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Conference to gala dinner: managing the big event transition


Though we live in a heavily digital business world these days, there is still much to be gained from traditional face-to-face events. Conferences still tend to be an effective way of connecting with your current business partners, forging new relationships, and demonstrating the new features and products that your company has to offer. And when you have finished with the business-driven part of the event, it has become increasingly common to transition this into a gala dinner.

When you move onto the second part of your event, this is the perfect time to reward everyone who is attending with a fun evening, as well as allowing you to minimise costs rather than hosting two separate events. However, when you are planning back-to-back events, you need to ensure that there is a smooth transition between the two. This can get very overwhelming unless you have planned everything in detail. So, let’s go through a few top tips that will help you seamlessly transform your professional conference into a glittering gala dinner.

Choose a venue with multiple rooms

A venue with two rooms is ideal when you are attempting to plan two separate events. This will allow you to provide a place for your guests to relax with drinks while your events team is redressing the room to transform it from a conference venue to a dinner venue. This can be a simple space with a bar, plenty of standing room (your guests will have been sitting for most of the day) and some lounge chairs. To make sure that this happens in the quickest time possible, you will need an events team who are well-versed in ensuring that the all the lighting, AV, sound and styling is in place efficiently. Perhaps you will be using multiple organisations for things like the events management, audio visual effects and mobile soundproofing solutions which are both affordable and highly-effective. If this is the case, they need to be aware of the timetable in which you are operating to make sure it can all be done in time.

Provide a different kind of seating arrangement

Even though you will be hosting the two events in the same space, it shouldn’t look this way. Change the seating arrangement and your guests will think that they have entered somewhere new entirely. The most common transition is to go from a theatre layout to banquet-style seating, but everything very much depends on the space that you have to work with.

Add a dash of glitter to your gala dinner

While changing the seating is important, it is perhaps even more essential that you switch up the event styling. This tends to be fairly simple and professional for your business conference. However, your gala dinner is the place when you are only limited by your imagination and your budget. Dress up your tables which some attractive centrepieces including LED lighting, glass ornaments and flowers. Improve the look of the chairs with some attractive covers which provide a sense of luxury. Curtains and drapes are also central in creating the look that you are going for. In fact, these are a great way to keep everything covered up until you are ready to invite your guests inside for the big reveal that you have now totally transformed the space.

Keep your guests thoroughly entertained

After a long day of business activities at the conference, your guests will be appreciative of any sort of entertainment that you lay on for them in the evening. Rather than just having a single act towards the end of the evening, the best event planners have numerous acts who will entertain guests throughout the course of the event. Perhaps your have chosen a theme for your event, in which case, your entertainment should reflect this. Otherwise, you could choose a variety of performers to offer something for everyone.

AV and lighting create the mood

The mood and tone of your conference can be very much set by the AV and lighting that you choose to use. Audiovisual equipment generally tends to be used to share slides and capture the attention of your audience. You can use the same equipment that you used at your conference to create a totally different effect. Wide Screens are great for transitioning a conference into a gala dinner as they grab the attention of your audience. The music that you choose over the course of the evening is also important as this can really take your guests out of business mode and into party mode.

Do some pre-planning and pre-setting

Transitioning from one event to another can be made less of an ordeal when you do as much pre-planning and pre-setting as you can. The most straightforward way of doing this is by using dark drapes to cover the entertainment stage that you have set up behind the conference one. It is the little tricks like this one which will save you valuable minutes when you are setting up your secondary venue and trying to get your guests back into the room again as soon as possible.

Ask your guests for their patience

When you are trying to pull off something like this, it is highly likely that at least one or two things are going to go wrong. So, if there are any delays which are likely to hold up the course of the evening, it is worth being totally upfront about this with your guests. As long as the drinks are flowing and you provide them with some nibbles, they shouldn’t mind too much!

So, there you have just a few of the ways that you can transition your conference into a gala dinner. When you are trying to pull something like this off, the key is organisation, and you need to be fully confident in what you are doing. If you are unsure, it is always going to be worth enlisting the help and support of a professional events team who have been there, done it and got the t-shirt!

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