Practically born in a ballroom, I have spent my entire career in the event world. We’ve seen it all, from the Pope in Poland, to opening U.S. Bank Stadium with the Purple Gala and everything in between. Some could say I have dedicated my life to the audience experience. Every year, we get hired to produce galas of every kind—both locally and nationally. What makes a good gala? What makes one fall flat on its face? In this column, I dive into what you can do to make your gala a huge success.
The goal of most galas is fundraising. In order to maximize impact, it’s key that we focus on simple things that make a dramatic difference. Here are three areas where you can see tangible results the first time.
1. The Attention
It’s frustrating to be in the audience and everyone around you is ignoring the program. Why? Think back to your childhood. When you go into the theater, how do you know when it’s time for the show to start? The lights go down. We must use lighting to control the attention of our inner child. This is the single most effective thing to grab attention. Don’t skimp on the lighting budget. Secondly, close the bars during the show and have wine at the table. Lastly, make sure the waitstaff is not working the tables during any part of the actual show. This is highly distracting. The last thing you want is for your largest donor to be distracted at the very moment they were feeling ready to give more than they were planning on giving. Control the attention by controlling the environment.
2. The Live Auction
There are always missed opportunities during a live auction. The goal is to minimize missed opportunities and maximize the money raised during the live auction. Having a professional auctioneer is an absolute must. Having an auctioneer that matches your audience is even more important. Is your audience more casual or more formal? Make sure you do your research when hiring an auctioneer. Getting references and even watching videos of them in action is an absolute must to ensure it’s a good fit. Once you have chosen the right auctioneer, be sure you spend time helping them understand the value of each package in the live auction. For an auctioneer, the more detail the better. This detail should include the dollar value you expect to raise for each item. Remember, communicate early and often with your auctioneer. A professional auctioneer should be able to raise the expected amount (or more) for each package or item.
3. The Appeal
At some point in the night, take time to raise money for the actual cause. We call this an appeal. This is most likely done by your auctioneer after the live auction. To make things a bit more tangible, add some sort of understanding of the use of each dollar. An example may be: For every dollar raised, we can provide three meals to children. I may be a bit biased, but I believe the best way to raise the most money during an appeal is to use a video. A professionally produced video is often the most effective way to bring your audience to tears and through an emotional experience that puts the checkbook on the table. Telling a real-life story in a video may cost $10,000-$30,000, but often raises 10 times the investment. Remember that your audience can tell the difference between something you shot in your office on your iPhone, and something that is truly moving. If you spend the money to make a beautiful video, don’t skimp on the output. Make sure the screens are large, the sound is crisp, and the audience is paying attention.
With all of the amazing tools at our fingertips, there is no better time to make this year a record year.
Charles Eide is the CEO of the international event production agency EideCom. Obsessed with audience experience, Charles spends his time innovating ways to impact audiences across the globe. He is best known in the community as a leader who spends most of his day “on the field” with his team, working alongside his employees, while spending time one on one to help them reach their full potential. To work with Charles, please contact Lisa Mendenhall at Lisa@EideCom. com or 763.843.7371, or visit EideCom.com