Creating New Aspects of Annual Events
Creating an event from scratch poses additional challenges but will allow you to be more creatively involved in the production. It is exciting to think about how the decisions you make now will be reincarnated year after year. During your first experience as a lead in planning a gala, don't take any risks during the planning stages. Over-communicate with your chef, production planners, and the rest of your team. Formulate the entire crew's responsibilities. Keep everyone on the same e-mail list so you can more efficiently refer back to all communications.
Creating new aspects of a pre-existing event may also mean simply changing out a few details from previous years. Again, a meeting with last year's planners is always a good idea. Before reinventing the wheel and changing the entire event, you should consider making minor changes.
For example, the company you are working with might be looking to increase ticket sales. They are thinking of moving the event from a hotel where it has been in the past to a larger establishment that will hold more guests. Moving the venue is risky in this case because the fundraiser has depended on attendance from the hotel's regulars and supporters. The hotel has also given a generous discount to guests attending the event that are looking to spend the night. Because this is a cocktail event sponsored by a popular vodka, it has been a well thought out decision having the hotel as a supporter.
In this case, rather than changing the venue you might suggest raising the ticket price a few dollars. Because of this increased cost, your guests will be expecting a new addition to the program. Having a guest speaker, celebrity chef, or hired band might be ways of justifying the higher ticket cost.
Galas that benefit a charity are growing in popularity, and this type of event must draw a large crowd. An advantage to planning an annual event is being able to use the past year's mailing and e-mail list to attract guests.
A hair salon that hosts a yearly fashion show may be looking for a new venue. The marketing coordinator of the salon will be acting as the lead planner on the event, and he has asked you, as the event planner of a hotel, for a proposal. Before submitting the proposal, ask him for a meeting and ask for specific comments and opinions on last year's event. Some details you might not be able to change, for example:
The donated products
The celebrity host
Details you can suggest and use your creativity:
The cocktail list
The floor setup
The featured wine list
The logistics often come together coherent when all planners are involved. For this reason, you need to meet with all department heads prior to the event. Plan a walk-through with the lighting and audiovisual contacts. Do the same for the entertainment services, such as the DJ or the band. The goal of the meeting is to walk the perimeter of the venue and discuss the layout. Once the layout is visualized, the staging crew will know where to set up, the audio technician will know where to place the speakers, the lighting technician will know how many feet of extension cords he will need, and so forth.
A walk-through is a meeting at the venue to go over the layout and logistics prior to the event. Collaborating event planners may arrange a walk-through before the gala. A soon-to-be bride may schedule a walk-through with her vendors prior to her wedding to discuss the floor plan, centerpieces, and the location of the dance floor.
The facility planner is usually responsible for acquiring all food and beverage donations. Getting product donations will help the bottom line of your facility as well as the company or organization sponsoring the event. When products are donated for a fundraiser, the event costs less. This means most, if not all, of the proceeds can go directly to the charity. If a beer company agrees to donate product to a charity event at a fundraiser with a sporting theme, the beer company then uses the event as a tax exemption. An added benefit for the beer company is greater product exposure. Perhaps their logo gets printed on the invitation and on programs at the event.
A sport beverage company may donate its new flavored water for a marathon. In turn, thousands of spectators and runners will taste the new product and see the water advertised on various banners along the marathon route. In this situation, the water company can consider the product donation as a pure marketing investment.
Philanthropy and event planning have a long history together. Whether you are asking for donations, volunteering your time, or donating your resources, the objective is to bring your craft or product into the public's eye. Whether on an invitation, banner, program, or advertisements, visibility is one main reason companies get involved in charities. Remember this as you begin planning your gala: Your participants offering donations must be well represented. (See Appendix A for a sample donor letter.) From the rental company to the event company to the product vendors, you are responsible for how the participants are represented throughout the event. Show your appreciation by giving thanks when and where appropriate.