As with any event there are a number of questions that need to be answered for a tourney event to run smoothly.
What is your target audience?
What type of player goes to a Tourney event? There are two basic types, the stick-jock and the social player. The stick-jock will attend to hit other players; she is all about the combat. It is relatively easy to entertain the stick-jock; just throw a lot of fights at them. The social player is there to hang out with everyone else. There is little to nothing you can do for the social player; they actually do not require much attention. However, one thing to remember is to make sure to allow people to watch the fights; hold them somewhere visible and where an audience can get comfortable while watching. The social players will then have something to do, as well those combatants waiting for their name to be called for a tourney.
How will magic affect your event?
This is where you decide if the players can break their weapon restrictions while fighting.
Some EHs allow players to break their weapon restrictions with the caveat that they can use no spells while in that tourney. Some EHs do not allow weapon restrictions to be broken for a tourney, but if you go this route you will need to find alternate activities for spell casters to participate in…or you can just not care about the spell casters at the risk of alienating them.
In addition, you will need to select a set of regionals tailored for tourneys. Some regional magics are better suited for questing events. For example, gaining an extra casting of Fortune Tell is useless for a tourney event.
Magic items should also be addressed. Some items can alter a tourney radically and thus most EHs do not allow magic items in tourneys. And yet, there are some things that magic items are recommended for, such as certain spells that are disrupted by magic weapons.
What is your format?
Are the tourneys designed as fights for individuals or for a team? How large of a team? Answering this question will help with a lot of the logistics of the event. You can mix and match the formats; run a bunch of individual tourneys and sprinkle in some team combats. This goes back to the size of the teams. If you are running a tourney with only two teams there is less chance to include individual fights and still keep everyone busy. Likewise, if you are running mostly individual tourneys, you run the risk of having a lot of people sitting out of combat while you run one tourney at a time.
However, you choose the format for the tourneys; remember to always try to allow as many people to be fighting at the same time.
What is your time constraint?
How many tourneys are you hoping to run during the day? The answer to this question will affect how you run the tourneys. If you are planning on running the tourneys as double elimination (a combatant must lose two fights before being eliminated from that tourney) this will add a considerable amount of time to the overall length of that particular tourney. Likewise, if there are a lot of players signed up for that tourney. Single tourneys with a lot of signups take longer than team tourneys, which by their nature reduce the number of fights per tourney. Keep these thoughts in mind as you schedule out your tourneys.
How to be innovative?
While there is a certain level of comfort with running the same tourneys as every other event, such things as sword & shield, hand-and-half, polearm, single-short, etc, it is also a good idea to change things up. This will set your event apart from similar tourney events thrown by other people. It also keeps things from getting stale or boring. There are different things you can do.
-Change the Omnibus rules; allow the combatants to wield two 5’, slash is legal with an 8’, everyone can cast a single magic missile, a person can move their feet while casting Heal Limb, etc.
-Add a role-playing component. Tourneys against monsters. Tourneys to determine who has the best god. Tourneys to determine who should be the next Emperor.
-Alter old favorites. 3man but the team is missing 3 limbs. Sword and shield, except the shield is replaced with a cloak. Single short but no one can move their feet.
-Invent new favorites. A mass melee but the tourney only lasts 5 minutes. Teams compete to see who can best succeed in quest type encounters. Dodge Ball.
What about the non-combatants?
Unless you are purposely excluding them, you should provide the non-combatants with something to do. This could be something as simple as organizing wagers on the outcomes of the fights up to including tourneys that do not involve combat. People often think immediately about tourneys for spell-casters, which is a good thing to include, but you also need to include things for those who do not fight or cast spells. This would be more along the lines of thinking vs. physical tourneys.
What about the end of the event?
Every good tourney event should have some type of recognition and incentive system in place. This starts with an end-of-event wrap-up wherein all the winners of tourneys are made mention of. Even better is a physical award. Even if it is just a paper certificate (though cutlery is even better), there should be a tangible reward. This will make your event more memorable.
[Secret Super-Tip: As part of the reward process give a title to an overall winner; something like Queen of Hearts or Champion of the Lists. This will make your event more memorable as the person with the title will likely use it throughout the year. In a way, every time that player uses that title it is free advertising for your event.]