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11 Tips for Organizing Your Company’s Upcoming Award Ceremony

Award Ceremony

And the award for Most Amazing Company Awards Ceremony Organizer goes to….will it be you? Are you holding your breath waiting to hear (see) your name? It’s all so exciting, but maybe you’re holding your breath for a different reason (no, not so you’ll pass out and not have to do it) –wondering how exactly you are going to pull off such an important event.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro that organizes company functions in your sleep (but never the prestigious company awards ceremony—look at you, making it to the big time) or you you’re a newbie organizer thrown into the water to sink or swim, we (preemptively) nominate you as the best awards ceremony organizer of the year. And as we want to see our nominee take it all the way to the winner’s podium, we’re going to help you get there.

First, the obvious stuff

We know you don’ t really need tips for things making a budget and sticking with it (why do we feel like we’re channeling our moms with this one), making up a list of invitees, choosing the venue (we hear Chili’s is a good choice if you can manage to not get drunk and have yourself banned for life after winning your Dundee), and making sure there’s food (nobody needs a hangry acceptance speech tirade) and (hopefully) cocktails, wine, or champagne. Those things are a piece of cake and they are similar to the organization involved in any other company or corporate event. Now that that is out of the way, we present to you, 11 additional tips for organizing your company awards ceremony *cue the drumroll*.

1. Choosing nominees, winners, and judges

Well those trophies aren’t going to choose who to go home with by themselves. You may find yourself getting so wrapped up in the planning that you forget about the who purpose of the ceremony—the awards. There are 3 key components to success in this area:

  • Figuring out the submission process—who can nominate people, which categories people can be nominated for, how will the nominations be submitted, how will the nominees be chosen.
  • Choosing the judges or organizing the voting process—who chooses who actually wins from the pool of nominees.
  • Organize and plan presenters and speeches (you might want to vet speeches beforehand or come up with a script so there are no “fun” surprises the night of)

2. Themes and Design

Theme and Design Award Ceremony Brass Animals 2019

Otherwise your awards show will be the same as every other award show in company history and then how can you even win the award for being the best? Pick a theme and make it one your company has never done before Art Deco, Classic Hollywood, Go Green, Casino Night—to name just a few. Stay on theme with the foods you select and even arrange for some signature cocktails that line up with your (brilliant) thematic idea.

When it comes to design, we will smack those paper streamers out of your hands if we dare see you in Hobby Lobby or some other party store. You’re setting the ambiance for the whole event. Think 2020—think high tech. We’re talking LED lighting effects, holograms (your company or brand logo, the event name or theme, etc.), interactive displays, unique podium for the stage, screens with video or other graphic effects—there is so much amazing tech out there, use it to your advantage. That’s not to say that real life thematic décor isn’t important (like dramatic art pieces or sculptures) because it is, but let your event be extra by mixing it up and putting on an unforgettable display.

3. Let everyone get to know the nominees

Award Ceremony Nominees Brass Band Brass Animals

If your company is large, everyone may not know everyone else (“whooo was nominated for Most Company Spirit? I’ve never heard one cheer from someone by that name”). Or people may not know of all the great things the noms have accomplished or are currently accomplishing. All the nominees are being honored for doing something above and beyond, so let’s give honor where honor is due and have everyone get to know why the nominees are special.

Before the event, pre-record interviews with the nominees and creatively edit (no need for deep fakes here), maybe using graphics, music, or other effects. You can also create a mini with a picture of each nominee and a list of interesting facts, accomplishments, quotes, or something humorous. You can have the interviews or profiles playing on a loop on screens set up around the room and/or play them during the ceremony.

4. Roll out the red carpet

Red Carpet Award Ceremony Brass Band Brass Animals

Is it even an awards ceremony if there is no red carpet to strut down? Whether or not you’ve got a Hollywood type theme going, let’s get these nominees (and everyone else) some VIP treatment up in here. An actual red carpet makes for a great visual, awesome pictures, and gets attendees in the right frame of mind from the moment they step onto the carpet. You can have someone take pictures or do short recorded interviews (“So who are you wearing tonight?”) with red carpet walkers and make it a fun post on the company’s website or social media.

5. Make it easy to mingle

A company event is always a great place to schmooze and network, so make your venue set-up as mingle-friendly as possible. Set up bars and/or tables in a way that makes it easy for people to chat without having to shout, strain, or do all sorts of acrobatics to speak to others. For example, large centerpieces on a round table may be dramatic and stunning, but does it block out half the table from talking to the other half of the table? Are rectangular tables so long that attendees are only able to speak to one or two people for the night? Are you the room(s) in a way that allows for a free flow of movement so that attendees aren’t trapped in one area the entire evening? These and other things should be considered when organizing the set-up.

6. Make it even easier to mingle

Mingle easier Award Ceremony Brass Animals Brass Band

If the thought of forced small talk with people you don’t know and are trapped at a dinner table with or *gasp* standing alone with your cocktail all by yourself like a loser at a high school dance makes you want to skip the evening and hide under a blanket on your couch, we feel you. So will many of your guests. What to do about it? Set up screens with videos of nominees, company goings on, or even trivia questions and let people feel free to gather around. Discussion will naturally follow the things that they see. At tables, provide fun conversation starter cards to help break the awkward ice.

7.Have live music

Live Music Award Ceremony Brass Animals Brass Brand

A live band has so many pros we don’t even know where to begin. You can have a band playing to greet those working it on the red carpet or playing in the lobby as people enter the venue. A live band can offer up pleasant background music that is at the perfect volume to mingle by. They can play music as award winners are announced and even have the flexibility to play drumrolls or a series of notes to indicate certain things have taken place (like someone make a joke, bah dum ching). Live music can create ambience, set the tone, and even become part of the theme/décor. It can get the crowd pumped up and on their feet at appropriate moments or bring out emotion during especially touching speeches and tributes. We can drone on and on, but we prefer to leave the rambling speeches to the ceremony.

8. Engage the crowd

Crowd Award Ceremony Brass Brass Animals Brass Band

In a world full of overstimulation (i.e. constant smartphone use, videos in the palm of your hand, etc.) it’s easy to lose a crowd if you can’t keep them interested in what is going on, especially those that aren’t nominated.

  • Make sure to choose speakers that won’t drone on even when they see half the crowd slumped over and asleep in their dessert dish. Find speakers/presenters that know how to hold a crowd with humor or emotion.
  • Find ways to make everyone feel involved, not just the nominees
  • Use visuals to keep eyes focused on the stage
  • Hire a comedian or do a roast

Brainstorm other possibilities that fit within your budget, flow with the theme, and/or reflect your company’s unique culture.

9. Use real trophies

Trophies in Award Ceremony Brass Animals

When we said remove yourself from the temptation of buying party store accessories, we meant for everything. Let’s not trip on down to the dollar store for plastic kiddie trophies, let’s reflect professionalism. And if you’re going to give someone an award, don’t you want to make it something they feel rewarded with. Whether you do plaques or trophies, have them professionally inscribed with the name and category of the winner.

10. Swag for all

Sure, the night will be memorable for nominees, especially the winners, but don’t you want everyone talking about the slammin’ awards ceremony of the century? Give everyone something they can go home with and a reason to feel glad that they attended. Nominees and winners aren’t the only ones working hard all year, swag bags show recognition and appreciation for everyone that came and busts their butt to make your company awesome (and who support the winners on the daily to help make them great). As an added bonus, company branded merch is a great way to help raise brand awareness for your company—the more people walking around displaying your logo, the better.

11. Boost attendance

Boost Attendance Award Ceremony Brass Animals Brass Band

Your company may be smaller or classically the awards ceremony has been, let’s say, minimally supported (before you took charge of the scene, of course). Consider combining the awards ceremony with another company event like a conference, seminar, or fundraising dinner. You don’t have to make the awards, ceremony the central focus of the event, put part of the itinerary, giving everyone good reason to be there.

We know you’d like to thank the academy and especially all the little people who have made it possible for you to organize this year’s awards ceremony. Don’t be shy, proudly take your prized project and run with it.

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