Gala Dinner Theme

Sometimes things don’t go as planned…

At a recent event we decided to mix up the regular gala dinner and offer attendees the opportunity to relax, network and celebrate all at the same time.

The room was set up as an upscale cocktail reception with neutral and rustic decor elements. Traditional table rounds of eight were swapped out for a combination of lounge seating, with birch stump coffee tables, high tops and round tables with wooden chairs.  Bottled wine on the tables was replaced with beer and wine tasting stations and black tie service was replaced with food stations, serving a variety of small plates and passed canapés.

The event looked great and was a fantastic opportunity for networking BUT it had its flaws.

First, the intention was to integrate a series of award presentations and sponsor giveaways throughout the course of the evening.  Even though the AV Company had zingers and a variety of music to capture people’s attention, it didn’t work.  The MC’s were loud and funny, but people were more interested in chatting with each other or standing in line for food, than paying attention to what was being said on stage.  This left the award recipients feeling like they didn’t get the recognition they deserved and I agree.

Secondly, the food stations of substance (pasta and the carving station) had long lineups all night.  Since they were smaller plates, people just didn’t feel like they got enough food.

The post event survey feedback on the event wasn’t great, but funny enough I couldn’t get people to leave the room afterwards.  Usually, after the awards are handed out, the room clears out in 10 minutes flat.  This time I had to turn the lights up, turn the music off and shut down the bar.  Even then I had to go around and ask people to politely leave as our rental of the room was over.

What this tells me is that the event itself was great for connecting with others. People were comfortable and enjoying milling around.  It also tells me that it is not the correct setup for a dinner with speeches.  I think we tried to be all things to all people (provide networking, dinner and announce award winners) and we really should stick to what the event was initially for – to recognize and honour those attendees selected to win an award.

Would I do this type of upscale lounge feel again?  Yes, but only for a cocktail type reception with one or two quick speeches.

Have you ever tried an event format that just didn’t go as planned?

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