Producing a Gala Dinner is bloody hard work! There are so many different “event elements” that need to be managed, which is why Event Management companies are often engaged to focus purely on one particular element of the event – usually this is will be Theming or Entertainment.

Perfect Events were brought in to manage the Entertainment for the 2016 ONJ Gala, which celebrates one of Australia’s true icons – Olivia Newton-John – and raises money for her amazing Cancer, Wellness & Research Centre in Ivanhoe and is part of the Austin Hospital.

This event has been a great success since its inception in 2013, with guests treated to memorable performances from Australian musical legends. They included getting John Farnham out of retirement (again) in 2014 – which led to an Australian Tour of Olivia and John in 2015. In 2015 we worked with the incredibly talented Barry Gibb who flew out from America specifically to perform at the ONJ Gala. He truly was sensational. We also had The Veronicas, Wendy Matthews, Glenn Shorrock, Christine Anu, Tim Campbell and many other great Australian performers over the last three years which we had the great pleasure of working with. The highlight of course was the star of the night, Olivia Newton-John who also performed every year, and did so again this year.

A Lineup Made in Heaven (if not managed properly we all know where this goes…Hell!)

This trend continued in 2016 with an awesome lineup of Jimmy Barnes, Jon Stevens, the boys from Swing On This, Jason Heerah, and the cast from Kinky Boots… not to mention Olivia Newton-John releasing her new song “LIV ON” supported by 20 girls from the Australian Girls Choir.

Managing entertainment is a lot more than simply booking talent and waiting for the talent to rock up on the night and perform. You need to ensure that all their production requirements are taken care of which includes constant liaison with the client, managers/performers, AV techs, Musical Director etc etc. You also need to ensure that riders, flights, transfers, accommodation, food and drinks are taken care of. But the biggest thing is MANAGING EXPECTATIONS – as this is a fundraiser event, not a concert.

One person who I have worked closely with on this event since inception and have an exceptional relationship with is Music Director, Chong Lim, who I cannot speak more highly of, and to be honest is probably the key ingredient in managing and producing the final product.

A lot of people wouldn’t be privy to the work that goes into the scheduling of the rehearsals/sound checks on the day of the event, and with Chong this is vital as he and his band are potentially playing for up to 5-6 consecutive hours. It is up to me to keep this on track (happy band & performers = great show)!

Working with entertainment can be a tricky one, and over the years in this biz I have learnt that you need to be a/ extremely patient, b/ open minded (don’t believe what you hear, most of them are so nice!), and c/ prepared for more than a few late “curve balls” to be thrown at you, ESPECIALLY on the day! This was no different with this event.

Some of the “curve balls” I encountered:

  • Flight changes (lots of them!)
  • Flights delayed/cancelled – this has a MASSIVE flow on effect
  • Missed transfers (just completely forgot one had been organized)
  • Someone has fallen sick and couldn’t make it;
  • Having HAN-GRY Entertainers because of no food or drinks

To handle these “curve balls” you definitely need a supportive and understanding crew with you – which thankfully I had!

MC Notes

We were extremely lucky to have Deborah Hutton and Richard Wilkins as MC’s for the ONJ Gala; both complete pro’s and have been involved with this event for several years, and are therefore very familiar with the fundraising goals.

A lot of time is spent on the MC notes – are the sponsors mentioned enough, have we mentioned all the fundraising activities – although it is effectively a live document. Deborah, Richard and I collaborated throughout the night to adapt to changes and make sure the event flow wasn’t disrupted. It’s so important to have the right vibe in the room, and thankfully Deborah and Richard, along with Chong, made this happen.

Feet on the Ground, Head in the Stars!

The event this year was another great success, and I had to pinch myself watching Jimmy Barnes/Jon Stevens belt out Good Times from side of stage – it’s not often I pull my phone out to capture something while I work, but this was definitely an exception!

Working with high-profile entertainers can become quite daunting, and even surreal at times, as you’ve spent years watching them on TV or listening to them at home, sometimes they can be people you’ve looked up to your whole life.

In these moments it can be easy to become star struck, but it’s important to remain professional and remember that you’re all there for a common cause – and in this case to execute an amazing show that will raise lots of money for an amazing cause – the Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre. We’re there to create an event that will become ingrained in the memories of every guest in the room – because at the end of the day, the “guest experience” is why most of get into this business.

Shane is one of our three main event gurus here at Perfect Events – his experience is evident in the amazing work he does and translates into a contact list that can no doubt wrap itself around Melbourne a couple of times! Shane is a gentleman with a rock-n-roll edge which is only one of many reasons he enjoyed working on the Olivia Newton John Gala (other reasons include, of course, his passion for the job and professionalism!)