Expert Insights

11 steps to your best award ceremony ever

1 December 2016 by Lucy Chamberlain

It's time to celebrate with your colleagues and peers, but what makes an awards bash go with a bang? Here are 11 steps...

1. Remember the award ceremony doesn’t start at the venue

An enjoyable journey will get things off to a smooth start. Will it be easy for your guests to make their way to your choice of venue? Could laying on group transport be more effective than paying for cabs? Whether you need a plane, coaches or stretch limos, we can arrange it, and help set the scene with branded headrests or travel accessories. On arrival, many hotels and venues will own a red carpet they can lay out to make your guests at your award ceremony feel special.

2. Streamline arrivals

Nobody likes hanging around in a check-in queue. Previously, we’ve sent guests ‘VIP passes’ in advance that can be quickly scanned by iPad on arrival. Make sure you have enough check-in and cloakroom staff to keep things moving and direct people to where they need to be.

3. Consider a theme for your award ceremony

Not every event needs theming – but if your awards do is a hardy perennial, creating a theme can keep it fresh. For example, we arranged a rock-star-themed awards bash for Virgin Media with ‘paparazzi’ on arrival, rock-and-roll cocktails, entertainment and lighting, plus plenty of sparkle. Even the awards were designed to look like platinum records.

4. Stay on schedule

Clear signposting and adequate staffing around the venue will ensure people are in the right place at the right time. For example, include a map of the table layout in your seating plan, not just a list of who’s on which table. A rolling autocue for your MC will mean there’s no room to ramble.

5. Invest in your menu

It may not be the focus of the night – but most of the events feedback we get is all about the food. Whatever else you do, don’t skimp on the catering budget, and don’t leave people hungry! Serve the meal before, or courses between, your awards presentation. Tailoring the menu to your event is another chance to have fun with theming – try naming your dishes or drinks.

6. Add personal touches

Do your prep and you can make people feel extra special. We’ve had guests’ favourite drinks delivered to them on arrival, and offered to screen personalised video messages for awards winners. Are your name placements good enough to double up as souvenirs? Or a hangover kit to take home could be a thoughtful touch. Little things can make a big impression.

7. Get your host and entertainment right

It’s worth booking an MC to host the event. Things can quickly fall flat without the right person at the helm. Sometimes internal people think ‘how hard can it be?’ and then dry up on the night. MCs set the tone: do you want someone funny, motivational or inspiring? Get creative with your pre- and post-dinner entertainment; at our rock-star event, we had beatboxing ‘waiters’ during the meal and, later, delegates could perform with their own rock-aoke backing band.

8. Step to it

It may sound silly, but make sure the winners’ route to the stage is easy to follow. Is there a clear ‘up’ and ‘down’ route? In dim light, unfamiliar surroundings or special-occasion heels, negotiating the right set of steps can be trickier than you’d think (remember Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscars tumble?). It’s worth posting hosts prepped to guide winners through the crowds and up to the stage.

9. Make the most of your space

Venue is everything – it sets the mood (formal or more relaxed) and dictates the space available for entertainment. A dance floor is always a good bet for evening events. We’ve dry-hired amazing empty spaces you can make your own – but your budget needs to cover the extras.

Lighting and other AV effects, such as video projection and augmented reality, can do wonders – but, again, they can push up your spend. An award ceremony is about making your team feel special.

10. Make it memorable

Creating photo ops, such as framed areas or photo booths, can add to the fun and give you a chance to include event branding at your award ceremony. Add surprise and mystery – a secret venue, MC or special guest, or a leader board that only gradually reveals top-performing employees, can all create anticipation. At the end of the day, it’s all about making it a memorable event – and making your guests feel as special as possible.

11. Get your business on board

Throwing a great award event on behalf of your company will be a lot easier with buy-in and support internally. So be sure to communicate the benefits of rewarding and recognising your people. Find out more about the benefits of employee recognition events from our industry insider.

Watch the video below to find out how our award ceremony for Virgin Media Business went.


Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.