I was at yet another craptastic charity ball/event/gala/whatever you want to call it this weekend and I hit my breaking point. I can't do it anymore and I can't let you be the next person to hit their breaking point. I can no longer stand by and let these atrocities go on any longer.
I go to way too many of these terrible events. I have done as many as 30 in a year and I average 15. Most of them suck in the exact same ways, which makes my job here pretty easy.
It should be noted that my wife does this crap for a living (kinda) and in no way thinks I'm correct with any of my suggestions. In fact - she thinks I'm wrong about everything, so just assume that's her position from here on out.
This should not be in any way shape or form like the DMV. Too often it is. Long lines filled with people who have no idea WTF is going on or why it's taking so damn long to do something so very simple.
First of all, get rid of the computers. The average asshole stuck doing registration duty is not a good enough user of Excel to quickly and efficiently look people up and check them off. People paying a lot of money to attend your event don't need to sit there waiting while Timmy Ten Thumbs pushes the down arrow a million times because he's laptop retarded and doesn't know how to scroll using a track pad. Paper is bad for the environment and awesome for event check-ins. It's faster to swish through five pages of paper than it is to key through a spreadsheet on a laptop.
Second, your smartest volunteers should be at check-in. Stupid volunteers can be relegated to carrying things while your smart volunteers interact with the people who write the checks. If someone is spending $10,000 for a table at your event - don't let the first person they see that night be your top dipshit.
Third, send out credentials before the event starts. You'll have check-in 75 percent completed before the event even starts and you can refocus your efforts elsewhere. It also helps with events where there are auctions and you need people's credit card info on file. They can also peruse the items before the event and decide where they want to spend their money.
Fourth, if you are doing an auction - make that registration table separate. Most of the people are only there for the free food and booze, don't make them pretend they're going to bid on something when it's obvious they're not going to. It's a waste of time.
This is where most events start losing people. I've walked out of three events in the last three months because the hosts couldn't get this part of the party right.
If you're going to have an open bar, do not pull the shitty little trick of having one bar with one old slow man serving drinks. We all know the game - you want people to come so you put "open bar" on the invitation. However, you don't want to pay the price for all the drinks the lushes you invited will drink so you make sure getting a drink is a slow painful process. People who can afford to drink quickly catch onto your game and they will leave. This is bad for events where you have auctions - if all the people with money leave because they'd rather go across the street to a bar and have a drink without the wait, then you're left with only the people who showed up for the free shit and God knows they won't bid on your donated trips to Bali.
Go ahead and have a cash bar - I shelled out a grand for two tickets to your event, I think I can afford to buy a few drinks as well. Just make sure there are plenty of bars and the people standing behind them know what they're doing. It's also better for the cause if their bottom line isn't eaten up by the open bar tab. People who are enticed to attend your event by free booze are likely not the people you want there anyway. They came to consume, not donate.
YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE A SIT DOWN DINNER! EVER! There should never be a "dinner" of any kind - heavy hors d'oeuvres and that's it. Here's why.
Have you ever noticed that they have to shut down the cocktail reception bars, send 80 waiters out with those stupid hand held xylophone-looking thingies and eventually start begging people over the PA system to come and sit down for dinner? At every event they plead with people to find their seats, but why? Because nobody wants to stop mingling to go sit down in silence over crappy food for an hour and a half while a bunch of blowhards pat themselves on the back.
The first problem is the food. Nobody looks forward to "rubber chicken" dinners at these events. The fact is that no dinner prepared for more than 20 people is ever good. It's mass produced crap. You know it, and I know it. No one has ever left an event at a hotel and said "that's the best meal I have ever had." In fact - everybody goes out to dinner after the event because they didn't want to touch the crap they were served. Why would you reward someone who gave you thousands of dollars of their hard earned money with a shitty dinner? That makes no sense. Do you think the high dollar donors you so desperately need at your event like eating luke warm chicken and overcooked fish product? I doubt it.
Another problem with the sit down dinner is that there's always someone at the table with some special food need - whether it be that they are a vegetarian or have food allergies - and they don't get their plate until everyone else is getting desert. It never works out and it's just awkward for everyone. I have a vegetarian coworker who attends a lot of these event with me and she has never had her special meal come out on time. It ruins the event for her every time.
The second major problem with sit down dinners is that they are a part of a plan to create a captive audience for the organizers who want nothing more in life than to stand on a stage and blabber on and on about themselves. Nobody looks forward to this part of the program. Do you know how I know that? Because people never stop talking while the speakers are speaking! Does no one get the hint? Are you the greatest volunteer ever? That's great - add to your mystique by shutting the hell up and getting off the stage.
These people paid your charity lots of money - don't reward them by putting them to sleep with speeches from people nobody cares to hear from.
Sitting down for dinner brings all the fun to a grinding hault. All of a sudden you're stuck sharing two bottles of wine with a table of ten people who you may or may not want to be with. Think about it - often you are sitting with people you know, not people you like. The people you like are at another table with people they know. I'd rather have the choice of being with people I like at these events. Remember - when you're at the table, you're supposed to be listening to the speakers drone on about shit nobody cares about, not engaging in awkward conversations trying to feel out your table mates.
Why not just let the cocktail reception be the whole event? Make tables available so the fatasses that just came to eat can sit there and stuff their faces while the rest of us mingle. Heavy hors d'oeuvres will suffice as long as they keep them coming and don't run out of the good stuff (shrimps!). Have a small stage where people can pretend to talk to the crowd or conduct a few auctions. Maybe even put a DJ up there (never a live band - in a two hour event they play for a grand total of 20 minutes - total rip off).
Let people get hammered - that's what they came for. Stop with all the formal nonsense of sitting down. I guarantee you'll have the best event of the year if you do what I've suggested above.