Rethinking Award Presentations

It’s important to recognize those who make significant contributions to our communities — and engage our audiences while doing so.

Author: Dave Lutz, CMP       

man getting award on stage

Award presentations during general sessions compete with the primary attraction or speakers.

During a recent client roundtable, we had a lively discussion around the challenges of changing up the way awards are presented during general sessions at events. While all agree it is important to celebrate professional accomplishments, award presentations are one of the hardest event features for leaders to agree to modernize, change, or make more expeditious.

There are two primary challenges with general session award presentations. First, they compete with the main event. Most attendees invest in attending general sessions for the keynote or primary attraction. When too much time is spent on association business or awards, it diminishes the attendee value proposition.

And secondly, they may lack relevance. The people who care the most about award recipients are their coworkers, family, and professional network. The other 90 percent would prefer to watch the highlight reel. Always ask: Is this in the best interest of the paying attendee?

5 Ways to Modernize Awards and Recognition

Some of the ways you can either re-invent the awards experience or make incremental improvements include:

  1. Be their publicist — Most organizations issue a press release and post a highlight video recognizing all of their annual award recipients. Go a few steps beyond this by creating and sharing digital assets for each individual. These could include individual press releases, inspiring videos, and shareable images for social sharing. (See On the Web for one example.)
  1. Move to a special event — Create a new, standalone celebratory awards event. The people who attend will be choosing to be there as opposed to a general session where attendees often do not have a choice. It could be a VIP reception or luncheon, for example. You can add elements like a red-carpet experience. Take a page from the Oscars and create a highlight reel capturing the award winners. Share the video in a general session and with the larger member community.
  1. Add suspense — Take a page from PCMA’s professional excellence award finalists and whittle down each award to three nominees. This strategy recognizes more individuals and creates more buzz in your community. Announce the winner in real-time to add another element of emotion to the experience.
  1. Create a space — Near the entrance to your exhibit hall or main room, design a space that shines a spotlight on the award winners. Schedule time for a meet and greet and/or conduct a live interview with each recipient.
  1. Break it up, speed it up — Spread out the awards over several days during your event. Take photos after the session, not between each award (which is another time suck). Instead of speeches, use brief videos to highlight the recipients’ accomplishments. Hire a seasoned emcee to enhance the experience and to keep things running on time. Eliminate thanking the academy.

Getting Buy-in for Change

The award ceremony or presentation may be a sacred cow for your organization and suggesting changes to them may (mixing animal metaphors) ruffle the feathers of your long-term members, past recipients, and leaders. To increase the probability of buy-in, create and empower a taskforce or working group to develop recommendations for modernizing the awards program and recognition. If your organization has a nominating or awards committee, be sure to tap current and past members to be part of the taskforce — and part of the solution.

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

On the Web

Check out the media kit posted for a recipient of the National Association of REALTORS® Good Neighbor Award.

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