Recently a former client demanded that I label their inaugural event a gala. I wouldn’t.

The event that they sought out my expertise to design was an introduction to their non-profit. A celebration of their one-year anniversary that coincided with the upcoming launch of their new performance season. The event’s purpose was to enrich existing fan relationships, establish connections with new audiences and to facilitate intimate dialogue with all attendees. At the eleventh hour, they demanded that I label their inaugural event a gala when it was an early evening introductory showcase with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. That demand ended the relationship. Let me inform you of why it did so that you do not repeat the same mistake.

A gala is typically reserved for the black-tie circuit. The type of grandiose fundraising balls held at five-star resorts with ticket prices ranging from several hundred to a few thousand per person and purchases by table. The type of affair that society’s upper echelon attend in their finest gowns, tuxedos and jewels.

Ironically, this demographic group comprises the organization’s target audience of desired patrons. These society members would probably scoff at the idea that a gathering was marketed as a gala especially given the unknown brand, leadership, location and ticket price. The improper event description diminishes the organization’s credibility as well as mine. By the way, people will not attend a misrepresented event.

This lesson is one to heed along with these other event description pointers:

  • An event goal and budget will determine the type of event. The type of event will establish a theme and structure. The structure will generate a timeline. All of these elements are packaged to present the event and its intended purpose.
  • If it is first-time event, it is an inaugural affair and should not contain first annual in its description. This detail applies to galas, awards programs and events intended to become annual traditions.
  • If it is a gathering the set-up is more informal. This includes happy hours, potlucks, picnics and spontaneous social meet-ups.
  • A fundraiser is expected to benefit a legitimate 501(c)(3) organization or serves the purpose of political pursuits. If you are invited to a fundraiser, please expect to make an investment and dress according to the stated code.
  • Festivals, retreats, showcases and screenings are events that generally are as transparent as they sound and provide detailed instructions pertaining to attendance and participation.
  • Celebrations generally implies contributing some type of gift. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and graduations all fit in this category. An emerging trend is to hold celebration of life events over funerals.

Ideas of grandeur can taint our vision from time to time. However, when it comes to events, it is wise to remember that they are an increasingly essential brand extension. An appropriate description of your event is appropriate and necessary; especially if you want to gain or increase your organization’s credibility.

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