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How long does it take to plan a gala dinner?

The perfect gala dinner requires a lot of planning and preparation to ensure that each element comes together seamlessly on the night. From building your guest list and setting your budget to choosing the right sponsors and fundraising activities, you’ll want everything to align to make sure the night goes to plan and that it’s everything you had visualised at the beginning of the planning process.

It can take several months and even upwards of a year to plan a gala dinner. The best way to keep the planning process on track is to put in place an event plan and timeline. Each gala dinner is different, but here is a general timeline of tasks that can help to keep the event planning process on track.

8-12 months before the event

Establish the what and why of your gala dinner and complete the groundwork.

  • Define the event’s purpose
  • Set your budget
  • Identify your fundraising methods e.g. ticketing, silent auction, raffle
  • Select a date and choose a venue
  • Look for sponsors or partners for the night
  • Plan activities, select speakers and book entertainment
  • Choose a theme

3-6 months before the event

Get the wheels in motion and spread the word.

  • Arrange your audiovisual plan and equipment for the night
  • Promote the event, for example via social media, radio or newspapers
  • Confirm speaker arrangements and finalise your entertainment
  • Check for any special venue provisions e.g. wheelchair access, parking arrangements and transport information
  • Start building an attendee list
  • Organise fundraising activities for the night
  • Book catering
  • Send invitations

2-3 months before the event

Establish on-the-night requirements, ramp up event promotion.

  • Organise decorations and table settings
  • Select food
  • Continue to promote the event, for example release special announcements to the press for media coverage
  • Arrange seat planning

1 week before the event

Finalise everything.

  • Finalise guest list and send an event reminder
  • Brief the team for duties on the night
  • Finalise seating plan and create place cards
  • Finalise guest numbers and send to caterers and partners.

1 day before the event

Get ready.

  • Conduct an audiovisual test
  • Make sure auction items, prizes or gifts are on site
  • Make sure everything is prepared for the night
  • Finalise run sheet

The day of the event

Manage the night and enjoy your hard work!

  • Decorate event space and tables
  • Hand out seating charts, the guest list and run sheet to your team
  • Make sure guests arrive
  • Keep the event running to time and deal with any issues as/if they arise
  • Enjoy the night!

After the event

Thank your guests and share the night with the world.

  • Send thank you cards to your guests
  • Finalise fundraiser and make sure participants received gifts or prizes
  • Share event photos
  • Develop an event evaluation outlining your successes and what you can improve on next time

Need to get your AV or staging prepared for your next gala event? We can help. Contact us today.

Tips for hosting a gala dinner

Gala dinners can be one of the best ways to gain support for your organisation and cause. They usually include dinner, entertainment, dancing, raffles, and silent and live auctions. While they require a huge amount of planning, they are so effective in raising awareness, fundraising and presenting your organisation and cause in a professional light.

Here are some of our tips for hosting a successful gala dinner.

Define the Event’s Purpose

Outlining the purpose of the event and what you hope to achieve will give everyone involved a clear picture of what’s ahead and keep people focused on the desired outcomes.

Set your Budget

You should determine a budget before the planning begins. Include all possible financial considerations, such as venue costs, food and beverage, entertainment, audio visual equipment and support, advertising, and prizes and items to be auctioned. Hopefully some of these things can be donated or discounted, but it’s good to budget in for some contingencies.

Identify your Fundraising Methods

Selling tickets to the gala dinner is a great way to raise money for your cause, but that usually won’t give you the most profit, so finding other ways to fundraise is necessary.

Some of these other options could include holding a raffle, a live or silent auction, selling advertising opportunities, and selling sponsorships or corporate tables. Depending on the event you could even have games that require a ‘pay to play’.

Decide on the Venue and Theme

The environment and atmosphere of your event should be welcoming and allow people to socialise or network freely. Choose a venue which will be inviting and impressive for guests.

By selecting a theme for the event, for example ‘striving for excellence’, you can set out your vision or goal for the event. This will bring all activities together cohesively and set the tone.  A theme will also inform your decorating styling choices, entertainment, lighting and audiovisual elements, menu selection and activities. It’s important that everything flows together to create a visually stunning environment, after all, you want this to be a night to remember!

Get the right AV Technical Support

Work with a reliable, creative and experienced AV provider.  You want access to quality equipment and dedicated people to help you deliver a spectacular event. Your AV provider can provide audiovisual, innovative design and styling, support to create that magical atmosphere for your guests.

Activities and Entertainment

A successful gala dinner includes suitable and on theme entertainment and activities designed to raise money. It’s good to make sure guests have time and space to mingle, but you should also consider how you will maintain the energy of the atmosphere and the interest of guests throughout the night. A dance floor and games with small prizes are great for involvement.

Marketing and Advertising

It’s so important to put the word out about your event throughout the community. Reach out to the local newspaper, TV stations and radio stations for pre-event coverage, and use social media where appropriate. You may even be able to use these avenues for seeking sponsorships and donations.

Interested to hear more about how AVPartners can help wow your gala dinner guests? Talk to us today.