Now in its 36th year, the 2021 Special Events Gala Awards competition honors the finest work in special events worldwide.
And in more good news: This year, you can enter the Catersource 2021 Ace Awards in the same online portal as the Gala Awards. Catersource and The Special Event will co-locate in 2021, running July 19-22 in Miami Beach at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Both the Gala and ACE Awards will be presented on July 22 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
In the words of one judge for the Gala Awards, “Galas are the time to raise the bar.” So, what qualities elevate an entry to award-winning status? Veteran judges of the annual Gala Awards competition—all members of the Special Events Advisory Board--reveal how they settle on scores, and offer tips on submitting a top-notch entry.
1. Get it together.
Across the board, judges are in accord: What you leave out will cost you. “The first thing I do is check to make sure all the components are there,” says one judge. “I know it has nothing to do with how talented these people are, but it’s part of the [entry] directions.”
Another judge states, “I believe it is critical to follow the instructions as the bottom line for an entry—that way, everyone starts out on an even playing field.”
The same judge cautions, “Having even one point deducted because you overlooked a component can have a marked effect on the outcome.” In short, “Incomplete entries will kill you.”
2. Write it right.
While they don’t base their decisions on prose alone, judges say that strong, accurate writing goes far in furthering an entry’s progress in the competition.
One judge says he seeks out “concise and cogent wording that makes me interested in learning more about the event,” while he docks entries that are “too wordy, not precise enough to sell the event.”
The judges are human and there are a lot of entries, so you need to keep the judges’ attention,” cautions another judge. She says she is turned off by written responses that are “too vague or too dry.”
For yet another judge, redundancy raises a red flag. Entering a single event in multiple categories without providing different written responses for each category is a no-no, he notes, as is “repeating the same phrases in the answers to different questions.”
You can make only one first impression. Since the written description is the first aspect of your event that the judges see, make it memorable with a neat, spell-checked entry. As one judge puts it, "If you cannot write well, then hire someone who can."
3. Make your photos do the talking.
Proving the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” judges frequently say they wish they could see more photos in entries. Adding extra high-quality photos packs a visual punch, allowing the judges to better appreciate your event. The Gala rules require 10 photos, but you can upload up to 20. Do not include collages.
Don't just tell the judges why you deserve a Gala Award--show them why, with pictures that are of professional quality. Bear in mind that the event description and the photographs should complement each other. The photos should verify--not contradict--the claims in the description.
4. Let truth be told.
All judges agree: When it comes to entry content, honesty is the best policy.
Many judges point to budget as an area that they watch closely for signs of trouble. In categories that require budget information, entrants “have to remember the event has to be able to be duplicated exactly with the budget that’s given,” according to one judge. She offers the example of a decor-category entry whose budget omitted lighting—a key ingredient in the production, she says--because lighting was an important element in the photos submitted for the entry. “It was definitely a mistake on the entrant’s part, because it was a great entry, but, unfortunately, that hurt them.”
Don't try to cram a pricey event into a lower budget category. "We just don't trust those entries because we don't believe them," says one judge.
Another judge warns against stealing the spotlight. “If it appears you and your team are taking credit for work performed by someone else, you’ll lose points,” he explains. For example, if your sole contribution to a wedding was strictly the floral, then think about entering one of the decor categories, but do not enter "Best Wedding."
5. Get down to specifics.
It's fine to enter the same event in multiple categories, but be sure to write an original entry for each category.
For example, don't submit the identical entry you used for “Best Logistics” in your submission for “Best Wedding.” After seeing the same entry in more than one category, judges begin to skim the now-familiar material, and consequently lose the full impact of the event. Therefore, they may deduct points if the submission does not address the specific category in which the event is competing. To impress the Gala judges, take the time to tailor your entry to its individual category.
6. ‘Why does this entry matter?’
A first-rate entry answers the question “So why does this matter?” and convinces the judges that the challenges overcome to accomplish this event were noteworthy, making the finished product worthy of a Gala Award.
As one judge explains, “Installing a tent in a flat field on a calm summer day is not going to get as many points as one that was installed on a cliff at the height of tornado season.”
A word of warning to entrants claiming they've overcome “outrageous” challenges in the course of producing an event: Explain why that aspect of the job was troublesome. It's not enough to bemoan such common problems as cantankerous clients, tight budgets, or rain on the Big Day.
Remember that the judges have produced events, too; they know what qualifies as a difficult challenge versus problems that occur on a regular basis in the industry.
Find all the details about categories, how to enter, and deadlines on our website: www.specialevents.com/gala-awards