How to – Awards Nights

Awards nights – people dread them – mostly because some of the key opportunities to engage the audience are generally missed.

  1. Venue choice is more than capacity. Obviously, you need a venue that can fit your expected numbers, but here are some other things I look for:
    • One of the easiest ways to engage an audience is with good content but this only works if the screen size is captivating – and a good screen size can only be achieved with good ceiling height!
    • Pillars are important when it comes to holding up buildings; but painful for awards nights! If your venue has pillars ensure no one is “stuck behind the pole” – if you can’t avoid it, add additional screens so people can still see.
    • Your audience will thank you if your location enables them to get home easily – and provides good options to kick on for winners!
  2. Connect your décor, theming and content. From the first piece of communication that goes out about your event the theme, colour and message should be consistent. When it comes to the night, carry that theme and colour through your décor and your on-screen content.
  3. Include a show caller in your team. A show caller will cue all operators to bring the winners name up on screen, play the music and cue the lights. They will be listening for any anomalies in the run order – we have all been to events where the MC has accidentally announced the categories out of order and the role of a show caller is to adapt and be able to think on the fly and ensure that the right content goes to screen at the right time!
  4. Use video rolls for your on-screen content. Although PowerPoint is user friendly to create, it is limited in its functionality. By using video rolls and a professional playout software program such as PVP, you can add movement to your graphics, professional voice overs, progressive reveals and you can play them in a different order if you need to!Think outside the square when creating content – what about a circular screen, or a large blend screen that can show the category, winner and photo’s all in one video roll?
  5. Consider your lighting and audio. Great graphics, good sight lines and an amazing venue will fall flat if there is no atmosphere. The easiest way to create atmosphere is through lighting and audio. Here are some must haves:
    • If the ceiling height allows it, table pin spots enhance your room as they highlight each table. Make sure you go with low lying centrepieces to ensure they don’t impede sight lines – and enhance them with lighting.
    • Professional follow spot operators will pick up the winners as they are announced and put them in the spotlight as they make their way to stage. This engages the audience as they can see the winners and easily watch them accept their award.
    • Include some moving lights so your lighting operator can create special moments for larger awards
    • Ensure you have stings of music cut to the high energy part of the song as people come up on stage to accept their award. This not only gets the winner pumped but also gives the audience no choice but to clap along and stay engaged!
  6. Live to screen camera footage keeps the audience engaged as they can see the winners accepting their award. Two cameras are best to give your vision operator different perspectives to choose from.
  7. Let winners do a speech. I know this is a contentious one because of time restraints, but winners have worked hard, and the audience will connect more if they can hear the emotion from the winner. Set the expectation from the beginning on how long speeches can be; but let your winners have their moment. If you have less than 35 categories – you should be able to present all awards, with speeches, in 90 minutes. Any more than that, only allow major categories the opportunity to speak.There are also the usual ones like engage a professional MC, break up your run sheet with meals and entertainment – but I have tried to keep this list to some of the elements that many don’t consider.The main thing to remember is that awards nights should be fun – for the winners, the audience and the event planners!!

Megan Peters

Event Director at International Productions and has been recognised as MEA National Event Manager of the Year.

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