December 20, 2014

Good Galas, Bad Galas

Sonya SawyerSonya Sawyer

Involved with the American Heart Association, including the Heart Ball and chairing the Go Red for Women luncheon.

How do you tell a good gala from a bad one?

It’s all about the energy in the room, the people who are invited, the presentation. When I walk into a good gala, I like to be greeted and welcomed. Also, (a reminder about) why we’re there. At the Heart Ball, we’re there to raise money for heart research, and it’s great when they bring up a family who has dealt with heart disease.

What are some dos and don’ts for throwing a great gala?

Do surround yourself with a strong, energetic leadership committee. Bring in members who are movers and shakers. The chairman of the event should be a leader and involved in every aspect of the planning. Review past galas and expand ideas that worked and do not repeat ideas that did not. Also, always have excellent entertainment and a large venue.

Don’t forget your sponsors, procrastinate or have a weak leadership committee. Also, do not make tickets to the event so (unreasonably priced) that you alienate people.

What are some ideas that made you say “I wish I would have thought of that” or “I’m glad we didn’t do that”?

Super silent auctions, a VIP area for major sponsors at event, an outdoor white party and car service. For “I am glad I didn’t do that,” a vulgar comedian as entertainment, inviting too many people to where there is no room to walk, hiring a bad DJ and a cash bar.

 

Elizabeth GanziElizabeth Ganzi

Involved in galas for Seacrest Country Day School, Art of the Olympians and the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

How do you tell a good gala from a bad one?

A big thing I like to go for in events is the emotion. I think about the production of a show from speakers to auction to entertainment. Coordinating that and putting that to a schedule that has rhythm and dictates to an audience is really important. You’re telling a story, why your organization is the one they should be supporting.

What are some dos and don’ts for throwing a great gala?

You’ve got to be organized. Details are everything. You want to create an ambiance and a mood. That starts at the theme and translates through everything you do. I also believe in also making it real for the audience. So if it’s about a children’s charity, bring children in.

Don’t make your live auction or your silent auction too large or too long. And with dining, you need a perceived value. You need to do high-end food if you’re looking to receive high-end donations.

What are some ideas that made you say “I wish I would have thought of that” or “I’m glad we didn’t do that”?

Once I saw that somebody draped the ceiling of an event and I wished I had draped the ceiling in a few events. Unfortunately, it’s cost prohibitive when you’re doing charity events.

The biggest thing I see that doesn’t work is when you do a floral that hits your brow at a table because then nobody can see each other or talk.

 

Michele EddyMichele Eddy

Trustee for the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. Also involved with Make-A-Wish and Harlem Heights Cultural Arts & Community Center.

How do you tell a good gala from a bad one?

A good gala is when people leave with more than what they came in with, regardless of what they spent.
It should be a well-oiled machine, from the minute you walk in that door and you’re greeted with a great smile and a cocktail to leaving effortlessly without standing in any lines.

What are some dos and don’ts for throwing a great gala?

Good food and good wine should flow freely, and I don’t believe you should have to pay extra for that. Always think “How can we make this more fun? How can we step this up a notch?”

One thing on my “don’t” list is to have to stand in line. I also would never ever take sponsors for granted. The recession has hurt a lot of businesses. Be humbly grateful for whatever you get.

What are some ideas that made you say “I wish I would have thought of that” or “I’m glad we didn’t do that”?

One thing I’m glad we didn’t do is make an event that’s too big or too busy because then you can kind of lose sight of the cause.

One of the things I wish I had thought of is a dinner at the firehouse with the firemen. They’re great cooks, most of them are handsome, and they’re heroes for our community.