For delegates that final night of a conference, the Gala dinner, is a real chance to consolidate everything they’ve learned and experienced thus far at a conference. It’s about 50% of the reason for having a conference in the first place. It allows people to be people. It’s time to relax, enjoy each others company, let their hair down and for the teams to build deeper relationships with their comrades. It’s a chance for the company to show the employees how much they are valued and to thank them for their hard work. Basically it’s a celebration of the power of the team.
Taking delegates off site and out to dinner takes a lot of resource and isn’t always possible. So it puts on the pressure to create a memorable and distinctive gala dinner on site at the conference venue…
Relax… there are ways to make sure you get the wow factor, even if you are short on turnaround time.
- Transform the Room – if the delegates are dining in the same room in which they are having the conference, the challenge is to transform the space from meeting room into an inviting and intimate dining room. More often than not, a gala dinner will be the final social aspect during a conference and the ambience should be fun, celebratory, elegant and feel special to the guests.
- Pick a Theme – room dressing and theming will go a long way into helping make the space look very different from the conference which took place during the day. Think about the surroundings – does the building or venue lend itself to a theme? A summertime conference at Center Parcs would be perfect for a beach party. A converted chapel near to Halloween cries out for a gothic theme. Or you could opt for a simple yet effective colour theme, perhaps a monochrome masquerade ball. Lighting plays a really important role in transforming a room – it is a really effective way of creating atmosphere and the likelihood is that you will have the resources on site already as part of the AV kit. If the venue permits it, candle light is also very striking and cost effective.
- Cater for the Party Poop’ers – regardless of how much time, effort and money may have been poured into creating the most amazing dinner space, there will be a handful of delegates who simply won’t want to throw themselves into the dressing up aspect of the party. I get that – until you get to the event there is always the worry that in fact the joke may be on you and the evening might end up like the Batman & Robin scene from Only Fools and Horses. That’s OK – make it easy for them to enter into the spirit of things when they get there by hiring a professional body artist to decorate faces (or any other parts on show) or offer simple items that suit the theme – an intricate lace eye mask, a feather boa, a pair of angel wings or a ring master’s top hat.
- Do Delegates want to be Entertained? – Or would they rather participate in the evening’s proceedings? We have found increasingly that by introducing the acts and entertainment throughout dinner works really well as it keeps the mood and vibe at a continuous high. You could opt to have a gospel choir to perform as the guests walk in and take their seats (which we did at a recent event and rather than take their seats, almost every delegate headed straight for the dance floor before drinks were even poured!). Mind readers and magicians are also a great source of enjoyment throughout dinner and they can wander from table to table, and if your guests have yet to witness the surprise of the Singing Waiters, I can vouch that for the unsuspecting, this group never fails to delight.
- Dance to the Beat – Music – If the guests have been entertained throughout dinner, the after-dinner act or entertainment needs to be climatic. A wedding style singer or DJ playing ‘Come on Eileen’ just won’t cut it. Bear in mind the demographic of the audience though – it will be hard to please all of the people all of the time, so we would suggest creating a space in the room that allows people to escape to for conversation or just if they need to sit a few of the songs out. Mixing the playlist up will work with a diverse crowd and although live musicians are always popular, a recent trend in combining electric with percussion is a vibrant one. A professional DJ will mix pumping sound tracks whilst being accompanied by a percussion drummer, a saxophonist and a trumpeter. It’s high energy, pumping and it provides a totally unique dynamic to the dance-floor.
- Keep the Bar in Sight – ideally in the same room as the party – especially if you have been able to create a more chilled out zone – otherwise you’ll lose guests as they go to replenish drinks and naturally congregate around the bar.
- It’s Good to Talk – talk to ‘Those in the Know’ – chat to your venue about parties and themes that have been hosted at the venue previously. They will have seen the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and will have some great pointers of what worked well and what could have been done better. Ask to see pictures if there are any and don’t hold back from asking whether the venue have any items of room dress or props that could be utilised for your event.
Have any other questions about putting on a Conference Gala Dinner then please get in touch +44 1737 243 030