For most, taking a sick day as a child, and even as an adult, surely included watching an episode or two of The Price is Right.  I have always been wowed by the big car reveal during the Showcase Showdown. Now, as an event manager, I view this reveal from a totally different perspective. How do they get the car onto the set? How do they perfectly time the reveal? How do they get that surprised reaction from the audience every single time? Little did I know, years later I would have to ask myself the same questions when planning a surprise van giveaway at a recent charity gala event. Keep reading to see how it came together.

The Idea

The not-for-profit client we were working with was celebrating their 40th anniversary and wanted to make their typical gala dinner event just that much more special. They had the funding approved for a van they planned to gift to a very deserving family and decided they wanted to surprise them with it at the gala. The client made it very clear that it needed to be an impactful moment and that they didn’t want a dry eye in the room when the van was revealed to the family.

The Planning Process

My first thought was, “where do we even start?” I knew that I couldn’t do this on my own and that it truly had to be a collaborative process. I have included a brief timeline of the planning process and the steps involved.

1. Driving the van into the room as part of the reveal wasn’t approved until 10 days prior to the event. Having the van parked and hidden with a drape wasn’t an issue for the venue, but we wanted to create that impactful moment by driving the van into the room. This meant that we had to work with the venue and various departments involved to make changes to our floorplan, so that the car wouldn’t be driving through the food service area.

2. Once it was approved for the van to be driven in for the reveal, we brainstormed ideas for how to make it work, but all came to the conclusion that we couldn’t really have a set-in stone plan until the audiovisual set up was complete and the van arrived onsite.

3. We arranged for the van to be dropped off mid-day during set up, as we required it to be there to make sure that the lighting was flown properly.

4. Once we had the van in the room, we decided to hide it behind the thick black drape along the back of the stage. There was an opening in between two pieces of drape and it was determined that was the easiest spot for the van to drive through. For the actual reveal, we planned to have two people pull apart the drape and one person cue the driver to proceed. We used the speech timing to determine the point when the cue would go to the driver.

5. Once the location and process were determined, the car was parked on an angle behind the drape so that there was straight path to drive out for the reveal.

The Reveal

I think that those of us who were involved in the van reveal were living in anticipation of it all night. To those involved, the success of the entire event came down to that van reveal. If we didn’t get the reaction we planned for, it could have affected the flow of the rest of the evening, especially the willingness of the crowd to open up their pocket books, as the live auction immediately followed the reveal.

When the time came for the reveal, we gathered everyone involved and headed backstage. As you can see from the video I include below, our execution was exactly as planned; the timing of the van reveal, the sparklers, and the priceless reaction on the parent’s faces.


Since I was backstage during the process cueing the driver of the van, I didn’t get to see the full reveal until after the event. When I got a chance to see the reveal video I finally experienced the feeling that was felt throughout the crowd at the event.

Judging by the video, I think that Bob Barker and Drew Carey would have been impressed by the excitement of this great reveal! This is truly was a signature event.