GALA Awards entries are due Sept. 9 — how can you help make your entry a winner? Try thinking like a Gala judge. Here are six important points to keep in mind:


    Each judge reviews nearly 100 entries just to pick the nominees, so entries that don't follow the rules stand out — and lose out. Judges deduct points when entries are missing important elements or are assembled in a slipshod way. The Gala Awards Entry Form (on pages 34-35 in this issue) clearly specifies how to put your binder together. Double-check your entry to make sure you have everything requested and that all elements appear in the proper order.

    Don't let sloppy spelling detract from the quality of your entry. Have someone proofread your entry, and be sure to run a spell-check program. Judges welcome the chance to view plenty of photos, so don't hurt your event's image by using poor-quality photos — such photos make the judges question the quality of your work.


    It's fine to enter the same event in more than one category, but don't make the mistake of using the same description for each entry. If you enter “Best Floral Design,” describe the floral, not the tenting. By the same token, if you enter “Best Wedding,” judges will look for details not only on floral, but also catering and entertainment. Entering the same event in several categories requires that you tailor your entry to that specific category. And that means rewriting your entry for each specific category.


    Gala judges are event experts themselves and know what various elements cost, so resist the urge to try to squeeze a costly event into a lower budget category by trimming budget lines here and there. Judges want to see money spent wisely, and distrust budgets that seem too good to be true.

    A further note on budgets: Budgets are required only for categories that specify a dollar figure in the title. So, “Best Theme Decor: Total Decor Budget Under $10,000” requires a budget, but “Best Event Marketing Campaign” does not. For a suggested budget template, visit


    As noted above, judges love to see plenty of event images, so be generous. Photocopies of images are fine (just be sure to include at least two color photographs, slides or high-resolution digital images as well; if your entry is nominated, Special Events needs high-quality images to publish). But bear in mind that the judges will notice if items shown in the images are not described in your entry. For example, if photos in your entry for “Best Theme Decor” show elaborate lighting but you don't have lighting listed in your budget, the judges will question why.


    The only categories that require videotapes are “Best Event Entertainment Concept” and “Best Theatrical Production.” Here, submit videos that demonstrate the entertainment that the guests enjoyed. Don't make the mistake of submitting videos that are simply promotional pieces for your company.

    You may submit videos in other categories, but make sure the videos suit that category. For example, if you want to include a video for your entry in “Best Event Produced for a Corporation or Association,” then make sure the video shows the event itself, not just the event's entertainment. And don't shortchange your entry by submitting a video that runs too long. Videos must be edited to run no more than 10 minutes; judges may turn off your tape at that point.


    Having a big budget to spend on an event can be a double-edged sword. While the results can be impressive, having such resources at your disposal almost always makes creating a wonderful event easy. As one Gala judge once put it, “With $1 million to spend, you had better be able to put on a great wedding.”

Gala judges are always eager to see events where pure creativity — not generous budgets or donations — is the star.

You can view more suggestions on entering the Gala Awards by visiting our Web site,