The gala is a staple for fundraising and corporate celebrations. Easy enough, just roll out a few white stage lights, a projector, white tablecloths, a plated dinner, seat guests at the same table all night—and, cue the collective “YAWN.” It’s time to shake your mental Etch-a-Sketch on those ho-hum traditional assumptions and make way for fresh, energized, and memorable.

Here are six ways to throw the alt gala.

Location, Location, Location

Sure, you could host another gala at a hotel, which will absolutely get your guests’ attention, since they’ve never done that before (aka, we’re being ironic).

Instead, scout one-of-a-kind spaces like museums, art galleries, or a historical building. Spaces with architectural character, or educational aspects, and/or beautiful artwork will add intrigue to your event. Think even further beyond the ballroom: rooftop, warehouse, barn, dancehall, brewery, field, or your mom’s house (but ask, first). 

Start the Transformation

If you can’t land that cool space, don’t worry, there are several ways to enhance the look of any event venue. Projection mapping, for example, is a great way to transform a space into something entirely different. Use walls, ceilings, even floors to project images or video and alter the space and elicit frequent, “WHOAs!” from your guests.

Heroic once recreated the northern lights over a forest, on a large warehouse wall. In another case, we projected a textured pattern on the floor to mimic the ground outdoors. We happily report a number of head explosions, metaphorically of course. 

Since you can project images onto almost any surface, you can also create virtual table centerpieces. Or, if you’re planning a gala that includes an impressive sheet cake, map onto that in lieu of the usually frosted decoration. Deliciously eye-catching.

The Wonders of Illumination 

Need a more budget-friendly decorating strategy? No problem. You can work wonders with lighting. Use light to define or change spaces throughout the event. For example, we lit a room one color as guests arrived, but changed colors after each session to make it feel like attendees were in a new space. You can also use colorful lights to highlight the silent auction tables, live auction display, and dinner tables.

Our ContentCanvas has a considerable Wow Factor. Create a wall of LEDs to greet guests, or a podium, display table, or presentation cube out of LEDs. This is an easy way to shine up a small part of your event.

Another option is to use ribbon LED screens (much like the ribbon LED screens that wrap around the stands in a stadium). These screens can be used to frame your entrance or highlight the registration table. Let there be lighting. 

Hidden costs that are affecting your event budget

Be Interactive

We know tradition says, provide every guest with a specific seat, but please refer to the title of this blog. Round tables of 8 or 10 humans are isolating and sometimes painful (i.e., being seated next to, you know, “that guy”). Set your people free. Sprinkle food and beverage stations around the space so guests can circulate and consume. 

Include some bistro tables, and for seating, create comfy lounge-type arrangements. Your guests will love the less formal, chill (mood, not temp) environment.

Think about including other interactive elements like an Instagram-worthy photo wall or a crowd-sourced art project. People love having things to participate with while they are attending your events!

Book an Attraction

Presentations are a given at any gala, but you’re staging an alt gala so step it up and entertain them. Seek out fun, unique performers that will set your event head and shoulders over the norm. One of our clients featured acrobats who performed on a cloth hanging from the ceiling. Don’t have room for dangling daredevils? Jugglers, comedians, and magicians are a great choice, too. How about a caricature artist armed with an iPad to produce digital sketches guests can post or Tweet? 

Go immersive for the program element. Map your story onto the walls or ceiling (complete with audio), or incorporate activation stations where guests can “get the point” of your gala via short quizzes, VR headsets, videos, or other hands-on activities.

The Benefits of Benefaction

Projection mapping, groovy tech AV options, and alternate venues aren’t always cheap, especially for nonprofits. So, scout for sponsors. Sponsorships are a great way to attract more attendees and raise more money. And what forward-thinking brand wouldn’t love to get behind your pioneering event-of-the-year?

Planning a gala doesn’t need to be the same tired gala-by-the-numbers event. Whether you want to take a few steps up the alt ladder or blast your guests over the moon, a great AV partner can help bring your vision to reality. We know a great one, just sayin’.