Nine suggestions for planning your next gala event

Nine suggestions for planning your next gala eventOne of my clients has asked me to organize a gala evening in celebration of an important corporate milestone.

Absolutely, I say, but I do have a few (quite a few!) questions. Can we meet to review the details?

  1. A first suggestion is to meet face-to-face with your client. It is so important when asking questions to be able to see your client’s face! An expression is worth a thousand words. If his or her face lights up, you know you have hit on something special. If not, you need to produce other ideas.
  2. Basic questions need to be answered. What does the client want to do and why, his objective and reasoning. Is there a theme? Listen to his vision. When does he want to hold the event, and where? Who and how many people does he want to invite?
  3. And the million dollar question: How much does he want to spend? (And as soon as possible you will need to find out how much he will actually spend!) Often a client will tell you he doesn’t know and for you to just provide some ideas. You have to determine whether he wants the scooter or the Maserati, or something in between. If he looks quizzical, then ask, is it a $60,000 or a $300,000 event? He should be able to give you a good idea.
  4. Aha! Now we have the date, the city, the budget, the number of guests, the guest make-up, the caliber of the event. The event needs to be memorable. Is it the food, the entertainment, the décor, the presentation, the product display, the overall flow of the event? All of the above!
  5. Besides ensuring that the venue is functional and attractive, that the food is very good and that the entertainment is spectacular, you need a conversation piece to tie in the theme and act as a showcase for the company products.
  6. Research, Google, call, consult. Other opinions can help you decide. Ensure that your ideas fit with the client’s.
  7. Communication between yourself and your client as well as between yourself and your suppliers is critical. You can come up with an amazing idea, but if you don’t consult with the suppliers, it might not work. For example, I thought an animated water fountain in the ballroom might be a great idea as the client’s theme centered on water. The room was large enough to host the cocktail as well as the gala dinner. The client loved the idea and suggested showcasing some of his products in the fountain. I spoke with the supplier who informed me that he needed the dimensions and weight of the products, that special stands needed to be constructed and that the animation had to be reprogrammed so as not to have the fountain jets hit the products and soak the carpets. Good point! If I had not spoken immediately to my supplier, the results could have proven disastrous.
  8. Do you and your suppliers like each other? Have you loyal on-site staff who will be in the right place at the right time? Professionalism and graciousness are paramount.
  9. If there is little room in the budget for some of your great ideas, such as a professional emcee, wild entertainment, a champagne toast, or a water fountain, simply include them as add-ons. If the client likes your ideas and can see their value, he will almost always find the budget. And that is the bottom line!

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