Gala Tips and Takeaways from the Minnesota Star Awards

minnesota star awardsWe had a unique 360-degree view of this year’s Minnesota Star Awards, the International Live Events Association’s gala to honor the top performers in our industry. Not only did we have the opportunity to present one award and win another – which was a true honor – but we also handled the entire AV production. And if you don’t think we pulled out all the stops for a ballroom full of our industry colleagues, you don’t know us very well!

It was a huge event, and working with industry insiders as both our “clients” and the “talent” only added to the pressure, yet that ultimately proved the value of some of our most trusty processes to pull it all together. 

A big event, but an even bigger production

The audience numbered about 300 – on par with many corporate events – but the scope of the LED, lighting, etc. was up there with a large-scale gala. So we went all out. We had about 20 people working on it – our entire crew plus some freelancers. We brought our whole warehouse for set-up – enormous screen, multiple huge banners to each side, lots of LED . . . you get the picture.

Bigger events may be more complex, but the keys to success remain the same regardless of size. Here at Heroic Productions, we’ve learned to follow the same professional plan no matter who our client is – even when working with fellow event professionals who know the drill well enough to think they can get a little loosey-goosey with some of the rehearsals and planning. That’s where our tested processes kicked in.

You have to prepare for flexibility

Things go wrong. Or they change at the last minute. It’s the nature of live events. If you’re prepared, you may be surprised but you won’t be stumped. You can adjust seamlessly without sacrificing event quality. If you are not as prepared as possible before you go live, you cannot be flexible when something inevitably changes.

That’s why you prepare to be flexible.

A gala may be a celebration, but it’s still an event

Unlike corporate gatherings, galas are a celebration of some sort. The event has to be beautiful and flawless, but a rigid framework won’t work. Galas have to flow informally, like a real party, but “informal party” does not mean “seat of the pants.”

Rehearsal is required. Event participants and our AV team need to double-check scripts, where people will stand, where the lights are, what the sound is like, etc. Without a walk-through, confusion and mistakes are more likely, and that reflects poorly on everyone. It also means our AV team has to adjust on the fly, so the event looks smooth, as if everyone was prepared. Otherwise, it looks like we didn’t plan well. Our goal is to give the guests the best and most seamless show we can. Rehearsal ensures that.

But galas can be challenging because participants may not want to rehearse. The event organizer may know what’s going on because they’re in the business, but now they are the client. Their perspective has changed 180o. When it’s your event, you need to know the details, not just the big picture. Presenters may be tempted to skip rehearsal because they are also industry pros. They know what to do. They’d rather enjoy the party atmosphere.

The thing is, no two events are alike. Insisting that everyone rehearse ensures everyone will be comfortable and on cue.

The “Voice of God” must be perfect

Gala events often have an unseen announcer, called Voice of God (or VOG) in the industry because the disembodied sound seems to come from on high. It is essential to double-check every detail – names of people and awards, titles, spelling, pronunciation. Pre-recording VOG segments ensures clean, consistent delivery. If something changes later, we can always record that part.

Visuals such as award slides require the same perfection when it comes to names, spelling, etc.

The host needs to know the flow

Galas and awards events often have lots of presenters but there is always a host, or emcee. They need to know all the details, especially if things have changed since the initial production meetings. They must be on hand for rehearsal and in continuous communication with the AV team during the event.

Last-minute changes happen

This is where preparing for flexibility pays off. For example, our AV team always brings back-up equipment from mics and cable to a laptop. That way, if anything goes down, we can quickly replace it or make whatever adjustment is needed and move on. We even try to foresee last-minute changes the client might want to make and be ready for those, just in case. The same must be true for all aspects of the event.

Thank You – 2 little words that mean so much!

You can never express enough gratitude. As the AV team, the best way we can show our gratitude is by making the people on stage and the event organizer look great. The organizer is our client, and they spend a lot of time working with us to ensure everything is just right. They are more than a client, they are part of the production team. When all goes smoothly, that benefits the presenters as well as our crew. We appreciate that.

Gratitude feels good on the receiving end, too. Weeks after the Minnesota Star Awards, we’re still getting accolades from our industry colleagues for our work on this event.