Laura Wood

Laura Wood planned more than 50 events for the Asolo Repertory Theatre between October and June, including the Asolo’s Old Hollywood at Cocoanut Grove gala with its 485 attendees. The glamorous party raised $210,000 for Asolo Rep’s Education and Outreach Program, which helps students develop an appreciation for the arts and supports the company’s artists. Here are her tips for a great event, whether you’re organizing an intimate gathering or an extravaganza. 

Theme is Everything

“If you have a theme, go with it from start to finish. Your guests need to walk in and experience that theme from the performers to the entertainment to interactive activities.”

Pay Attention to the Details

“The best hosts have good food, good conversation, a good program and a good guest list. The top things to focus on when hosting a gala are the environment, entertainment and décor. With smaller events the most important things are guests and food. For smaller parties, like a cocktail party for 30, try to make sure guests have something in common.”

Don’t Sweat

“There is a difference between panicking and panicking in front of guests. You’re in charge of making everything look perfect all the time, so your attitude should be the same way. Make sure it looks like everything is under control, even if it’s not.”

Always Have a Plan B

“Have backup plans so that if your AV company doesn’t show up you can call someone right away. I’ve had to do that many times.”

Biggest Pet Peeve? Not RSVP’ing

“You plan so much around this evening, so for people to show up saying they just forgot to call lacks consideration. At a gala, guests buy tickets in advance so it’s not as much of an issue, but for smaller, intimate gatherings, showing up unannounced or not giving any type of notice is not encouraged.”

Learn from the Mistakes

“We had a paddle raise a couple of years ago that didn’t go well. It was embarrassing and people were not pleased. I remember being in the hallway very emotional. All you can do is keep going forward and figure out how to improve for next year.”

Black in Fashion

“I am last minute with my clothing. I wait until a week out and then order something online or stop by the mall. When in doubt, wear black. Dress code depends on the event and the theme. For Asolo Rep’s annual gala, the attire is black-tie optional. Most men wear tuxes, but the year we did the Cuban theme, Cabaret at the Tropicana, most men left the tuxes at home. For last year’s Hollywood gala, the women came in long gowns, some vintage, exactly right.”

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