7 Gala Evening Preparation Details You Shouldn’t Miss

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Written by Jorge Soares
Event Director
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In order to create a memorable Gala Evening, whether for an Awards Ceremony or for a Year End Function, every detail of the event should exude the essence and unique perspective of the brand. While Gala Evenings have thankfully evolved over the years, breaking away from the old traditions, the “to-dos” are the same.

How these requirements are delivered however, is exactly what will make or break your evening.

It’s no longer acceptable to have an evening where your guests simply dine around a 6 foot round table, whilst making their way through an often uninspiring three course meal, all while hoping the MC, or some other mediocre form of live entertainment, would break the monotony.

Your guests deserve better, and your brand depends on making a great impression.

To do so, you need to plan a Gala Evening that embraces new technologies, contemporary dining, and interactive entertainment, all of which keeps guests actively connected throughout the evening.

As you may have guessed, food is the most important element of any Gala Evening. (People love food!) And, more importantly, it’s the first and last thing people talk about when they leave the event.

But aside from the meal, what other important elements help tie everything together? These elements will transform your function, from an event to an experience.

  • Does your theme connect to the food and the venue?
  • Does the layout and dining setup encourage networking while putting people at ease?
  • Is your entertainment engaging and memorable?
  • Not sure?


Here are the 7 elements you can’t afford to miss when planning a great Gala Evening…


#1: The Invite Design, Tone, Messaging and Execution

Most of the time, there is very little attention paid to the invitations’ details. Unfortunately, the effort needed to pull this off correctly is more than just a little. Invites play an important role in sending the right message to your guests. If the message is not correct and enticing, and if the execution is not done in a timely manner, you risk a low turnout to the event. (Officially every event manager’s worst nightmare.)

That’s why it’s worth your time and effort to create an invite for your guests that is thoughtful in every detail. Before printing, read through every word of your message and critique of every element, ensuring that it all ties in your event’s theme and design.

Want a great turnout?

Be sure to send out your invites at least 2 weeks before the event so your guests can plan accordingly.

#2: The RSVP Management

The RSVP management is one element that seems to be a bit of a grudge task, but it’s one that I highly recommend to clients. If there is no dedicated resource within your organisation, you will be left hoping and praying that everyone is going to arrive at your event.

Don’t leave it to chance. Commit to an effective RSVP Management team to ensure that every guest has received the invite, have the intention to reply, or have indeed already replied.

#3: Menu Design and Food Tastings

I am a firm believer that when it comes to food you should always know what you are paying for. Try what you are going to serve on the evening’s menu and ensure that what is on the plate during the tasting is what is served on the plates at your actual event. After all, if you paid for a Ferrari, you wouldn’t happily accept a Datsun.

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#4: Avoid Conformed Seating

Allocated seats, place cards, and horribly printed seating plans are thankfully things of the past. While I absolutely think it’s fine to allow clients to allocate teams and departments to certain tables, it’s pointless and annoying to try to micro-manage the finer details of who sits where and how they should be sitting.

Rather than worrying about last-minute changes that cause stress on the day-of, avoid conformed seating altogether.

#5: Proper Event Running

Event running orders are not created for the health of the event manager (although it definitely helps). Instead, event running orders are important tools that ensure every resource and staff member working on the event understands their role, how it needs to be executed, and exactly when it needs to happen.
Make a point to spend time with the event team prior to the Gala Evening to run through these details. Trust me, you really don’t want to be that person dealing with clients who are asking why the main course is being served during the CEO’s address.

#6: Understand the Importance of Good Audio/Visual Equipment

When it comes to AV, event managers typically just look at the bottom line to ensure that this component fits within their budget. As an event manager, it’s your job to understand what the equipment is, the role it plays, and how it links to every technical component. There is nothing worse than guests seated at the back of the venue complaining that they can’t see the screen or hear the main address.

Depending on the type of event or client you are dealing with, there might be opportunities to incorporate more contemporary forms of technology, such as social media, interactive 3D mapping, and even VR experiences. If you want to really wow (and not waste a lot of time and money creating an experience that won’t work), make sure you know your AV equipment can get the job done.

#7: Décor Design and Layout

Ever sat at a table with a ridiculously big centerpiece that a.) Doesn’t allow you to connect with the person across the table and b.) Blocks your view of the stage and anything that happens on it? These details do matter, and they are what determines the overall experience of the event’s guests. Remember, the programme of events and its formalities should dictate the style and design of the room.

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