Why are most corporate events Gala style?

As a live event professional, I have been a proud element of thousands of events. Corporate, private, military, campus, theater, fundraisers, virtual, the works! Here is another quick tip that comes from my personal experience!

empty gala event room with banquet tables set up

The Gala. While they may not always be called a “Gala”, this is a common, formulaic approach to event production because it is tried and true; for a long time. If this event is to be a single-evening affair, black tie or business casual, Gala style ticks all of the boxes. We have a gathering of the folks we want to reward with a fun evening of good food, socializing, entertainment, and maybe some important company information be that news or simply sincere gratitude to the team. We create this event to boost morale and company loyalty.

As an event producer, you have the task to orchestrate a check-in process, a coat check, a cocktail reception, a meal, a dessert, entertainment, time for announcements, and a speech from a leader. Possible additions might include gifts or awards, and/or a DJ and dancing (which seems to be a waning feature). All of this should fit comfortably into a four-hour event.

What not to do

Layering features is not a good idea. What I mean by “layering” is having two features happening simultaneously like meal service during speeches, or vice-versa. This is a common experiment with streamlining and it does not work. Your guests should be given the space to enjoy focusing on one thing at a time. When I am booked for Gala events, I always clarify that I do not wish to be performing during any part of the meal or dessert. It is noisy and folks at 8-top-rounds have to turn from their meals to watch me. Not good.

“Gala” comes from the Old French word gale, which means rejoicing. These affairs are most often a dressier occasion and the format is often used by non-profits to wow guests with a request for donations towards the end of the evening. Entertainment is certainly part of the tradition.

A Successful Schedule

A recent Gala began at 6:00 PM and was scheduled to conclude by 10:00 PM. Standard.

The first hour offered guests time to get settled and locate their social circles and grab a beverage while greeting others and paying respects to fearless company leaders.

In general, at seven o’clock, it’s time to have folks find their seats. By 7:15 plated dishes should be distributed or, in this recent case, the meal was buffet style and the tables were invited in groups to go build their dishes.

Plates had been cleared from tables by staff. I performed my show in two segments. The first part was at 8 o’clock for 30 minutes and then folks were given 20 minutes with their desserts and coffee. This was an unusual intermission but it really worked well. At 8:50 I delivered a twelve-minute, action-packed closer that brought the guests to their feet!

Immediately following my show, there were some words from the organization’s president and folks then got some more time to socialize, soak it all in and collect their coats for a safe trip home.

Reach me with questions! I’ll see you in the funny papers!