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Gala_Rental_2019_FI.jpg Photo by Special Events magazine
Peggy Jewell (at left) presents the Gala Award for Best Achievement for Event Rental Support to the team from Town and Country Event Rentals at The Special Event 2019.

Tips to Pick the Right Gala Award Category

Boost your odds of getting a Special Events Gala Award nomination by entering your work in the proper category.

Your work was outstanding, the client was thrilled, and you know that this year, your event was Gala Award-worthy. The next step: picking the right Gala category to show your work off to best advantage. A reminder: The first Gala entry deadline is Oct. 25; the “late bird” deadline—at a slightly higher fee—is Nov. 1. The Gala Awards will be handed out March 12 at The Special Event/Catersource in Las Vegas. The Gala Award entry portal is here.

Here are tips:

1. Best Fair/Festival
(Do not enter trade fairs/exhibitions here; please use #14: Best Event Marketing Campaign, below.)
Here, Gala judges like to see that are engaging, smart and successful. Did you overcome tough logistics? Did you bring in more attendees than last year? Did you have to overcome painful budget cuts?

2. Best Fundraising Event
(Must include both gross and net money raised, in U.S. dollars.)
Fundraisers aren’t just pretty parties—they are events that do good in the world by raising funds for deserving causes. How did you event leverage the budget you had to work with? Where did you scrimp and where did you splurge to create a successful event? Show the judges that the money you spent paid off.

3. Best Event Produced for a Nonprofit Organization
(Client must be a registered nonprofit. Do not enter fundraising events in this category; enter in #2, above.)
As with fundraisers, events for nonprofits must spend budgets wisely. Show the judges where you scrimped and where you splurged. Also important: How did you throw the spotlight on the nonprofit?

Best Wedding
(Category refers to ceremony and reception only, not multiple-day events. Be sure to include a Budget**, which must include the retail* value of food & beverage, venue, decor, floral, entertainment, lighting, invitations, labor and installation costs. Do not include bridal party clothing, rings or honeymoon. Use the budget template here.)

4. Best Wedding Budget Under $1,000 Per Guest
5. Best Wedding Budget $1,000 and Above Per Guest
For both the wedding categories, Gala judges want to see the entire event. Some entries make the mistake of entering only one aspect of the wedding—such as floral—without taking into account the ceremony, reception, etc. A big mistake: not to include catering—are there weddings where no one eats? A big fact to remember: The judges want to see creativity, not just big budgets being thrown around. Be fearless about showing the great work you created on a tight budget.

6. Best Multiple-Day Event Program for a Corporation or Association
(Refers to a sales meeting, training meeting, incentive, etc.)
It’s hard to keep a group from wandering off, especially when your event takes place in a bustling destination. The Gala judges like to see how you created an engaging program that keep attendees committed to the event from start to end.

7. Best Tent Installation
Tents can create a stunning event space where nothing existed before—and Gala judges love them. Don’t be shy about sharing all the nerdy details about factors that made the installation tough and how you overcame them. And don’t be afraid to share how you overcame the mishaps that cropped up. A good “potential disaster solved” story gets extra points.

8. Best Achievement in Technical Support
(To be entered by a company directly responsible for the structural shell of the event: rigging, AV, power distribution, etc.)
9. Best Achievement in Logistics
(Applies to overall challenges faced during preproduction.)
As with Best Tent Installation, the nitty-gritty details about how the event team overcame challenges in technical support and logistics are catnip to Gala judges. Overcoming challenges is a major part of success events, so don’t be shy about sharing your hard work and creative solutions. Showcase your inner MacGyver!

10. Best Achievement in Event Rental Support
(To be entered by a full-line event rental firm.)
Way back when in 1982, Special Events magazine got its start covering “party rental,” and this segment is still dear to the hearts of Gala judges. Feel free to share the full story of how your rental company executed the vision of the client with design expertise, logistics savvy and consummate service.

Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution
(Entertainment booked and produced to complement a theme. Be sure to include a Budget.** The entry must include retail* entertainment budget breakdown. Do not enter entertainment available to the public on an ongoing basis. Judges will consider the performance alone unless you indicate that you wish technical aspects of the production—such as lighting, staging, special effects—to be considered as well; if so, these elements must be included in your budget. A video link is required. Use the budget template here.)
11. Best Entertainment Budget Under $100,000
12. Best Entertainment Budget $100,000 and Above
While it’s great to have the budget to pay a superstar to sing, the Gala judges are especially fond of seeing creative expression. Show how the entertainment experience was original, complemented the event, and delighted the audience.

13. Most Outstanding Spectacle
(Refers to an event with more than 5,000 attendees.)
If you created a big-time show for a big audience, apply here.

Best Event Produced for a Private Individual(s)
(Do not enter weddings here; enter in weddings categories, above. A Budget** is required. Include the retail* value of invitation, decor, food & beverage, labor, entertainment, sound, lighting, venue, installation, planner’s fee, transportation, etc. Use the budget template here.)
14. Best Event for a Private Individual: Budget Under $1,000 Per Guest
15. Best Event for a Private Individual: Budget $1,000 and Above Per Guest
Weddings get their own Gala category—see above. Here, showcase your great mitzvahs, anniversary parties, birthday parties, and so on. Be sure to include all aspects of the event: food, décor, entertainment, and so on.

16. Best Event Marketing Campaign
(Enter only events that serve as the actual advertising/marketing technique. Entries must demonstrate how the events served the client’s marketing objectives.)
With the rise of experiential marketing, here is your chance to show your chops. Winning entries will show an awareness of the client’s objectives, how the event was designed to meet those objective, and how the event met the challenge.

17. Best Event Venue
(Please explain what features make the venue the best showcase for a special event.)
The menu can make or break the event; here, don’t be shy about sharing what makes your nominee idea for events. It could be big doors that allow cars to drive in, easily reconfigured event spaces, smart access to kitchen facilities, and so on.

Best Decor
(Budget** required. Include the retail* design/decor/lighting budget breakdown. Use the budget template here.)
18. Total Decor Budget Under $250,000
19. Total Decor Budget $250,000 to $500,000
20. Total Decor Budget Above $500,000
The secret to doing well in this category: Look at what the images you submit show and be sure to include those elements in your budget. For example: If your photos show cool lighting, make sure lighting is in your budget.

Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association
(Refers to a single event; enter multiple-day events in #6 above. A Budget** is required; include wherever possible the retail* budget breakdown for the entire event: invitation, decor, food & beverage, labor, entertainment, sound, lighting, venue, installation, planner’s fee, transportation, etc. Use the budget template here.)
21. Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget Under $500,000
22. Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association: Overall Budget $500,000 and Above
Entries that perform well in this category include all the elements of the event (see above). A tip: Gala judges respect money well spent, so don’t try to shoehorn a high-budget event into a lower budget category. The judges know what things cost, so lowballing budget lines will come back to bite you.

Questions? Feel free to send them here.

*Retail refers to the amount that the client would normally be billed, including the planner’s fee or percentage of the budget based on services provided.

**The Budget template can be downloaded here.

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