Global Conference: Local Arrangements Gala Event

The MBA CSEA Global Conference Gala Event is the highlight of many conferences - something members look forward to each year as a chance to network in a relaxed setting outside of the traditional conference environment.  Because the event is a large expenditure that is attended by a majority of attendees, it’s important to follow the processes and procedures to ensure it’s a success.

Venue Selection

The gala may be hosted on-site utilizing space at the hotel, or at a local event venue depending on budget, resources, timing and other factors. The following steps are followed if an external venue is being considered. 

Step 1:
Obtain a budget range or estimate from the Executive Director. The budget may not be finalized when the initial venue research is conducted, but a range can be used to qualify and vet the locations. Each year's circumstances will dictate when the initial research can be conducted. The Executive Director will provide guidance about the best time to begin.

Step 2:
The Executive Director will ask the Convention and Visitors Bureau in the local area to send an initial RFP (Request for Proposals) to collect information about the venues that meet our basic criteria. The following information is requested in the RFP:
Criteria Preference
Date availability The event takes place on the Thursday evening of the conference.
Ideal timing is 7pm-11pm, which can be adjusted slightly if needed. 
Minimum required capacity
(seated and standing)
A 500 minimum total capacity is required for the event space. Food is served buffet style (heavy appetizers - either passed or in stations), and people arrive and eat at different times. Therefore, we do not need a chair for each person. A minimum of 250 chairs is needed.

Note that the average number of attendees is typically closer to 350 - 400 for a typically Global Conference (during non-pandemic times), but a larger venue is needed to accommodate the needs of our group, entertainment options, and the flow of our event. 
Other space considerations A dance floor for a minimum of 150 – 200 people is needed, as well as additional space for entertainment. Availability of seating options will be requested. The RFP will include types of space (indoor, outdoor, etc.) and options in the event of inclement weather.
Entertainment options The goal is to find a place that has a number of different entertainment options for a variety of different tastes - i.e. exhibits, interactive installments, city views, etc.. If the venue does not include entertainment, external entertainment may be brought in. The RFP will include any rules or regulations in terms of what type of entertainment can be brought in or which vendors we can work with, etc. 
Catering If catering is internal, a draft menu will be requested based on our typical food order so that the venues can be compared. 
Cost structure Rental costs, guaranteed minimum amounts for food and beverage (including and excluding alcohol), what is included (cups silverware, table settings, table coverings).
Drink cost structure Process for individual charges for beer and wine (drink tickets. etc.). 
Audio/visual options Options to show a slideshow, for DJ equipment, etc. and associated costs. 
Food structure options Buffet vs. sit down options
Privacy We prefer a private area that isn't accessible to other guests. 
Distance from conference hotel Typical drive/walking time during the time of day our event takes place.
Step 3:
The committee develops a shortlist of venue options based on the RFPs received that meet our criteria, and sends the list to the Executive Director and Board Liaison to review and finalize. 

Step 4:

Site visits are conducted utilizing the final list of options. Ideally, the Executive Director will be able to participate in the visits to ensure institutional knowledge and all factors are considered. This will depend on resources and timing. The ED will prepare a list of items to focus on during the visits.

Step 5:
Debrief after the site visits and make a final recommendation for the ED and Board Liaison. 

Step 6:

Once the venue is selected, the Executive Director will work with the venue to secure the contract. The Executive Director remains the primary contact with the venue. A Local Arrangements Committee member will serve as a secondary contact to assist with additional arrangements as needed. This minimizes confusion and streamlines communication with the venue. Additional committee members can serve as a subcommittee to assist with decisions as needed and help with the additional arrangements. 

Additional questions that may need to be explored after the venue is selected include (many of these things might be in the contract):
  • Are there restrictions on the type of entertainment or decorations that can be brought in, including glitter, pinning things to walls, changing the layout, etc.? 
  • Are there any noise restrictions?
  • What furniture is included in the space? 
  • Are there branding opportunities for our sponsor(s)? 
  • Do they have a list of preferred suppliers/vendors or an exclusive vendor list?
  • Is there a deposit required upon agreeing to the terms?  Is the deposit refundable? 
  • What staffing is included in the venue rental and/or for special events?  Is security required and included in the rental fee?  
  • Do they include any freebies or services with the venue rental fee?
  • Are there hidden costs like a service charge, gratuity, cleaning fees, or overtime charges? 
  • What additional insurance, if any, does the venue require for private events?
  • Are there accessible locations for busses to drop off and wait for return trips to hotel? How far will people have to walk to get to the venue from the buses, and back?
  • How many hours do they allow for set-up?  How early can we access the venue to decorate?  Are there any costs required to gain access earlier in the day?  Can we ship to or drop things off at the venue beforehand?


Entertainment should be tasteful and appeal to a variety of audiences. It can also be a great way to highlight the culture of the local city. If the venue includes entertainment (such as an interactive installation, games or an art exhibit), external entertainment may not be needed. Examples of previous galas where entertainment was provided by the venue include the Experience Music Museum in Seattle (interactive music-related exhibits) or the World of Coke in Atlanta (displays about the history of Coke, tasting stations, movies, etc.). Examples where external entertainment was brought in include the Hard Rock Café in Dallas (line dancing) and the Barbarossa in San Francisco (casino games and characters).

In addition to interactive entertainment, a DJ or band is secured for music during dinner and dancing during the second half of the event. For the dancing part, a typical "dance party" DJ is sought, with music from a variety of decades. 

Food and Beverage Selection 

Given the nature of the event, food is served reception or buffet-style. A variety of menu items should be served.  A schematic of the event will be required from the venue during the planning stages, in order to visualize the flow and ensure adequate space to accommodate our needs.

The Executive Director provides a draft menu to the committee for feedback and negotiates prices as needed. Beer and wine is typically served, with drink tickets provided for the first two drinks (as well as soft drinks), and then a cash bar after that. The Executive Director will sign the final Banquet Event Orders and provide the venue with a list of dietary restrictions.

Other Arrangements

  • Contract
    The contract is reviewed by and signed by the Executive Director. 
  • Theme
    The committee develops a theme for the Gala Event, which may incorporate decorations, entertainment, and dress for attendees. The theme should be light-hearted, and any dress suggestions should incur minimal cost on the part of the attendees.
  • Giveaways
    Budget pending, a giveaway may be purchased for gala attendees. Giveaways should be related to the theme and/or local area, inexpensive, and applicable to a majority of members. 
  • Entry tickets
    RSVP’s are collected for the event when attendees register for the conference online. A deadline is utilized for the RSVPs based on the contract with the venue. Tickets are handed to those who RSVP during on-site registration, and are collected at the door at the event. The venue may create their own tickets, or the committee may be responsible for creating them. If the committee creates them, the design is sent to the ED so that the tickets can be ordered as part of the printing/signage order.
  • Drink tickets
    Drink tickets may be created by the venue, or they might be ordered from Amazon (the ED takes care of purchases).
  • Marketing
    The committee creates verbiage to promote the event to conference attendees. This is included on the web site, as well as emailed to attendees in advance. The venue may have specifications for what can and can’t be used for marketing purposes (i.e. logos, pictures, etc.). This information is typically included in the contract, so check with the ED for details. 
  • Signage
    Signage is typically provided by MBA CSEA to recognize the gala sponsor. The venue may also provide additional means of recognition, such as digital signage. MBA CSEA staff will create any physical signage needed. 
  • Volunteers
    Volunteers are typically needed on-site to collect tickets at the door. Volunteers also assist with transportation, if needed (meeting the buses at the hotel and assisting with loading, and doing the same when the buses return to the hotel at the end fo the event). Depending on the venue and entertainment, there may be additional volunteer needs. The Executive Director sends out a Call for Volunteers during the month preceding the conference. The committee helps manage the volunteers on-site.