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Re-thinking the “gala” as your signature event



- Amy Nebons owns event management company Blink Events LLC.

At some point in time, the expectation was set that a “signature event” should take the form of a gala.

THE GALA APPROACH:  An attendee can purchase tickets and expect a combination silent/live auction accompanied by sometimes sub-par finger foods, an open bar and perhaps (if you’re lucky), some live music. As an attendee you are expected to dress to the nines and compliantly open your checkbook when that point in the night arrives.

Let me be clear,some organizations execute stellar galas with extraordinary attention to detail and quality food, beverage and entertainment choices. For them, this is a sustainable signature event model that need not be messed with. However many others are left wondering, “What are we doing wrong?”

As humans we tire of monotony and predictability. We crave variety and the thought of attending another expected formal event can be downright tedious. So if not a gala, then what?

Building a successful, sustainable signature event model takes more than just coordination; it takes creativity and strategic thinking. The planning of the event is the EASY part, it is in the many invested hours that precede the planning where the magic is made.

So, what happens during those hours?

  1. Rediscovering what makes YOU unique? Analyze your mission and draw from it. You are not generic, so why should your event be?  Outline 4-5 buzz words that encompass who you are as an organization and really dive deep into the meaning of each of those words.  Think critically about how you can personify those words at your event.  Post these words in a prominent location and don’t lose sight of them throughout the whole planning process.  If every choice you make about your event does not reinforce these words, you are making the wrong choices. 
  2. What are you trying to achieve at your event? What are your event objectives, not just for the first year but over time? Keep in mind, you may not achieve your grandest goals in the first year, but the idea is to set the wheels in motion for growth, year after year.  Write a brief but specific five-year plan for your event.  Start at the five-year mark and work your way backwards. Your signature event should be seen as an investment that will bring you quantifiable returns. You will not see the return you are hoping for without thoughtfully planned and implemented strategies that lay out how you will reach your intended event benchmarks year after year.
  3. Creating a relevant event identity: After you have successfully identified WHO you are, WHY it is important for attendees to know this and WHERE you want the event to be in five years, use this information to create a strong and relevant identity for the event. Create a very succinct and clear messaging strategy that you can communicate to your attendees. This identity should be impactful, creative and possess the ability to evolve over time.  No two events should ever be the same but they should have common objectives and underlying messaging. 
  4. Attendee engagement: Develop a relevant theme by which to make all your tangible event decisions. Thoughtfully developed, unique and impactful experiences will be the most effective way to reach your attendees on a deeper level. By injecting different elements of surprise, you will keep your attendees present and resisting distraction. Engage all five senses of their senses to make your event memorable.  Remember, no detail is too minute, so every consideration should be handled with care.  Resist the urge to skimp just to save a few bucks.
  5. Reviewing your ROI: When your event concludes and while it is fresh in your mind, review it against a set of pre-determined criteria. Make sure you are asking attendees for honest feedback. Let them in on the fact that you are trying to build the best event possible for them and welcome even their harshest reviews. Develop a system to track your ROI throughout the course of the year as it relates to your event. Take your findings and compare them to your predicted first-year projection plan; analyze what worked and where you fell short. Use this information to revise your plan for the following year. 

The take-away here is that a generic event will bring about generic results. If you creatively and strategically personalize your event to share about you and your mission, your ROI will increase exponentially. By combining clear messaging, a strong event identity and innovative engagement tactics you will be able to reach your attendees on a personal level. Now, get out there and razzle dazzle ‘em!

Contact me by phone: 617-840-5073 or email at anebons@blinkevents.net. Find me on LinkedIn , Facebook or at my website www.blinkevents.net.  


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