The Gala Awards competition will still honor great event design and strategy. But how you create your entry changes this year. “Our Advisory Board has recommended changes in how entries are put together and what information entrants should supply,” notes Special Events Magazine editor Lisa Hurley. “They have two goals: first, to standardize entries so they are easier to compare, and, second, to make the judging process itself as impartial and fair as possible.”
NO NAMES, PLEASE
One of the biggest changes that entrants will see this year is the requirement that entries keep the name of individual entrants and their companies confidential. “Board members think the ISES Esprit Awards are on the right track by demanding anonymity from entrants,” Hurley says. “The Galas should do the same.”
In practical terms, this means that Special Events staff members will remove entry forms, payment forms and referral letters from binders before turning the binders over to the judges. (Board members meet in the Special Events offices in October to judge which entries become nominees; they meet again in January at The Special Event to pick the winners.)
“But entrants have to keep their own names out of their own binders,” Hurley says. “This includes items such as the text of the write-ups, stationery in the binders, labels on CDs or DVDs, cover sheets and so on. For those who have entered the Galas for years, this will be quite an adjustment.” Entries that break the anonymity rule will be disqualified.
SHOW US THE MONEY
Another big change this year: All entries must include a budget. The Board members made this recommendation after deciding they could do a better job comparing various entrants in all categories if the entries made it clear what resources were available, Hurley notes.
“This may not be as scary as it sounds,” Hurley says. “Up till now, only a third of the categories required a budget. Yet the most common question I am asked in the days leading up to the entry deadline is, ‘Are you sure I don't need a budget in my category?’”
The Gala Award budget template can be downloaded from the Special Events Web site at specialevents.com/gala_awards. “The Board members know that not all line items in the template apply to all entries — for example, ‘Best Floral’ will never need all that detail,” Hurley says. “But I have seen the judges begin to look askance at entries with budgets that are confusing or too sketchy. Following the Gala budget template is a must.”
Another new requirement: including a production schedule that outlines planning, preparation, installation and teardown. Again, not all entries will have a detailed production schedule, Hurley notes. “But the schedule will not only show the judges what challenges the event team faced but also how much strategizing went into the event,” she says.
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT US …
Although the Galas have in the past been open to event pros behind events at The Special Event, this is no longer the case. “The Board decided that events based almost entirely on donations — no matter how skillfully those donations are used — just aren't comparable to events where clients — either internal or external — foot the bill,” Hurley notes.
A tiny — but significant — change comes in the wording of No. 3 of the Four Questions. “One Board member asked us to change ‘How was this event well executed’ to ‘How was this event professionally executed,’” Hurley explains. “All event professionals have to deal with short lead times, sudden storms and skin-tight budgets. The judges will be more impressed by seeing how the event pro overcame significant, unexpected hurdles.”
And while the magazine staff can't put this rule in writing, they do have a request for entrants. “Please don't stuff your binder to bursting,” Hurley says. “These are the binders that inevitably pop open while being shipped to our offices, and they are a nightmare to put back together!”
The 2008 Gala Awards entry form appears on pages 48-49. If you have questions about the Gala Awards, send an e-mail to Special Events editor Lisa Hurley at firstname.lastname@example.org.