Cynthia Gale, a maker of historically based museum jewelry lines, holds an annual dinner to thank her supporters, including museum store proprietors, journalists, academics, and other industry friends. But the affair is more than just a way to show gratitude. It also primes participants for relaxed conversations and productive networking. “When you get an interesting mix of people together, conversations gel, and the evening becomes something vibrant,” Gale says.
Susan DeLand, head of retail and merchandise development for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, appreciated the presentations at a recent dinner, from the food to the Indonesian dancers who provided entertainment. “We’re all in the business of presentation,” DeLand says. “We look at things all the time to appeal to an aesthetic or to create a mood.”
DeLand also gained a valuable business contact. Her museum was borrowing an artifact from the museum of another guest, a merchandiser who offered insight into products DeLand could sell during the item’s exhibition at Getty. “This was a person I’d never interacted with, and knowing Cynthia made the introduction warmer and easier,” says DeLand.
Gale seats guests in a way that guarantees table talk won’t be all business. “I’m not aligning partnerships,” she says. “I’m creating a beautiful evening for folks to sit down and relish each other’s company.” When dessert arrives, guests check under their seats for a card; those who find one relocate to another table. “You get to experience a whole new group of people,” says Gale.
The evening is an opportunity for Gale to better acquaint customers with her and her firm. “In a relaxed, comfortable environment, clients look at jewelry differently and want to know me better,” she says. “They love getting to know more about Indonesia [where Gale’s jewelry is made], the culture, the product line, and me as a designer. This evening allows me to put it all in a digestible package, and they walk away with a very special experience.”