7 ideas for seamlessly turning your conference into a gala dinner

More and more conferences are concluding with a styled gala dinner. There are three main reasons driving this trend – an entertaining gala dinner is a great way to reward your attendees after a long information heavy conference; gala dinners encourage networking; the savvy event planner can minimize costs when ‘bundling’ the two events. When planning two back-to-back events, the key to a successful experience is a smooth transition between the two. With so many elements coming together and you’re racing against the clock, this can seem somewhat overwhelming. Our event experts share some insightful tips to help the savvy event planner knock their event out of the park. 

See below 7 ideas for seamlessly turning your conference into a gala dinner 

1. Use a second room within the venue

Choosing the right venue is one of the most important decisions in planning your conference. To successfully include a gala dinner as part of your conference, a venue with two rooms is ideal. 

  • A smooth transition from conference to gala dinner

  • Booking two rooms in your venue will allow you to usher your guests to a second location for cocktails and networking. While your guests are enjoying cocktails your secondary team can redress the conference room in preparation for the gala dinner. The key to a smooth transition is teamwork. To make sure it goes without a hitch, you’ll need an experienced events team to ensure all the lighting, AV, sound and styling is in place. The room should be unrecognizable when your guests re-enter the room! 

  • Consider your attendee's needs

  • When choosing the rooms for your event, consider the fact that your guests have been sitting for most of the day while they attended the conference. With this in mind, it is a good idea to usher your guests from the conference room into a standing room elegantly accessorized with comfortable lounging areas.

    When booking your venue, choose one that offers a second room that gives your guests a break from the standard conference room setting. Look into booking a venue that offers guests access to a patio or an outdoor space. A garden view and cocktails are great ways to break from the traditional conference setting.

2. Offer a different kind of conference setting

Following a long day seated in a conference chair, your guests will welcome a change of scenery. Breaking from the monotony of what is expected at a typical conference will really wow event attendees.

  • Re-energize your attendees with a new seating arrangement

  • A simple yet really effective way to go from corporate conference to exiting gala dinner is to change the seating arrangement. Conferences can be rigid affairs, but a break from tradition and a little bit of flair changes all of that. The most common seating transition is theatre to banquet round, but again it depends on what space you have to play with. Economical use of the venue space presents a number of possibilities for any enterprising event planner. Check out our post about choosing the right seating style for your event to give you ideas.

    A more contemporary seating style is to incorporate a lounge area (pictured above) at your event. The seating here should be less formal than conference room seating and offer your guests a break from the potential dreariness of a typical conference. Likewise, a dessert bar is a crafty way to offer your guests a change of pace as well as a delicious treat. Our event stylists share tips on how to create the perfect lounge zone.

3. Add flair to your event with a hefty dose of style

It’s a no brainer. To transition from a conference to gala dinner your, event styling is your trump card. Styling for a conference tends to be minimal with some simple yet sophisticated table centerpieces, draping and some branded props around the room. On the other hand, gala dinners are the holy grail for event stylists where literally you’re only limited by your imagination. Everything can be styled, and the more you marry styling with AV, the more impactful the event.

  • Dress up your gala dinner with elegant table styling

  • Creative centrepieces are the hallmark of an attractive table setting. Your event stylist will design the perfect setting for your event look and type. Key elements to stunning table centerpieces are:

    || LED candles are perfect for adding soft and attractive lighting. They’re also cleaner and safer to use than their real counterparts.

    || Crystal and glass ornaments make great statement pieces. They are also subtle enough to be used for the conference styling, and then add some LED candles, mirrors and other styling pieces to really make them pop for the gala dinner. Creative lighting is the key to making these pieces truly dazzle guests.

    ||terrarium table centerpieceFlowers are hugely popular for both conferences and gala dinners. Whilst they can sometimes carry a hefty price tag, your event stylist will have many cost effective alternates up their sleeve. From simple orchards in abstract vases, to ‘almost real’ floral arrangements in crystal chambers and terrariums, there are many ways to achieve the floral look without breaking the budget.

Pairing your table dressings with equally vamped up chairs adds a degree of style to your gala dinner. Swathing chairs with attractive chair covers adds a sense of formality and luxury to your decor. Curtains and drapes also provide a degree of elegance for your conference and gala dinner. Drape tracks allow you to transition from conference to gala dinner with a great deal of speed so you don’t have to keep your guests waiting for long.

4. Keep the guests of your event entertained and engaged

Adding entertainment and inviting your guests to participate during your conference and gala dinner are great ways for any event planner to ensure that their’s is a memorable event.

  • Engage Your Guests With Social Media 

  • Staging Connections has a unique strategy for engaging your guests. Event Feed is an online platform which scans all social media platforms for a predetermined hashtag and then displays these posts on a screen so that guests have the chance to be featured during the conference and gala!

  • Entertain with performances at your Gala dinner

  • After a long, content rich day at the conference, your guests will welcome entertaining performances. A savvy event planner amps up their gala dinner planning game by organizing a variety of acts to keep guests engaged and amused all night long. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider commissioning a singer, a dance troupe, a magician, a quick-change act or even an aerial artist like an acrobat if your venue can accommodate it.

5. Create the right atmosphere and ambiance with AV and lighting effects

Audio visual equipment as well as specialized lighting and lighting effects are a great way to set the tone and mood of your conference and gala dinner.

  • Dramatic Lighting

  • The right lighting features add another dimension to your event. Using roving gobos, pin spot lighting and dynamic colour changes are a great way to transition from a conference to a gala dinner. Take a look at the dramatic effect of pin spot lighting.

  •  Using AV Equipment

  • During a conference, audio visual equipment is typically used to share slides and capture the audience’s attention. As you transition from a conference to a gala dinner, use the same audio visual equipment to create a dramatic impact. Using the projector and screen that were used for conference slides, project stylized images that match the theme of your gala for added effect. 

  • Using digital banners and widescreens

  • Digital BannersWhen using projectors and impactful images, consider adding digital banners as well. The flexibility in their modular design makes digital banners a great way to re-imagine your content. Arranged in various ways to support your content, digital banners can draw attention to corporate sponsors, add corporate branding, project messages to guests of your event and add animated content. 

    widescreensSimilarly, widescreens are a perfect solution for conference to gala dinner stage sets. The sheer size of widescreens make them the perfect candidate for conference presentations, whilst can also make the perfect canvas for projecting stunning imagery and stylised content onto for the gala dinner.

  • Create ambiance with music during your gala dinner

  • A moment can be made with the right music. Background music is a powerful tool for changing the ambiance of a room. Carefully select warm, instrumental tunes or high powered musical odysseys for your guests to enjoy as you treat them to an exciting gala dinner.

6. Pre-set like a pro for a smooth transition from conference to gala dinner

Transitioning between a conference and a gala dinner doesn’t have to be an ordeal. A great deal of pre-planning and pre-setting can make for a smooth transition from drab conference to exciting gala dinner. Timing plays a key part in transitioning between conference and gala dinner. A well scheduled event will be one that goes off without a hitch.

  • Simple Pre-Setting Strategy

  • For conference and gala dinners, pre-setting stage looks in two distinct layers is a good idea. Employing the use of black drapery means that you will be able to hide a secondary stage for a gala dinner and transitioning from conference to gala dinner is as simple as pulling back a drape.

  • Use Event Backdrop for a quick change

  • Event BackdropIncorporating an Event Backdrop into your stage or room design is a great way to dress up your event. Event Backdrop is  made using photographic quality print on fabric, that is brilliantly illuminated to create knock-out impact at an affordable price. Available in a range of sizes to suit all event sizes, they are ideal for delivering a message, promoting a product, reinforcing the message of an event, or building recognition of your brand.  Event Backdrop's can also be changed quickly between your chosen conference backdrop to a gala dinner backdrop that aptly matches the theme of your gala. You can also utilise Event Backdrops at the entrance to your venue to welcome guests. A great way to create excitement at your event is to use a backdrop to create a photo wall for your guests to be photographed in front of as they arrive at the event.

  • Plan your event down to the last detail

  • The lighting that you have chosen for your event plays an important role in transitioning between conference and gala dinner. To facilitate a smooth transition, lighting for your gala dinner can be set up prior to your conference and pre-programmed to begin at just the right time. All of the lighting effects and transitions can be programmed ahead of time so this won’t be something you’ll need to worry about as you prepare for the gala dinner. 

When it comes to planning a successful conference and gala dinner, the key is turnaround time and ensure that you have ample staff on hand to transition from conference to gala dinner in a timely manner. 

7. Leave it to the event production experts

Staging Connections has been transforming conferences into lavish gala dinners for over 30 years. It’s safe to say, there’s not a trick in the book we wouldn't know. Our event production team has mastered the transition, attributing it all to preparation, experience and creativity. With the largest range of event services, Staging Connections are your one-stop-shop and have everything you need to transform your event with ease. If you are interesting in exploring options for your next event, speak to a Staging Connections representative today by calling 1800 209 099 or by sending an online enquiry.

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