Global Conference: Local Arrangements Gala Event

The MBA CSEA Global Conference Gala Reception 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 and to explore unique aspects of each conference city.  Because the event is a large expenditure that is attended by a majority of attendees, it’s important to follow the processes and procedures in order to ensure it’s a success.

Venue Selection

Step 1:
Obtain a budget range or estimate from the Board Liaison to the Conference and 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, based on previous years’ budgets.

Step 2:
The Executive Director will ask the Convention and Visitors Bureau in the local area to send an initial RFP to collect information about the venues that meet our basic criteria. Proposals received from the venues will be forwarded to the Local Arrangements Committee for additional reserach. Obtain the information below for each venue. 
Criteria Preference
Date availability The event takes place on the Thursday evening of the conference.
Ideal timing is 6pm-11pm. That an 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, but a larger venue is needed in order to accommodate the needs of our group, entertainment options, and the flow of our event. 
Other space considerations What type of layout would be offered for us? A dance floor for a minimum of 150 – 200 people is needed, as well as additional space for entertainment such as a photo booth (if used). What options do they have for seating?
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. Inquire if the venue has any rules or regulations in terms of what type of entertainment can be brought in or which vendors we can work with, etc. 
Indoor vs. outdoor space Is all of the space inside, or would the group be outdoors as well? If outdoors, what options do they provide in case of inclement weather?
Catering Is catering done in-house or external?  Request the catering menu in advance in order to do create a mock budget using numbers provided by the Executive Director. The Executive Director will provide a template to use for the estimates. The draft menu likely will not be the final menu that is used, but an estimate is needed in order to assist with the site selection decision
Cost structure What is the cost to rent the venue for our event’s date and time? Is there an option to waive the rental fee if we guarantee to spend a minimum amount in food and beverage?  What is the food and beverage minimum spending requirement?  What items are included in the minimum? Inquire specifically if it includes alcohol, table settings (cups, silverware), and table coverings. 
Drink cost structure We will be handing out drink tickets for beer, wine and sodad to our attendees, and we prefer to be charged only for the number of tickets redeemded. Inquire if they would allow this process, or if not what their requirements are for beverage costs. 
Additional fees What additional fees would we be responsible for - such as staff, tableware, tablecloths, dance floor, etc. The idea is to have a full list of all anticipated expenses before conducting the site visit, so that there are no surprises after the fact.
Audio/visual options We typicaly like to show pictures from the conference on screens for attendees to view during the gala. What options does the venue have for that, and what are the costs?
Food structure options Our attendees come and go throughout the event, and therefore food must be served buffet style (stations and passed hors d'ouevres). 
Privacy Would the venue be open to our group only, or shared with other patrons?  If  it will be shared, how would they keep other patrons away from our meal and beverage service, as well as any entertainment that we pay for?
Distance from conference hotel How far is the venue from the hotel, and what type of transportation does the venue recommend? How long is the typical drive using a coach bus (taking into the consideration the time of day the gala will take place)? 
Step 3:
Develop a short list of venues based on the considerations above, including estimated budget and any other considerations that may be unique to the city or the venue. Complete the Gala Venue Options sheet in Smartsheet with all of the details listed above. 

Step 4:

Conduct site visits. The visits will coincide with the conference leadership team's visit to the conference site. This allows multiple facets to be considered. Only venues that fit within the budget and meet the minimum capacity for space should be looked at during the site visits.

Step 5:
Obtain any additional information needed based on questions that arise during the site visits. Once all of the information is secured and the budget is solidified, confer with the Conference Co-Chairs and Executive Director to select the venue. Additional questions that might explored at this stage include:
  • 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 you 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?

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 regarding anything that is contractual (including all fees, and food and beverage selections). The Local Arrangements Committee Chair will be the primary contact for logistics arrangements. Additional committee members can be utilized for this task, but it is recommended that there be only one committee contact (in addition to the ED) to work directly with the venue. This minimizes confusion and streamlines communication with the venue. 


Entertainment should be tasteful and appeal to a variety of audiences, and can 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 dancing toward the end of the event.

Food and Beverage Selection 

Given the nature of the event, food should be served reception or buffet-style. A variety of menu items should be served.  Please ensure there is adequate spacing for guests to access the food stations/bars without log jamming the flow of the event. A schematic of the event should be required from the venue during the planning stages, in order to visualize the flow and ensure adequate space to accommodate our needs.

The committee provides the Executive Director with a list of suggestions for the menu, based on the committee's vision, local favorites, and the event theme. The Executive Director will communicate with the venue to negotiate prices and finalize menus as appropriate, while keeping in mind the committee's original preferences. 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. The Executive Director will provide the venue with a list of dietary restrictions.

Other Arrangements

  • Contract
    The contract is reviewed by and signed by the Executive Director. 
  • Entry tickets
    RSVP’s are collected for the event when attendees register for the conference online. Provide the Executive Director with the deadline by which RSVP's are needed, based on when the final count  is due to the enue. 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 Marketing Committee so that the tickets can be ordered as part of the printing/signage order.
  • Drink tickets
    Drink tickets may be created by the venue. If not, generic tickets can be purchased from Amazon or an office supply store. Let the Executive Director know if these are needed, and they can be included in other conference supplies orders.
  • 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.
  • 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. The Marketing Committee will create any physical signage needed. The Local Arrangements Committee should check with the venue regarding additional signage provided, as well as restrictions for bringing in outside signage.
  • 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 provides the Executive Director with a list of volunteer needs in advance of that communication, and then communications with volunteers once they are secured.