🚀 The Event Playbook: Proven strategies to level up your next event!

🚀 The Event Playbook:
Proven strategies to level up your next event!

a large gala event venue set up with tables, chairs, plates, silverware and decorations in front of a stage

Deciding on a Gala Event Venue? Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes

Any event host knows there’s a fine line between success and utter disaster! Each element needs careful consideration, not the least of which is the venue. Choosing the right venue is essential for success. 

Venues are the ultimate make-or-break factor – even for some completely virtual ones! This is doubly true for a venue-dependent event like your corporate gala.

Your Gala Event Venue Matters!

a reception hall during a crowded party with blurred string lights in the background

The space sets the event’s tone and defines your guests’ overall experience. If you choose an old-fashioned venue, it will feel stuffy and dated. On the other hand, if you choose a modern fun space like a trendy urbane loft or a contemporary rooftop tavern, your guests will experience something unique and energetic.

When it comes down to it, some experiences are only possible in specific event spaces. An upbeat, lively atmosphere, for example, requires a venue with lots of natural light and open spaces. On the other hand, more formal occasions can only do with high ceilings and some expectation of grandeur. 

Imagine holding your gala in a room with low ceilings or one that doesn’t lend itself to socializing. The atmosphere would be completely off-kilter, and the guests wouldn’t feel comfortable.

Think of your event venue as a blank canvas – your opportunity to create something unique and memorable for your guests. There might be other elements at play, but the right venue will decide the baseline odds of success at the end of the day.


5 Mistakes People Make When Deciding on a Gala Event Venue

But truth be told, all of that is easier said than done. Choosing the right event venue is a challenge. With so many factors to consider, finding the right space can feel overwhelming at the beginning. To avoid costly disaster, here’s a list of common mistakes people make while venue shopping for their corporate gala event:

a young asian woman holding a credit card, not knowing what she wants to do with her gala event venue

#1: Not knowing what they want

One of the biggest mistakes rookie planners often make when selecting a gala location is thinking too narrowly about their needs. 

Whether it’s a failure to conduct adequate research or an inability to narrow down their options, this common problem leads to bad decisions and unmitigated failures.

First-time hosts tend to get caught up in all the planning details and forget to stop and think about what they want from their event. Before researching venues, take time to reflect on your goals for the gala. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • A map of the area where the event takes place
  • A list of items to find (e.g., a picture of a certain landmark)
  • A prize for each item found 
  • Try to get as much clarity about what you want from your gala as possible. Think about what you want the broader event experience to be. 

    Doing this will help you choose the best venue for your specific needs and ensure that your event is successful in all possible ways.

    #2: They don't have enough time to find the right place

    Even the most organized event planner can find it challenging to find the perfect venue on short notice. Time is always a factor when planning an event, especially for corporate gala events that require large venues and catering companies. 

    If you don’t have time to research all your options or work out agreements with different vendors, then something as simple as booking the wrong venue can throw your entire event off.

    The solution is to plan and give yourself enough time to find the right venue for your gala. If you have a specific event date, start researching venues at least six months before that date. This should help you understand availability, pricing, and contract terms well before the date.

    Pro Tip: Another option is to use a venue finder service or qualified event consultant that can help you quickly research and compare venues based on your specific needs.

    These services may have contracts with hotels, event spaces, and other local vendors, so they can often help you get the best rates and avoid any of the usual headaches.

    young man eating takeout because he doesn't have enough time to decide on a gala event venue

    #3: They're not sure if their budget is big enough

    Another planning-related mistake that often costs businesses lots of money is underestimating the cost of their event venues. An amateur planner might think a venue with many event services included in the package is too expensive. 

    Still, they need to realize how much the associated costs will add up in the long run. Catering alone could dent their budget, especially since corkage fees for outsourced providers typically run as high as 20% of the total bill.

    And for something that often requires exquisite decor options and large catering orders, that can end up meaning thousands of dollars wasted. 

    The best way to avoid this mistake is to get an estimate for your entire event budget before you start looking at venues. That way, you’ll know what you can afford and which venues are within your reach.

    Pro Tip: Many event spaces will offer special pricing or packages to event planners who book several services simultaneously.

    To get the best rates, try to secure all of your vendors (i.e., catering, house bar services, security, and rental equipment) from the same venue. This not only minimizes complications and reduces stress, but it can also save you money in the long run.

    #4: They don't know the specific requirements of a gala event

    Not all occasions are the same, and understanding exactly what your event requires makes the difference between a successful gala and a glorified office party. 

    A gala has specific requirements that others don’t, from the size and shape of your space to what kind of special equipment you’ll need.

    Knowing precisely what you need before searching for venues, from lighting to entertainment to catering to restrooms, is essential. This will help narrow down your options and ensure that your chosen place has all the event items you require. Galas, at the very least, need dance floors, tables and chairs, lighting and sound equipment, bar service, and more. 

    Making sure that your event space has all these basic requirements, plus ample parking spaces for your guests, will make planning a lot easier.

    an outdoor venue for a gala event with string lights running from a central pole

    Pro Tip: Remember to think about other event-related costs as well, such as transportation for your guests, parking for your vendors and staff, and decorations. 

    This can help you plan your budget more accurately and avoid last-minute surprises. If you need clarification on what your gala will require, consult a professional event planner or venue coordinator to help determine the best options. Avoid squeezing an office party into the needs of a gala and ending up with an event that feels hastily thrown together. With the correct planning and preparation, your gala can go off without a hitch!

    a banquet hall that has been set up

    #5: They don't book far enough ahead

    We mentioned this briefly earlier but needed to stress this point more. Booking 6 months or more ahead of the gala event date is crucial for ensuring that your venue will be available and giving you plenty of time to prepare.

    Gala event spaces fill up fast, especially for popular dates like New Year’s Eve or holiday weekends. Remember that you’re not the only one looking to hold galas in your community. 

    Even if you find the perfect space, there’s a good chance it will be booked by someone else who isn’t willing to wait. If you have a particular venue in mind and haven’t booked yet, don’t wait any longer – start working on the contract today.

    One other mistake related to this that rookie event planners make is not giving themselves enough time to confirm their reservations. It might seem trivial, but you must complete the deadline for confirming your reservation to ensure you get all the right venue choices. 

    This can be especially damaging for significant corporate events and cause stress as you scramble to find a new venue. Confirm your reservation ahead of time and give yourself plenty of wiggle room if anything goes wrong.

    Pro Tip: Life happens, and sometimes even the most diligent planners find themselves a couple of weeks away from their event with no venue booked. 

    If this happens to you, don’t panic. If you need to book a venue for your event next week, your next best option will be hotel ballrooms or luxury event center spaces. While only sometimes a great fit with your gala event, these are easy to find and book on short notice. They are expensive, so be prepared to fork over some extra cash to secure the venue.

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    Going Hybrid with Your Gala Event

    The pandemic transformed how companies and organizations interact with patrons. Making your gala event a hybrid event offers opportunities to reach a much larger audience for fundraising, networking, and exposure. Not only that, hybrid events have rapidly gained popularity because they make events more accessible for those with physical or financial limitations. 

    Finding a way to create an incredible virtual event experience for online participants will make your event that much more memorable. So what hybrid production needs do you have to consider? 

    a young woman attending a hybrid event and interacting with the live audience there

    Focus on Connecting the Online Attendees with the In-Person Event

    Take the time to use the tools and livestreaming platform to make the most engaging and interactive experience for both virtual and in-person attendees. Combine ideas like polls, livestreaming virtual audience reactions on a big screen, social media contests, and more. 

    Work with your virtual production team to work out any technical issues ahead of time so the online audience has a real-time connection to speakers and other attendees. 

    Always Have a Tech Session with Your Emcee and Event Speakers

    While your speakers may be experts in their fields, not all are prepared for hosting a hybrid event. Go through a detailed tech check with your speakers and emcee. 

    Review audio, lighting, and the internet connection, especially if you have virtual speakers attending. A virtual emcee will host the online attendees and keep them engaged. 

    They should be experienced with virtual events, very flexible, and comfortable with the hybrid event experience. 

    a virtual production team shooting a hybrid event

    Work with a Virtual Production Team You Trust

    You might be comfortable with basic event production. Be sure to work with a team of seasoned professionals that understand modern streaming platforms, lighting, sound, and the technical production side of things so you can have a seamless and incredible gala. 

    Our award-winning team at We & Goliath will be happy to guide you through the steps of creating an incredible hybrid event experience.

    3 Questions to Help You Get Started on Your Gala Event

    Careful planning is paramount when it comes to hosting successful galas. Before you start looking for event spaces, ask yourself these three key questions:

    1. What is the purpose and theme of your gala?

    Are you raising money for charity, celebrating a significant achievement at work, or promoting an important cause in your community? 

    Make sure that the venue you choose aligns with your purpose and theme. This will help you choose the right venue, as each space has its own requirements and amenities.

    For example, if your gala is a fundraiser for a local charity, choose a venue that accommodates a large crowd and has room for a stage, dance floor, and auction area. 

    If your gala is celebrating a work milestone, hold it at a restaurant or other catering venue that can provide the necessary food and cocktails. If you plan on having a hybrid auction or fundraiser, work with your virtual production team ahead of time so the event succeeds.

    The theme of your gala affects the event’s atmosphere. If you’re going for an elegant black-tie affair, find a sophisticated venue with high-end cuisine. 

    If your theme is fun and festive, consider holding your gala at an amusement park or other outdoor event spaces. Before you start browsing, think about what kind of vibe you want your gala to have.

    ushers of a gala event discussing guest attendance with the host of the gala event

    2. How many guests are you expecting, and what space requirements do they have for your event?

    The best way to answer this question is to create a guest list to determine how many people your event space needs to accommodate. Decide if you want a seated dinner or a casual cocktail-style event. 

    Factor in space for tables, chairs, and a buffet area for a seated dinner. If you want a cocktail party, you’ll need room for a bar and seating areas.

    Once you have an idea of how many guests to expect, it will be easier to start narrowing down choices for event spaces. Remember most venues have a minimum and maximum capacity. 

    Choose a space that comfortably accommodates your guest list. Remember the earlier you start, the more options you have, so don’t delay.

    3. How much are you willing to spend on your gala event?

    Gala events can be costly. Set your budget ahead of time. Catering alone will be your most considerable expense. Picking the right caterer is as crucial as choosing the right venue. 

    Consider the cost of decorations, printing invitations, renting audio-visual equipment, and other miscellaneous event services expenses that come up along the way.

    Expensive events are not always good events. Overall experience is not decided by money alone. Prioritize the experience your guests will have over fanciful opulence. 

    Keep your budget in mind when choosing a venue so that you only spend what you can afford.

    an expensive black tie gala event with well dressed guests and beautiful lighting in the background

    It’s okay! Give yourself plenty of time, be willing to do the research, and plan carefully. The last thing you want to do is throw together an event without knowing where to begin. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the details involved in planning a successful event. Still, there are ways to streamline the process and save yourself from stress.

    You can even start your journey with a cursory Google search of “gala venues near me,” and look at the available offerings most accessible to you and your attendees. Once you’ve found a few potential locations, contact them directly to ask questions and schedule a tour.

    If you’re still unsure about which venue to go with, hire someone who knows their stuff to help you. A professional planner will help you figure out everything from the type of food to serve to the style of décor you’d like to use. We have decades of combined experience working with clients like you, so we know what works and doesn’t.

    We hope our tips help you find the perfect venue for your next gala event. If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us anytime.


    We & Goliath

    We & Goliath is an award-winning, top 100 worldwide event agency known for increasing conference attendance by 7X and profits by 3X through beautifully designed virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. Since 1999, their team of innovative strategists and creative designers has worked with global enterprises, SMBs, non-profits, and other organizations to engage audiences and exceed expectations.

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    We practice what we preach — and we deliver.

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