​Planning the Perfect Gala

March 13, 2019


Photos by: Robert Lowdon Photography
By Emma Singh, Events by Emma Corporation

Spring Gala season is officially underway in Winnipeg.

Hosting a corporate or charity fundraising gala is a great way to showcase your business, organization or cause and generate support from your community. A gala traditionally involves a dinner, dance, entertainment, and silent auctions.

During gala season, it is important to set yourself apart from the rest. When planning a gala, you want to create a memorable experience for those in attendance.

To help, here are some important elements and tips that can really elevate your event:

GOAL: What is the purpose of your gala event? 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.

LOCATION: If hosting a formal event, then it stands to reason that a gymnasium isn’t probably going to cut it for a venue. Picking the right location for your event can add multiple elements to your gala. A location can help with the ambience and affect your ideas and layout. It is important that before picking where you want to hold your gala, you determine the big details first. Not every location will be able to accommodate what you want or need.

THEMES: 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 tourism 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 or circus theme. Some galas also have an ethnic or cultural theme. 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.

MARKETING: 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 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 save the dates and invitations. They can come inside a fancy envelope, and the invitation 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.

DÉCOR: This is the first thing your guests will notice when arriving and set the tone and feel for your event. Creating an eye-catching environment is key. Start with a theme and find ways to incorporate it into the entranceway, tables, and surrounding area. Remember to include the theme into invitations and promotions to help create anticipation for your guests.

ENTERTAINMENT: Guests want to have a good time. By including live music, bands, dancers, or a show, guests will be able to enjoy the environment and perhaps experience something out of the ordinary. It helps to set the mood and provides an opportunity to compliment your theme.

DJs are appropriate, too. There’s a misconception that DJs only perform for more informal events like socials, weddings and dances. This is absolutely not the case. DJs are versatile and can play an array of classical beats fitting for black-tie events.

FOOD/DRINK: It goes without saying that foods should be of the gourmet variety. Cheeseburgers and french fries probably aren’t going to suffice for formal galas unless you’re shooting for a more casual setting. You will also need to decide between a buffet-style dinner or a sit-down meal.
It’s also recommended that you serve light refreshments during the cocktail reception. This can be the typical finger foods, all served by a formally dressed server carrying the appetizers in a white platter or themed tray As for the drinks, setting aside a signature cocktail bar will make a lot of guests happy. Have a mixologist on hand that can create customized cocktails on demand.


KEEP IT DIFFERENT: It is important to change things up. That could mean changing your theme, location, or even the format of your event. People want to see how you can top your last event.

SMALL DETAILS COUNT: Guests want to have an enjoyable time from start to finish. Remember to keep things on schedule. That means serving dinner at the right time and preventing speeches from going to long. You don’t want your guests becoming restless. It will ultimately distract them from the key messages you are trying to provide.

For more event planning tips, visit eventsbyemma.com.