A gala is a bit of a broad term. For the most part, it entails an event on the more formal end. This means an enforced dress code, a dinner, live band, and entertainment in the form of a traditional dance. Galas can also be just a casual social outing or festival. Either way, gala events can really boost your brand reputation especially if it’s a corporate function designed to impress potential investors and high-end clients.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you kick off a lavish gala that will showcase your company in a positive light.
1. Set a Goal
What is the purpose? Are you trying to recruit new clients? Are you planning on unveiling your latest product? Perhaps this is a charity event and you’re trying to raise funds for a noble cause. Make it clear what the outline is and set a goal to achieve that end. The objective should be clear and be more specific than just achieving a certain number of ticket sales.
Goals should include multiple objectives, such as:
- Reaching a certain number of social media shares (i.e. making your event hashtag trend)
- Acquiring X number of sales leads within Y number of weeks of the event
- Achieving a new benchmark ROI
While goals are important, don’t focus all of your efforts in reaching an arbitrary number. What’s more valuable is that you learn something out of it. If goal numbers weren’t met, extract whatever lesson to be learned from it so you do better next time.
2. Venue Selection
If hosting a formal event, then it stands to reason that a high school gymnasium isn’t probably going to cut it for a venue. Fortunately, there are no shortages of high-end venues especially in major U.S. metropolises. This includes both contemporary and more historical facilities. Some of these places also overlook notable landmarks.
You also need to decide between a blank canvas venue or a venue with a particular theme. The former is more or less a bare or “generic” facility that can be freely decorated to create your own theme. New York’s Madison Square Garden, for example, is a top venue that can be considered a contemporary blank canvas facility. By contrast, The Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver is an open-air venue designed specifically for music concerts or music-themed events.
Galas may also take on a festival-like structure, meaning that some portion of the event may take place outdoors. Consider a venue known for its exterior space.
A gala is not complete without some form of entertainment. If holding a formal event, a rave dance probably won’t be a good fit, though it’s not out of the question. More fitting, however, would be something along the lines of a string or orchestra band. This can be accompanied by dancing. You can add to this by including a theme, such as a masquerade ball or phantom of the Opera.
DJs are appropriate, too. There’s a misconception that DJs only perform for more informal events like hip hop or electric funk-style dance. This is absolutely not the case. DJs are versatile and can play an array of classical beats fitting for black-tie events.
It goes without saying that foods should be of the gourmet variety. Cheeseburgers and hotdogs probably aren’t going to suffice for formal galas unless you’re shooting for a more casual setting. Look for catering companies known for serving formal events, such as weddings and corporate functions. You will also need to decide between a buffet-style dinner or a single-serve meal.
It’s also recommended that you serve light refreshments during the reception. This can be the typical finger foods like pigs in a blanket and mini cheese bites, all served by a formally dressed server carrying the appetizers in a silver tray.
As for the drinks, setting aside a martini bar will make a lot of guests happy as well. Have a mixologist on hand that can create customized cocktails on demand.
Galas need to be marketed just like any other event. While you need to be active on social media, you shouldn’t completely eschew offline methods either. For social media, you should be doing ALL of the following:
- Using an event hashtag
- Creating an official events page on social media
- Using multiple social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on. Definitely use LinkedIn for corporate events.
Your social media marketing foray should also include assistance from brand advocates, affiliates, sponsors, and other industry influencers who can leverage their own followers.
For offline methods, one good strategy is to send out traditional flyers in the form of an invitation. It can come inside a fancy envelope, and the flyer can take the shape of a greetings card cordially inviting the guest to your gala. The card will contain all the vital information, including how to reserve tickets online.
Themes were discussed briefly, but it deserves a section of its own. Galas are so much more vibrant when there’s a theme. This also gives you more room for some creativity. Themes can be specific to a season, such as winter wonderland for a December event. It can also be specific to an industry, such as a travel theme for a vacation agency.
The theme will also dictate the type of activities. For a casino night, entertainment will include various tables for card games and roulette. The same concept goes for a carnival theme.
Some galas also have an ethnic theme. If Taiwan is the theme, for example, the gala may be held outdoors in the evening and feature various food and game booths since the country is known for its night markets.
A gala is all about creating a good time for the guests. With a carefully planned event, not only will you achieve that end, but you will also uplift your brand’s image and drive a bigger following in the aftermath.
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Dan McCarthy is an Event Manager at Venueseeker, an event management company based in the UK. Dan has 6 years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events, and currently, he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.