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Gala Gold

FROM THE TIME they're received in September to the time the trophies are handed out in January, Gala Award winners go through five rounds of judging by a panel of Special Events Magazine Advisory Board members. Here, Gala Awards judges explain how they separate the best from the rest, and offer insider advice on entering to win.


The biggest mistake entrants make, many judges say, is submitting an entry that has more information than needed to answer the questions.

A common complaint is just plain excess in the written components of the entry. While judges cite “details” and “clarity” as benchmarks of a good Gala entry, as one judge puts it, “some entries are too wordy.” “Keep the 1,000-word description as close to 1,000 words as possible — don't make it three or four pages long,” he warns.

When it comes to the competition's Four Questions, another judge tells entrants to provide answers that are “concise and appropriate for the category entry.” For example, she says, “If entering the decor category, focus on the decor, not the entertainment, food, etc., of the event — unless it applies to why the decor was chosen or designed.”

Another judge sums it up this way: “If you can't write well, hire someone who can.”


Without the right photos and enough of them, Gala entries don't stand a chance, judges insist.

A good photo “needs to be able to reflect and capture the color and movement of the event,” one judge says. “This can sometimes be achieved more easily on a larger print.”

Another judge agrees, saying the first thing she looks for when she opens an entry binder is “photos that show the specific elements which make the event Gala worthy.”

A third judge suggests that photos be “individually mounted for easy viewing.”


With categories that require budget information, judges say they watch for figures that honestly reflect the cost of every element of the event.

Many judges say they flag budgets that omit food and beverage costs, allowing entries to “slip into a lower-priced category.”

Any entry in the “Best Event Production” categories “should include invite, decor, food and beverage, entertainment, site, gift and any other items related to producing the entire event,” another judge advises.


More than anything, judges say they're looking for entries that are complete but not overdone.

The judges urge entrants to double check to ensure that their entry contains the required elements — 1,000-word description, answers to the Four Questions, photos, 100-word synopsis, entry form and fee, plus additional materials, such as videos, required for specific categories.

Entries that ignore the competition's call for plain, undecorated binders get an automatic point deduction from one judge who calls the violation “a blatant disregard for the rules.”

Most importantly, the judges say, “Make sure all components are there.”

Turn to pages 64-65 for a 2002 Gala Awards entry form, or download a form from

See this story on the Web at


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