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How to Host a Spectacular Award Show

An award show is a lot more than an event. It is a chance to celerbate in style the achievements of those whose contributions you value and appreciate. So what does it really take to set up a mesmerising show?

Whether you are recognizing the excellence of the leaders in your industry or that of your own stalwarts, an award show is a wonderful opportunity to bring everyone together, express your appreciation and also have some jolly good fun. It is a celebration of achievements, and that’s why the show needs to dazzle; it should be rich in ambiance and have high-intensity merriment.

You might assume that there are just two types of people at an award show – the judges and the guests. But the guests are very much judges too, secretly evaluating the candidates in their minds, whispering their choices to the people seated adjacent to them. All your nominees are going to be there – the winners and the non-winners, perhaps even with their family and friends.

Here are 10 actionable steps you can take to organize a show that is truly out-of-the-box.

1. Start with a brief to always keep things on track

Always start with a briefing document when beginning work on an awards show. In fact, start with this for any kind of event you organize. Understand first, why exactly are you hosting the event? What are the goals and objectives? How will you measure success?

Answers to these questions will help you conceptualize the look and feel of the event, decide on the number of guests to be invited and determine the event content. An event brief gives you the direction to head towards, helps you identify the constraints and keeps your feet firmly planted on the ground while allowing your creativity to soar.

2. Identify your budget to know what’s possible and what isn’t

Once you know why you are organizing an awards show, it is time to decide how much you are willing to spend on it. There’s no point in planning for champagne if ultimately beers are all you can pass around. Setting a realistic budget is critical. All your planning, your execution, depends on this number. This limit will also help you figure out whether the event needs to be done in-house, or will need external sponsors or if you will need to sell tickets for the show to fill the audience in the seats.

Some of the things that will take up a sizeable portion of your budget include – the venue and decor, F&B, entertainers and performers, any hosts and judges and the logistics including their travel and accommodation. Promotion of the event including any advertising or social media costs should also be kept in mind when allocating the budget.

3. Defining your audience is key in determining the content

Is the award show going to attract the tech or financial services industry, a creative crowd or a sports one? Knowing your audience is important in not only attracting them to the show but gaining mileage for the event itself. Understanding your audience is key in determining the content to be created, the format of the event itself and the messages you want your audience to see – including the content on your website, digital signage and social media.

The location of the promotion of the event is also dependent on knowing where your audience is located. For a global event it makes sense to tie-in with social media along with offline advertising but for local events, you may want to promote the upcoming show in public spaces like malls or on street billboards close to the event venue.

4. Select judges who can be impartial

You are setting up an awards show to celebrate achievements and successes. So your judges need to impart that integrity. They themselves need to be achievers since they will be passing judgment. While deciding who to select for the judging process, evaluate what makes the particular person respected in his or her field. What are their achievements? Can the judges be impartial towards the candidates or nominees? What is the selection criteria for the winners? Is it transparent?

The integrity of the judges and by extension, the awards themselves, should be unquestionable. There is a certain value attached to the award, a certain honor on being bestowed with it. A sense of achievement and belonging. This is why you must ensure that the awards are not maligned in any way and are completely independent of any source or influence.

5. Don’t forget about how the host can make or break your event

That man or woman (or perhaps even the child) who acts as a host at an award show needs to be a star. Well, maybe not literally. But the person you choose as a host has to be entertaining. The host needs to be more than a good speaker, he/she must be a great storyteller. If all your host did was to announce the winners one after another, surely the whole affair would become boring, forcing people to doze off, or worse, walk out.

The right compere sets the tone of the event and maintains the energy needed throughout the show. It is probable that once their award category has passed, the audience’s attention will wane. That’s why the host’s role in keeping the mood alive is so critical.

6. Choose the right venue to get everyone in the right mood

Selecting a venue is easier said than done. You will be constrained by how many guests will be attending your event, and the budget, but your imagination will soar at wanting to execute the show in a place that elicits a “wow” from your audience. An award show carries with it this inherent expectation of being glamorous, exciting and fun. So everything from a unique venue in an exotic location overseas to creative lighting and decor indoors can be used to set the right mood. Think of the venue as a blank canvas, waiting to be painted in the colors of your creative vision.

If your chosen venue has already hosted award shows in the past, it will be easier for you to figure out the practical elements. If not, you will have to work with the venue organizer or planner and figure out how to work with acoustics, ensure that everyone has an unobstructed view of the stage and segregate areas for the show like the VIP area or the F&B zone. Know the quirks of the venue and see how you can integrate them into the show itself.

7. Craft a theme to add novelty to your show

The right theme for your awards show can help you set up something unique. But creativity doesn’t have to stay restricted to just the venue. It can seep into the invitations too, making the event something worth attending. You may even decide to have a dress-code based on the event’s theme. Lend some creativity to the catering section – instead of the usual salmon and chardonnay feast (or maybe along with it) think of serving local, seasonal foods and flavors. Invite award-winning chefs who can create masterpieces on plates.

With the right theme in place, not only can you woo your audience, lend the event greater buzz but also generate popularity for the awards show, which will be especially helpful if your show is a regular annual event.

8. Insert elements of entertainment to keep the mood upbeat

It’s an awards show, so give your guests something to be merry about. From an engaging compere to performers to creative AVs, you can liven up a show that stands the risk of getting really dull and boring in the absence of any entertainment. You can use everything from music to lights to technology to give your audience a spectacular show that keeps them on the edge of their seats, has them guffawing or gets them to applaud thunderously.

Showcase new or unique artists. Ensure that the performers and entertainers have a chance to be well-prepared and get ample time to rehearse to avoid any glitches on the day of the show. While you may embrace event technology to make your life easier consider integrating it into the show too – like setting up interactive spaces – to keep your guests highly engaged.

9. Think of the party (or the after-party) to leave your audience with something to keep thinking about

After the success has been celebrated on stage, it will be time to take it off-stage. Let the party after the formal show be just as entertaining and fun (if not more) as the original stage show.

You may want a live band or have everyone let their hair down on the dance floor. Maybe you want to get creative with catering like setting up live F&B counters. Think of how you can leave your audience with memories of a night well done. Don’t forget that an awards show is like any other event – it is a chance for people to come together and interact, so don’t miss out on the networking element especially around the drinks and dining spaces.

10. Let everyone know what you have planned!

Now that you have got everything planned out, it’s time to start grabbing the attention of the potential audience and the world in general, especially if you’re selling tickets. Social media is a great way to create a buzz pre-event. Set up a dedicated hashtag for your event so that people can join in the conversation and engage with you on the social channels. Make your show a not-to-be-missed event of the year.

Don’t just think about amplifying the event but also work towards getting your winners some publicity. Plan to have some real-time coverage of the show by announcing winners in real-time and tagging them. This will get the winners some extra limelight and keep you trending online for longer.

What is your strategy for hosting a great awards show?

Award shows are a great way of getting a business or a brand some visibility, motivating the employees or expressing gratitude to the industry veterans. It is also an opportunity to bring together industry peers for networking. Whether you are setting up the show using your own staff or hiring a professional events agency to do it, follow these steps to create a night to remember.

Got any more tricks and tactics that have helped you set up a spectacular show? Share them us!

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