Top tips for organising a gala event with Sarah Connelly

Sarah Connelly
Sarah Connelly is the Director of Product of the Year Australia, a globally recognised award program that is held in over 35 countries. With experience in product management, advertising and sales management Sarah is originally from the U.K, however is now based out of Queensland. The Product of the Year Awards are held in November each year.
We chatted to Sarah about what’s involved in organising a gala event and her top tips.

How do you choose the right MC for your events? 

When I’m looking for an appropriate MC for our event, I always consider the audience first. In our case, we have a very noisy and excitable crowd so it needs to be someone who can manage that and command the attention of the room. This is mind, star power is a factor for us, especially as our award is annual and heavily in the public eye. Due to this, we have remained consistent in choosing celebrity MC’s as they build hype, and are very confident speaking with audiences. They’re also a big drawcard for media attendees.
Ultimately, you want someone who can communicate effectively, have the flexibility to handle any situation as it arises and keep the audience engaged and entertained.

MC australian product of the year awards

How do you manage logistics for your events such as the run sheet and table allocations? Do you have any hacks or secrets to make sure everything runs smoothly? 

Everyone loves attending events, but many don’t actually enjoy the preparation behind the scenes. The consistent problem I find when organising events, is that they are more overcomplicated than they need to be. A way to avoid this would be to choose a venue and suppliers that are trustworthy and are willing to go above and beyond to make the evening seamless.
When the day of the event arrives, the most stressful times are often bump-in and bump-out and often this is due to multiple people always on the move. A great way you can maintain control during this time (and avoid getting overwhelmed) is to have a very detailed run sheet that includes everything from supplier contact details, to the delivery times, to your guest list! Having it all handy in one place will save you a lot of time and stress.
table at australian product of the year awards

What’s your event marketing strategy look like?

As our Product of the Year Awards are there to recognise some of Australia’s leading consumer brands, we promote the event consistently, both internally and externally through our Public Relations agency. Many of the attendees are from the winning brands so we communicate with them primarily through our monthly newsletters, emails and word-of-mouth communication.
Externally we engage a public relations agency to facilitate the attendance of media and influencers. For this, they issue out invitations to a wide-array of lifestyle and consumer media to garner interest in the event and be some of the first to exclusively hear the line-up of winners!
We don’t sell tickets to the event and we have limited numbers which makes it an exclusive and desirable event to be invited to. We also encourage our attendees, partners and sponsors to promote the awards night on their socials, online and in print to raise interest for it for the next year!
Australian product of the year awards trophy

How do you choose a venue and what are your must-haves? 

The venue is one of the most important decisions you can make when hosting your event. I personally always prefer to choose a high-profile venue as this generates excitement for our winning brands and media attendees. That being said, there are several key non-negotiables when it comes to deciding where to host your next professional affair! These include:
  • Access/Location – consider whether the location is easy for people to access, is it located somewhere close to where your guests are based, is it a well-known/reputable venue?
  • Food/Menu – is the menu inclusive of all dietary needs, will people walk away and talk about how good the food/drinks were?  Is it flexible? For example can you do a 3 hour drink package followed by an on consumption hour or 2? This can really save on costs.
  • AV/Music – nothing will create audience disconnect at an event faster than poor AV and technology. To create a seamless event, consider investing in a reputable AV and sound team who can make sure that all your tech elements including microphones, speakers and screens run perfectly on the day.

Australian Product of the Year Awards

What’s your favourite thing about organising events?

It’s no secret that running events can definitely carry their fair share of stress, however for me, nothing beats the excitement and pride of seeing your event come together and receiving positive feedback from guests.
It’s always wonderful for me to see them enjoying themselves throughout the event and even more so if I’m contacted afterwards. For me, I love to create events that keep people talking and keep them coming back again!
australian product of the year awards