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Dan McAllister, 4th Year student and President of the Strathclyde Accounting and Finance Society gives you the low-down on everything you need to organise a succesful (Grad) Ball.
First thing to know is that it seems like a huge job but if you break it down in to bits, it’s very straightforward! We have been running the Strathy Business Ball for I think 6 years and I have been President for the past 2 years so got used to getting everything prepped.
First thing to figure out is how many people your event is going to hold. It’s best to put out a questionnaire or get something on Facebook or something like that. This gives you a base to work from and around. You need to decide who you want to come and think about what they want.
Once you have got a rough idea of how many/who, first thing to do is get your venue sorted. Glasgow’s full of amazing venues which all have events managers. The biggest venue in Glasgow (and in fact biggest ballroom in Scotland) is the DoubleTree by Hilton on Cambridge Street which holds 700 max but is also suitable for anything from around 450/500+. For reference, the old Fruitmarket in Merchant City holds 200-300 and is a beautiful venue. They usually ask for a deposit, for the fruitmarket this is around £2000. For the Hilton it’s closer to £5000 but I’m sure there’s a way around it. Don’t be afraid of seeing how you can negotiate the price. Usually, the venue charges per person, for the Hilton this is around £35 on a good day during Christmas time.
Once the venue is sorted, tickets, money, photographs and entertainment are next on the agenda. For the past 4 years, SAFS have used the ticket system that the union has. It's really easy and FREE, which is major! You can use ticketmaster or event brite but it’s very dear and sorting out whether or not you need to pay tax is a stressful situation.
You need to price your tickets to cover all costs obviously but what you need to think about is how sustainable the event is. If you/your society want to host it the same event next year or do something special for the society, you should add to your price accordingly. We usually aim for around £5 per person but we host really big events so maybe you have a better idea of what you’ll need in the future!
Your ticket release needs to give enough time for the hype to build up and people to get excited, but also enough time to let you set up stuff with the money you’ve earned. Best practice usually coordinates releases with SAAS. Also, depending on the size of the event, staggering ticket releases builds hype, gives different people a better chance of getting tickets. Staggering tickets also gives you the opportunity (although you need to be careful) to increase the price of the second release - an early-bird kind of thing. It can sometimes not go down well though so need to just see how suitable you think it is.
The best photographer in the game is a guy called Malone, he does amazing rates for student events. We get on really well so say that Strathclyde Accounting and Finance Society referred you and he’ll likely be able to help your price out if you push a wee bit. His website is https://eventphotoguy.co.uk.
Depending on what kind of event you’re running, you’re gonna need entertainment. For our Christmas ball we have a brilliant DJ from the radio. I’m not saying you need a fire eater or can-can dancers but having something people can get up and dance to is a great way to keep everyone hyped up. Bands are great, but they are expensive, nothing less than 500 usually. With a DJ or band, you need to think about sound and lighting and people who can set up and operate lights and sound. Usually the venue has someone to do this but you need to make sure!
By far the biggest job of our big ball is doing the table plans. The method we use is: people who have bought tickets email their dietary requirements and who they want to sit with, and who the names of the people that bought tickets for. I have a big spreadsheet I can send you if you need help later on.
The venue usually offers a 2 or 3 course meal, glass of bubbly, wine/beer on the table. But here’s a list of things you should check are provided or you might need to sort out:
• Prosecco/drinks reception
• decorations - if you want the big light up letters/backdrop/props - Blue Parrot are a Glasgow based company that do loads
• Table place cards
• Center pieces for tables
• Chair covers
• Photobooth - ALWAYS a big hitter and kind of expected at most events now
Really hope this helps. Best of luck with organising your event!
This guidance is aimed at students organising a ball outwith a society but the processes are the same. You can choose whether to organise your ball using your society accounts or to apply for a separate ball account, which can make it easier to keep track of your finances.