‘jaw dropping’ running course as a lure, a last key moment leading into the Gold Coast Marathon, with special, shareable moments itself. The location, and interactions online, the influence of the organisers on participants, and of other people. As Kat says, “they make people feel part of something”. This is the culture that has been created, and systems behind it, that all contribute to its success.

There is a lot to our events, and many ways to go about our work, but if we keep it simple and play with these 6 elements some common first principles, it might make life easier, and allow us to have even more influence in people’s lives.

And what we’ve started to find is, there are key insights and strategies you can apply for each of the STEPPS. Similar but different for the different groups, the personas, from the inactive and alienated, through to the active, the advocates, and the evangelists like Kat. So that they will sign up, and show up again, and even bring others with them.

Evidence for those important decisions

Speaking with our participants is critical and revealing, as are the numbers behind the insights. Our interviews were supported by a survey of all participants, providing further insights into the influence of each of the STEPPS. For example, 98% stated the activity was important to them for their physical and mental health outcomes, and that milestones matter to get them there, with a 25% surge in sign ups at the first early bird deadline set by the organisers - 100 days out from the event!

The experience matters the most

It may come as no surprise that 95% said the quality of the experience was important, but making sure it’s enjoyable is worth investing your time into as an event provider, as 96% say enjoyment is important to them.

This satisfaction is critical, as an important association was shown in participants' intentions to sign up again (for every participant who gave a 9 out of 10 in satisfaction also gave a 9 out of 10 indication they would sign up again, and, a 9 in 10 chance they will recommend the event to other people!).

Conversely dissatisfaction is also critical, as it increases the likelihood participants will not show up, or recommend your event to others (almost all those who were dissatisfied were unlikely to participate again, or recommend the event to others!).

Given over half of the event participants come from returning participants, this satisfaction level is critical to secure these registrations. And, given almost all new registrations hear about the event by word of mouth, social channels and other people (plus 3 in 4 participants sign up with someone else), these recommendations to others is vital. All of which are important insights for you to consider as you look to sign up more people, more often!*

*understanding that satisfaction in the event experience is vital, plus, knowing what makes a satisfying experience is even more valuable. Just talk to us about how you can understand that further for your event. Email us now, or book in a time for a chat here.

Our interview and data insights may be valuable if you need to get more people to sign up and show up again.


If you’d like to know how we can get more Kat’s to your event, just let us know… we are keen to offer you a free ‘pulse check’ of your event, and discover the STEPPS to get more people, more often, with you.

And if you'd like to contribute to Kat's charity, they are collecting donations to send a shipping container to Sierra Leone and open the country's first ever not-for-profit sports store! Find out more at or @makewaysfoundation on Instagram or Facebook.

Make Ways Foundation