As summer heats up, Special Events Magazine's offices fill to the rafters with Gala Award entry binders — a whopping 388 arrived last year. Since your tireless Special Events editors have the happy task of organizing, logging and shipping the binders to The Special Event, we're passing on a few anonymous tips from the front lines of the Gala Award deluge. Here are some insider secrets from your eyes and ears in the office.

PERFECT BOUND

  • “Don't stuff your binder too full. Staff must open the binder to remove items such as entry forms, then re-close it. Once your binder is complete, open it in various places. If you can't close it again easily, you need a bigger binder.”

  • “The pockets in the front and back of three-ring binders are not secure. Don't place anything in there — CDs, DVDs and especially not the entry fee!”

  • “Drop your Gala binder on the floor. If it springs open and the pages fall out, bear in mind that this is how it will likely be delivered to our offices once the courier service has thrown your box around.”

MONEY MATTERS

  • “Tally your budget. The judges don't like to do work they expect you to have done.”

  • “Be careful with budgets. I often hear judges questioning entries that try too hard to slip into a lower budget category. Judges are looking for money that is well spent, not for lowball charges for common event items. They will question budgets with line items that seem too low.”

  • “Use the suggested budget template! It's a new feature of the entry form this year and something the judges have been asking for. Don't run the risk of having the judges decide your budget doesn't cover the major event elements.”

PROOF UNTIL PERFECT

  • “Get someone to proof your entry. Grammatical errors won't cost you a Gala nomination, but a clean, well-written submission will have a professional polish that may give you the few extra points that make all the difference.”

  • “Conciseness is appreciated. Keep your writing short and snappy.”

  • “Sloppy writing makes judges question what else is wrong in the entry.”

EVERYONE'S A CRITIC

  • “Put the proper elements in the proper order. The judges read many, many entries, and they expect to find each item — budget, 1,000-word description, etc. — in the prescribed place. Don't make them go hunting for it.”

  • “Avoid repetition — it's boring.”

  • “Make sure to include updated contact information on the entry form, in case Special Events staff calls to confirm an aspect of your Gala entry.”

PICTURE PERFECT

  • “Pictures speak louder than words. While we request a minimum of two photographs per binder, many applicants include more. If you have six beautiful pictures that depict information related to your category, include them all.”

  • “The judges like good photos, so go ahead and use plenty. But make sure your photos are clear and that they support what you say in the rest of your entry. For example, if you enter one of the Best Theme Decor cat-egories and show a photo with dramatic lighting, then the judges will expect to see a line for lighting in your budget.”

TAKE HEART

“If you don't receive a Gala nomination, remember that we mine Gala binders for story ideas.”

The Gala Awards 2007 competition accepts events taking place between Sept. 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007. Nominees will be notified by mid-November, and winners will be named in January at The Special Event 2008 in Atlanta.

GALA FORM

The Gala Awards entry form appears on pages 44-45 of this issue. You can find more tips on entering and winning a Gala Award by visiting our Web site, specialevents.com/gala_awards.