Award ceremonies are almost always a lightning rod for criticism in the event industry. They tend to be unnecessarily long, overwrought, boring, dry, tedious, torture to sit through, a like watching a particularly unengaging, seemingly-unending procession of people.
Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. However, clients, production companies and audience members alike have expressed such derision within my hearing at some point or another.
Then why do we still do award ceremonies?
Because they can be really, really meaningful to people and very motivational. When we're not the subject of the ceremony, it's easy to forget the impact of recognition. I first realized this when one of my family members won an award at their company and were invited to the award ceremony. It was a *huge* thing for them, and their excitement and enthusiasm was palpable.
In short--award ceremonies are important, but problematic. They're a big deal to those nominated or winning awards, and a potential bore to those in the audience, (perhaps that's punishment for not winning...) or award winners after their portion is done.
So how do we deal with this? There are a few ways we can start to improve award ceremonies:
Break the awards up into chunks during the day. I know the traditional award ceremony night appeals to many--and can take the place of another structured evening of entertainment--but we've found great success in breaking up the awards into categories and presenting them in between other topics/speakers in a general session. Not only does this give small bursts of recognition and makes the whole day about recognition, but it also gives the audience a break from straight content, or presenter after presenter after presenter.
Break the awards up with other content during the award event. Having dinner during an award ceremony is fine, but there are other business matters that can be addressed here as well. We were at an association awards dinner where there were awards, then a keynote, then awards, then dinner, then swearing in of new board leadership, then the final awards.
Increase the pace of the awards. This is really a band-aid fix, but there are ways to speed up award ceremonies. Include the bios/qualifications of all nominees in a program can eliminate lengthy readings. Holding applause until the end is a way of cutting down on transition time. Having a big group picture at the end of the night instead of having individuals come on stage, get their award, snap a picture and leave can also be a time saver.
Add entertainment! There are a few different ways to add entertainment to an award ceremony. I'm not talking a juggling act or dinner act or any other kind of hired entertainment. (Though that can be a diverting part of an award ceremony, it can make the rest of the presentation look even more deadly-dull in contrast unless there are other entertaining elements incorporated.)
Engaging hosts--We'll often pair two dynamic presenters together, get them out from behind the podium and let them have a dialogue. Humor is key, but no cheesy Oscar-style jokes allowed. Professional emcees are also a great option.
Engaging presentation--We've often pared down award PowerPoint, added in stories, metaphors, etc., so that it's not just a presentation as usual, it has captivating elements. You can change the format of the actual award presentation, too. I.e. We once had nominees "compete" in a game show format.
Video clips, multimedia, sketches, etc.--Don't just give award attendees a PowerPoint deck framed by an immaculate stage. Pick out relevant video clips (or create your own), present in a song, add in audience participation activities, etc.