With glamorous gowns, flowing cocktails and sparkling energy, a gala is unlike any other networking event you are going to attend. Not to mention the greater investment because of the higher ticket price. The good news is that there is also a much greater return if you know how to network effectively at a black tie event. I see so many people make mistakes that make them look naïve and even out of place. So this month I put together some tips so you make the most of your next gala and maybe even come away with some new opportunities.
I am a champion for women and gender equality; I also serve on the Vancouver Advisory Committee in support of UN Women and recently we organized the #NotYetForTheDress International Gala to end child marriage, so it was particularly meaningful experience when it finally came time to attend it with my husband. Our venue was beautiful Krause Berry Farms and Estate Winery with musical guests Grammy Award Winner Ricky Kej (he is in the photo with us with his lovely wife Varsha), and our keynote speaker was human rights activist Mandy Sanghera. It was a truly spectacular experience, for an amazing cause. So you see my experience comes from both sides of the equation, as an attendee and as an organizer.
Dress to impress
A gala calls for either a gorgeous cocktail dress or evening gown for women and a stylish suit or tuxedo for men. Another consideration is the season, location and theme. The gala we attended, for example, was in the Spring and outside, so I wore a maxi dress. You might do business with some of these people in the future, so do not wear anything you would not want your boss or work colleagues to see you in. I also like to get my makeup done professionally.
Be interested and interesting
I often write about how business people need to be more interesting when they network. Too many people just focus on what they do and try to talk business right away. I think that’s a mistake. What else are you interested in? What charities and causes do you support? You want to find common ground and form a connection. Don’t forget to ask other people questions too, but not so much that you make them uncomfortable. Yes and bring business cards with you, always bring business cards with you!
Do not hog people’s time!
You want to meet new people but try to not to hog anyone’s time. Spend some quality time with each person or group of people and then excuse yourself and move on, they will appreciate it too. This is especially true when meeting celebrities, public figures or influencers. Do not overwhelm them with attention or ask to “pick their brain”. Keep the conversation light, be kind, even flattering and then leave them alone.
Be prepared to spend more money
A gala event is almost always a vehicle for fundraising so you can expect both a silent auction and a live auction. Remember another way to get involved is to donate higher value products or services to the silent or live auction. You should attend expecting to spend more money to support the cause or charity organizing the event. Looking at silent auction items can also be a good opportunity to start up a conversation with someone.
A gala is a unique opportunity to publicly support a worthy cause. They also give you a chance to step into the spotlight and shine. With the gala season fast approaching, start looking at the causes, dates and ticket prices (because they vary a lot let me tell you) and make attending galas part of your overall marketing strategy.
Here is to toasting your success.