Every gala is different. So instead of giving you advice and specifics that may not be useful for your organization, I will share my approach.
Gala messaging is not about reinventing the wheel. It is about expressing an already strategically, thought-through case for support to a specific group of individuals.
I keep the message real by developing it with real people in mind, donors who will be at the event. I am talking about real people not composite characters based on demographic indicators. I look for people who have capacity to give and who may not be fully sold on the cause. By selecting skeptics, rather than the organization’s missionaries, I need to work harder to make the message relevant and real. For the sake of this post, let’s call our two people Jack and Diane. As I develop the message, I think about what, precisely, I want Jack and Diane to think, feel and do as a result of what they hear and see at the gala.
By considering what I would like Jack and Diane to think, feel and do, I place myself at the table with them. I’m there with friends. I’m enjoying good conversation, good food and good wine. In this environment, a speech will hold my interest only if it is made by someone extraordinary or if its content is extraordinary and somehow touches me. I will likely pay attention to a short video that has an element of surprise, intrigue or drama, and I am less likely to pay attention to talking heads on a screen. I will be more moved by stories and demonstration of impact than by details and statistics. I screen every part of the message–printed, spoken and mediated–through the perspective of Jack and Diane and use the case for support for focus, content and direction.
Let’s apply this approach to your event. What would you like the folks at your gala to think, feel and do at the end of the evening? Are you looking to your case for support for focus, content and direction?