When hosting a Gala Dinner or Awards Ceremony, it’s important to create an atmosphere that fills your guests with a sense of elegance, prestige, and overall excitement.

At Julia Charles Event Management, we provide many of our clients with exceptional gala dinners and award ceremonies, all designed, planned, and promoted with a creative and awe-inspiring approach.

However, event planning isn’t easy and requires a lot of preparation and organisation skills. But don’t despair! We offer our top tips to make your next Gala Dinner and awards ceremony a success.


1. Make an impact with theming

For your next gala dinner or awards ceremony, you need to make an impact, particularly on entrance. To do this, and to make it an event everyone will remember, consider the theme.

Theming your gala dinner or awards ceremony will make you take a creative approach to all the other elements in your planning stage. How you theme your event will determine the style and look of everything, from the invitations you send, to how you dress and decorate the venue.

Starting off with a great theme is certainly the best way to get your creative juices flowing, adding an exciting and fun element to the event planning process.

Our more popular choices when it comes to themes for gala dinners include:

Depending on the purpose of the event, some clients prefer to brand their event.


2. Take a creative approach to lighting

Lighting your event should play a huge part when you begin planning and theming, and depending on how you use light within the venue, will ultimately set the overall tone and ambiance. Light can be used in many different ways and its shape, colour and brightness can be manipulated to change the overall mood of the environment.

When thinking about how to use light, consider lighting changes to draw focus to different areas of the venue. This can be done by changing the colour or brightness levels. For example, if there is a stage area with awards being presented, dimming the lights on or around the tables and using theatrical style lighting near the stage area, might be an appropriate way to shift the focus.

Be creative with your lighting ideas. Some additional lighting tips that might help are as follows;

  • Use LED light strips to drape around the walls or tables. These give flexible options to lighting specific areas or walkways. Additionally, some LED smart lighting has the ability to connect with a mobile device, allowing you to change their colour and mood at the tap of a button.
  • Complement existing lighting if you’re on a budget by draping lights with fabric pieces or the use of gobos can be used to set different patterns on the floor, ceiling or walls.
  • Use table spot lights that hang from the ceiling or as table centrepieces to highlight the creative table decorations.
  • Use Logo projections to highlight the company brand or any sponsorships that might be involved.
  • Check lighting levels to make sure it’s not glaring people in the face. While side lighting can be useful for certain areas, at eye level, it can be too much when directly in peoples line of sight.
text explaining safety when dealing with lights and electrical equipment and to make sure venue is risk assessed.

3. Table dressing to add that ‘wow factor’

When all your guests sit down for dinner, you want to continue creating a unique experience. The theme and design of the event space should also sweep onto the table areas. Adding some magnificent table centrepieces is a MUST for any Gala Dinner. Without these, your event space may seem incomplete.

Using objects or decorative table centrepieces additionally allows diners to interact and snap photos, all adding to your event and brand being shared online and keeping guests entertained during dinner.

Adding some magnificent table centrepieces is a MUST for any Gala Dinner. Without these, your event space may seem incomplete. Think about the texture, material and the function the centrepieces will have. Are they purely for decorative purposes?

If you are stuck for some table dressing ideas, take a look at Our Table Centrepieces for some inspiration.

A collection of table centerpieces for corporate events and gala dinner and award ceremony events

4. Provide entertainment

A great way of breaking up the event and to Keep your attendees happy and engaged, is to provide some entertainment.

Think about hiring a musician or other entertainment acts that will keep your guests engaged. At Julia Charles Event Management, we provide a wide variety of entertainment options with the best professionals in the entertainment business.

With gala dinners or award ceremonies, we have found adrenaline-rushing options such as fire performers, aerialists and high-end shows go down very well. Sitting down for an evening can make your guests stagnant, so it is very important to keep them captivated with some truly breathtaking entertainment and performers!Alternatively, you could opt for a guest speaker or someone who can add a level of showmanship to the event.

Guest speaker at company conference presenting inspirational speech to delegates. Booked through our conference organisers services.
Guest speaker at company conference presenting inspirational speech to delegates. Booked through our conference organisers services.

If you are keeping things low-key and on a shoestring budget, why not provide some dinner table activities such as mini-games or quizzes, which can be a great gap filler and keep your attendees interacting.


5. Gifts, prizes and goodie bags

Who doesn’t like a free gift or prize? Gifting your attendees gives a great personal touch and another great resource to help sell your brand or product. In addition,receiving gifts or prizes makes the gala dinner or awards ceremony even more memorable.

However, when giving out free gifts or goodie bags, think about your audience. Think about what appeals to them and what would enhance the theme of the event. Don’t just hand out gifts for the sake of it. They should tie into the overall theme and tone.

Some things you could include in your events goodie bags are:

  • Wearable tech
  • Branded merchandise such as mugs, pens, notepads or t-shirts
  • Tickets to other events or experiences
  • A discount on any on-brand products or services

6. Utilise event technology

According to a study by Enterprise Event Marketing, event attendance can be increased by 20%, productivity increase of 27% and an overall decrease in costs by 20-30% by using event technology solutions. The study was conducted in 2016 so we expect these figures to be even higher today with the advancement of technology and more people connecting online. This clearly highlights the importance of how using tech can streamline your event planning.

With the use of mobile app technology you can offer your guests online check-in for attendee validation, virtual maps of the venue, brand experiences, event information and more.

Additionally, you could offer digital photo booths to make the occasion a lasting memory, or provide an online stream of the event for a wider, global reach.


linking to our '10 steps on how to organise a conference event' blog

7. Creative event marketing

With most people today now on some form of social media, it makes sense to use social platforms to market your gala dinner or awards ceremony, and done correctly, will make all your planning and hard work worthwhile. After all, without that engagement it will be much harder to get bums on seats.

Use social media to share small hints or clues about what people might expect. Pictures or video snippets are a great way to visually sell the gala dinner or awards ceremony and a useful tool to help sell tickets.

Creating a buzz leading upto the event will excite attendees with the added value of promoting your brand, business or product.

At Julia Charles Event Management, we put as much work into our social and marketing strategy with a dedicated media team. We promote every event, always with an aim to create curiosity and excitement. After the event, we again turn to our socials and wider marketing efforts to celebrate its success.


8. Choose the right venue

Again, this might seem like an obvious one but choosing the right venue will be a determining factor as to whether the event is a success, or one that falls flat on its face. All too often companies make the mistake of choosing a venue because it looks nice, not taking into consideration other logistics, such as;

  • Location: Is it easy for people to find and get to?
  • Parking: Is there sufficient parking on-site?
  • Capacity: Will the venue hold the amount of attendees you want?
  • Accessibility: Does the venue provide wheelchair access and other arrangements for those with a disability?
  • Insurance: What insurance is required?
  • Licensing: Are you providing alcohol at the event? If so, does the venue have a drinks licence?
  • Spacing: Will the venue have enough space to compliment your themed event?
  • Access for site-visit: Will you be able to get access to the venue before the event takes place?
  • Flexibility: If the date suddenly needs to change, will the venue provide flexible date changes?
  • Extra fees: Are there extra fees incurred? If so, will this throw you over budget?

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing your venue so make sure you shop around and have a look at different venue spaces. There is nothing worse than settling for something that becomes a huge headache down the line.

Check through the list above and that will be a good starting place to ensure you get the right venue or visit our venue finding service to make things much easier.


9. Make your food and drinks memorable

The highlight of any event and perhaps the one big thing most attendees will talk about, is the food. It’s important to make the food selection as interesting and delicious as possible, while making sure you cater fully to the needs of the guests. This will include any dietary requirements anyone has.

Knowing the profile of your guests before the gala dinner will help with any catering decisions you need to make. This information, again, can be captured by using event technology solutions as mentioned in number six of this top tip list.

Furthermore, consider aligning your food and drink options with the theme of the event. For example, for a James Bond theme, you could serve a Goldfinger Goat Cheese Tart or Moonraker Lamb.


10. Hire the right people

Lastly, the key to a successful gala dinner or awards ceremony will be down to hiring the right people. Ensure you do your background research on anyone you hire for catering, entertainment or management. Read reviews and make sure they have the creativity, experience and knowledge to deliver beyond your expectations.


Want To Book A Professional Gala Dinner & Awards Ceremony Organiser?

If organising your next gala dinner or awards ceremony seems like a daunting task, you can book an experienced and professional events company like ourselves to do all of the work for you.

Our dedicated team of event organisers, planners and event managers can turn your event into a creative, successful experience.

Get in contact today to discuss our Gala Dinners and Award Ceremonies in more depth.


This blog was last updated August 2022

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