Types of Event Planners for a Gala
When you are presented with the opportunity to plan an annual gala, you could be faced with a few different scenarios concerning your involvement. The client can be a business looking to hold a charity event, and you could work in their event department. You could work for a fundraising company that is hired by different companies and organizations to host a gala. You could also work in the events department of an organization that hosts an annual public event like a marathon, walk, concert, or regatta and is looking to plan a large gala around their major annual event. Working for a restaurant, hotel, and party planning company may also allow you to take part in annual gala events.
In event planning, the production team is responsible for building the event, or setting the stage, so to speak. The team will coordinate the linens, plate ware, flatware, glassware, and table decorations. The team will also inventory the rentals at the venue and orchestrate the setup and breakdown of the event. For smaller events, the front-of-the-house staff often doubles as the production team.
For the party planner, hosting the gala will often mean taking on the event from start to finish, including everything from securing the venue to overseeing the event itself. The party planner will secure a venue if one hasn't been chosen. The party planner will also oversee the creative department, production team, and staffing for the event, apart from the catering or banquet staff.
If the client has started this gala as an annual event, the planner needs to follow the guidelines put in place from the previous year's event, such as the budget, the venue, and the theme.
As with weddings, the hired planner may secure a venue that may have its own planner employed to book events. Also much like with weddings, certain venues, such as ballrooms or banquet halls, are more conducive to holding galas. These venues hire planners to specifically oversee the events on premises. Again, the planners should collaborate with the client and share key information, like the facility's contract, so details do not get missed. The lead planner (in this case he would be the planner hired by the client) would take the point and act alongside or in lieu of the client. The lead should confirm the particulars of the venue such as load-in time, event time, and final guest count. In the early planning stages you should try and meet with any planners who worked on the event in the past.
A planner from a fundraising company may also team up with a facility planner to collaborate on a gala. Organizations sometimes hire specialty fundraising companies that employ a team of event planners. One of these event planners will be the point person on a fundraising committee or foundation. With fundraisers, planners work for the foundation or nonprofit fundraising company whose sole purpose is to plan an annual gala or a calendar of events to raise money throughout the year.
The fundraising company will likely have several galas booked throughout the year, spring being the most popular season. Some gala benefits are annual events that occur in the same venue year after year.
It is important to choose a suitable venue for a large crowd. Remember that it's easier to accommodate more guests at a cocktail-style party than a sit-down dinner. Some popular venues for galas are restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries, museums, and large open spaces such as private residences and lofts.
With such a large volume of people involved, you may be in close contact with other event planners. You might be a facility planner, a fundraising planner, or a planner in charge of production, creativity, or development. Galas are great ways to collaborate with other event planners, and every effort should be made to create a team atmosphere in which everyone works together.
As a facility planner, you, along with the catering manager, will be in charge of creating the menu, selecting wines and cocktails, and overseeing the front- and back-of-the-house staff. As a fundraising or company planner, you might be in charge of collaborating with the facility planner and acting as a liaison between the other production teams and planners. You may also be responsible for booking the entertainment and overseeing the lighting, sound, and staging team. If you work at an event company, your involvement might take place in the creative and production development. You would be in charge of choosing the décor and the design, and you would order the equipment rental and decoration. The production planning may also fall into your job description, in which case you would organize the setup and breakdown of the lighting, staging, rentals, and other decorations with the companies that are providing them.
The setup of an event is the time devoted to preparing the venue on the day of the event. You should allow three hours of setup time for a large gala. The breakdown is the time after the event is over used to dismantle stations, return rentals to crates, and do general cleaning.
For recurring annual events, the major elements, like the venue, date, and time, have been decided. These are the first details that should be verified between the facility planner and the company planner and sponsors. Once this has been decided upon, if you are the facility planner or catering manager, you will send the company planner a proposal of the food and beverage program as well as staffing for the event. If you happen to be the company planner, you will take the lead in securing your production team outside of the facility planner's duties.