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Six Ways To Make Award Ceremonies Faster, Shorter & More Rewarding


Have you ever had the indescribable joy of sitting next to the world’s most annoying person on a six-hour flight? That’s how most people feel about award ceremonies. They are an ordeal for both the winners and the lose … – well, the other people in the audience. What we need are some ideas for award ceremonies! Here are six ways to make award ceremonies faster, shorter and more rewarding.

In an earlier article “Does This Meeting Make My Butt Look Big? we explored ways to revise meeting agendas to make them more productive. Now let’s look at how to make awards ceremonies as much fun for the rest of the audience as they are for the winners.

The Jurassic Awards Ceremony

Like so many things, the idea was very simple in the beginning. Companies wanted to recognize the people who exceeded goals and delivered exceptional performance. That’s how most awards started. However, they quickly mutated. It didn’t take long to realize that the awards really aren’t as much about acknowledging the winners, as they are to challenge and motivate the losers.

The problem with that reality is that the standards have to keep going up, and you have to keep giving out more and more awards. Pretty soon, 80% of the sales force has qualified for the elite Golden Something or Another. So another prize tier appears, along with a new name. Let’s face it: How many giant rings, green blazers, silver chalices or whatever do you need before the honor is meaningless and the ceremony boring?

“When everyone is super, no one will be!”

Syndrome in The Incredibles

The Steps That Takes Courage & Leadership

Some corporations have realized that the benefits faded a long time ago and have done something that takes courage and leadership. You can do it, too, and reap the rewards. Here’s how.

Reduce the number of awards

Giving out 150 awards isn’t an honor … it’s crowd control. The only way to build a connection between the people receiving the awards and the audience is to make the accomplishment relevant and exciting. Like any important content it has to have a message and a meaning.

Make it very difficult to win

So many awards are like the little trophies they give to first-graders for just showing up. If everyone wins … no one wins. For any accomplishment to have significance, it has to represent something out of the ordinary. Awards are for true achievement, character and professionalism – not just bragging rights and a free annual trip to Hawaii.

Don’t give away money

If the company has an incentive program in place that should be enough. The rewards of excellence should be advancement, increased opportunities and compensation. Those are all personnel matters. Awards are for character and professionalism – not just bragging rights and a free trip to Hawaii.

Six Ways To Overhaul Award Ceremonies

I promised you we would talk about how to renovate the entire awards experience so here we go. This is far from a complete list, but these ideas will probably shock you. They also will help you make some significant improvements. Here are some new ideas for award ceremonies.

1. Don’t Cram All The Awards Together

No law says you have to have a single ceremony, so spread the awards out during the event. Present some once or twice during the general session. Present awards at lunch. Being just one more name in a marathon ceremony isn’t much of a thrill. Reserve the few top awards for the award banquet. Spread them out – the audience will love you!

2. Don’t Have a Banquet

There is nothing prestigious or glamorous about the clatter of dishes. Instead of combining everything, have the awards in a separate room. You can make the audience more comfortable and have the tools you need to make the show and presentations more exciting.

3. Cut the Number of Awards to the Bone

By the time you have applauded for the tenth award your hands and arms are starting to ache and you’re searching for an orally administered anesthetic. Adding joke awards and even more presentations isn’t the solution. The goal is to reward the best and inspire the rest. Focus on the awards with the greatest interest and impact. More awards aren’t better.

4. Give the Audience an Investment

Most awards events suffer from a lack of engagement. While the rest of your meeting, event or trade show probably features participation and involvement, handing out awards is usually a one-way experience. If you reduce the number of awards, you can do a better job explaining why people should care, how the achievement reinforces the corporate principles, and why the event is important to them.

Here’s a fresh idea: What would happen if you didn’t announce the winner? You showcase the achievement and let the audience tell you who they feel qualifies. Use audience polling or let them text a name of their choice. I bet they will come up with a short list and the winner will be on it. Then you announce the winner. Now the audience has an investment in the award and feels like part of the process. You don’t do this for every award but it can give a new dimension to your top 4.

5. Put Individuals in the Spotlight – No Big Groups

It may seem that bringing 20 – 30 people on stage to receive awards may seem efficient but it isn’t. “That’s right, I’m the fifth tiny head in the back row.” Instead of groups follow the format of college graduations. Assign your winners to a group. The host or hostess invites the group to line up at the side of the stage. As each person’s name is called she/he comes up, has a short moment with the top executive, is presented the award and poses for a fast photo. Each person is treated as an individual and is given the respect that she/he deserves. Plus, the process takes approximately 30 seconds per person.

6. Give the Audience a Gift

Why should the winners be the only ones who get something for sitting through the event? The “Bag of Swag” is a big deal at the Grammy Awards and the Oscars. Give every person something for being there – some token of appreciation. A small bag with a gift card, a little token, even a short note will take the event out of the ordinary. It’s actually better to spend money on the people in the audience than on the “show” on the stage. Awards are about appreciating people.

Make Award Ceremonies Faster

Everyone dreams of making their corporate event like the Academy Awards. But the Oscars have been criticized for decades for being too long, tedious and boring. And – they have big-bucks emcees, high-budget musical numbers and movie stars! Instead, make your event personal, relevant and meaningful. Keep it short, focused and make every award count.

Hey, maybe they’ll even give you an award!

Let’s spend 15 minutes talking about your next project or challenge. It’s a free consultation so we can get to know each other. Just click on CONTACT US and get in touch.


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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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