Whether you’re fundraising, recognising excellence in your industry or simply saying ‘thanks’ to your staff, awards ceremonies are a brilliant way to bring everyone together for an evening of feel-good fun.

Pulling off an Oscar-worthy awards show takes some organising, but to help you, we’ve broken the process down into 10 easily actionable steps. Here’s how to roll out the red carpet and organise a killer awards show. Don’t forget to check out our awards ceremony planning checklist at the bottom of this post too!

1. Name your award ceremony

Before you get started with organising your event, it’s time to come up with some award ceremony name ideas. This ensures everything you do has one narrative theme, and keeps all of your documents in order. So how do you come up with a name for your award ceremony? Some ideas could be:

Check out competitor award ceremonies

Before you can determine a name, you need to check that no one else has it. Use other award ceremonies in your industry to support you in creating an engaging and effective name. For example, if your award ceremony is for employee engagement, searching this will help you see that there are existing awards such as:

“UK Employee Engagement Awards”

“Engagement Excellence Awards”

“Engage Awards”

…. and so on!

Using similar keywords will make your award ceremony more easily discoverable – but you don’t want to be confused with another event. You might choose to go for a curveball and build your brand so that it becomes instantly recognisable.

Brainstorm keywords that relate to your award ceremony

To get the balance, begin brainstorming keywords that suit your ceremony. These could be keywords related to your industry, your topic, or the people or products you’ll be celebrating. “The UK Startup Awards” does what it says on the tin; but a name like “Rising SaaS Startup Awards” is more catchy and will appeal to a specific audience.

Test a working name

If you’ve come up with 3-4 award ceremony name ideas that you like, try them out for size. Mocking up a logo, creating a web page or even writing an email using each name idea can help you to finalise the one that fits.

2. Write a brief

Whatever type of event you’re organising, writing a brief is a great place to start. In your briefing document you should set out exactly why you’re staging the event. What are your key goals and what do you hope the awards ceremony will achieve? Is it to raise awareness for a cause, to increase employee motivation or to raise money? You should also use the brief to devise the measurements of success you can refer back to after the ceremony. This could be a target fundraising figure, or more qualitative, like great feedback from all those who attended.

Once you’ve identified your key goals this will aid you in planning the event specifics, such as the number and nature of guests, and the event date and location, as well as the content and tone.

Add all of these aspects to your brief (full checklist below), and it’ll be much easier to sell your idea to everyone who’s involved.

Related: One page event plan

3. Set the budget

It’s important to think about the budget at the outset, too. Obviously, there’s no point planning champagne and oysters if your budget will only stretch to cava and crisps! The amount you have to spend will depend on the model you choose for your event. Will it be profit making with tickets being sold? Will the awards be sponsored to help cover costs or will everything come out of internal budget?

Key costs you will need to think about include F&B (food and beverages), venue and décor, entertainment and VIPs – If you want high profile judges, hosts, speakers or special guests, this can eat up a sizable chunk of budget.

You’ll also need to think about the cost of promoting your event and encouraging candidates to enter – will you need to pay for advertisements in industry media or the development of a specialist web platform for attendees to register and/or vote on?

Once you have an approximate idea of how much it’s all going to cost, you can work out ticket prices or sponsorship packages to ensure that you will at least cover the costs.

Related: Download your own event budget templat

4. Choose your judges

Who you choose as judges will impact on the perceived integrity of your awards, so select carefully. What qualifies these individuals to pass judgement in this field? Are they known and respected in their industry? What are their achievements?

In addition to this, it’s important they can judge independently and fairly and are not seen to be biased towards any candidate or company. You’ll also need to implement a voting system in case the judges cannot come to a unanimous decision and a clear criteria for how the winner will be chosen.

You may also want to implement a “People’s choice” award or category where those attending the event can choose their winner. This gives the attendees an element of control and ensures that they’re invested in the night.

Use this step to also think about the type of attendees you’ll want to sign-up, as this will make your marketing much easier later down the line.

5. Choose a venue

Your budget and the number of guests will be the major influencing factor when selecting a venue, but besides this, you should look for somewhere with a degree of ‘wow factor’. By their very nature, award shows are supposed to be exciting and glamorous and generate pre-event anticipation. Choosing a unique venue can help raise interest, so don’t dismiss unlikely venues – creative lighting and set dressing can totally transform a space.

Just be sure to check with your AV supplier that the space will work from a practical standpoint with regards to acoustics etc. and that no guests will have an obstructed view of the stage. Of course, it’s reassuring if the venue has hosted awards before and you could ask to see photos or talk to the organiser to see how it all worked.

Related: 8 Questions you must ask an event venue before signing

6. Pick a theme

Having a theme for your awards ceremony is another way to differentiate it and get people excited. Be sure to choose something inspiring. Perhaps it could be old school Hollywood glamour, the Olympic spirit or future fantastic?

As well as the décor, invitations and entertainment, your theme can help inspire your special guests. For example, if you have an Olympics themed event you could invite a celebrity sportsperson to speak, or for a futuristic theme, perhaps an inspirational inventor?

7. Choose your award songs

The songs you choose for an award ceremony will have a big impact on the ambience. Music can be used to introduce speakers, announce winners and celebrate a category or company collecting their prize. Here are some great song ideas for award ceremonies:

Upbeat award ceremony songs:

  • Katy Perry – Firework
  • Florence – You’ve Got The Love
  • Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
  • Jon Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us

Inspirational award ceremony songs:

  • Eminem – Not Afraid
  • Kanye West – Stronger
  • Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
  • Jay Z – Encore
  • Christina Aguilera – Fighter

Emotional award ceremony songs:

  • Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  • Eva Cassidy – Songbird
  • Natasha Bedingfield – Unwritten
  • Demi Lovato – Warrior
  • The Script – Hall of Fame

8. Add value

In addition to the giving of awards your event should offer added attractions. Not everyone will walk away with a gong, but they should come away feeling the ticket price was worth it nonetheless.

Facilitating networking is a good way to add value to your event. The opportunity to meet the great and the good of your industry sector will no doubt be a big attraction for guests, so plan breaks where they can mix and mingle.

As well as a pre-dinner drinks reception, consider a stand-up dessert buffet for after the ceremony to get everyone talking.

You could also consider giving away goody bags to all those attending. If your guests are from a specific industry, or of a specific age or demographic, this is a great method to acquire sponsors for your swag bags. This also means that, winner or not, your guests go home with something (and something incredibly instagrammable too!).

Related: The expert guide to better networking at events

9. Entertain

Your guests have come for a show, so be sure to give them one! Simply reading out a long list of award winners’ names and watching as they have their photo taken can be a little tedious for non-winners, so think about how you can liven up the proceedings with creative AV and an engaging compère.

Music, video and light should all come together to create a spectacle, and if you can include impressive technology such as projection mapping or even holograms (budget permitting!), you’ll have the audience on the edge of their seats.

10. Run a raffle

Even if the primary aim of your event is not to raise money for charity, don’t miss the opportunity to do something good for your community. You can hold a raffle or auction with donated prizes. This will offer sponsors the chance for a shout out, while at the same time raising money for a worthy cause.

Announce on the night how much has been raised to accelerate the feel good factor, or save the good news for follow up communication.

Related: 5 Ways to make fundraising fun with games

11. Organise the Party

Once the official business is out of the way, it’s time for everyone to let their hair down and hit the dance floor. It’s essential to book a great band that’s guaranteed to get the crowd buzzing, so ask around for recommendations.

In addition to a band – if your budget will stretch to it – arrange some visual entertainment such as a high-energy dance group, aerial performers or a close-up magician. This helps to hold attention between judging rounds and makes your ceremony an event in its own right, even outside of the award giving.

12. Promote your awards ceremony

Social media offers the perfect platform to both build excitement about your ceremony and share all the headlines on the night. Make sure you’ve prepared a list of all your winners’ Twitter handles and give a team member the job of announcing each award recipient online in real time, as they happen. This will offer the winners extra glory and help raise the profile of your event.

Don’t forget to set up a dedicated hashtag for your awards so your guests can join the conversation, and share pictures and news from the evening. This sort of ‘social proof’ will show your awards are a not-to-be-missed event and create buzz for next year.

If you don’t already, set up a lead capture landing page or sign-up form where your attendees, guests and judges can become part of an email marketing list. This is a great channel to build anticipation up to the event and remind everyone about the awards deadlines.

You’ll also want to consider the online journey, for both event attendees and those partaking in the awards ceremony. Is it easy to submit an entry? How can guests sign-up for a ticket, and invite their friends too? Create a journey and test it yourself to ensure it’s as easy as possible for attendees to be at the show.

Related: 5 Ways to create social media buzz during and after your event

Conclusion & awards planning checklist

There’s a lot to think about when planning a stellar awards show, but it’s one of the most effective and rewarding types of events, which can help achieve all sorts of business goals.

From extending your organisation’s reach and influence to motivating and inspiring employees, or generating significant revenue, awards are well worth the effort.

To make your job as easy as possible, Eventbrite offers a suite of organisational tools. Spanning invitations through to post-event surveys, helping you to manage the process from start to finish – no matter how ambitious your plans! Just check out our awards ceremony planning checklist below to help you get started:

Awards ceremony planning checklist

Write an event brief including:

  • Event name
  • Key goals
  • Measurements of success
  • Number of attendees
  • Type of attendees
  • Event date and location
  • Tone of the event
  • Ceremony theme

Set the budget or desired revenue for:

  • Food and beverages
  • Venue
  • Décor
  • Entertainment
  • VIPs/judges
  • Promotion
  • Ticket pricing
  • Sponsorship packages

Choose attendees such as:

  • Ceremony judges
  • Guests of honor
  • Types of attendees

Find a venue and conduct:

  • AV recce
  • Meeting with the venue owner

Design the night with:

  • Award ceremony songs
  • Networking
  • Goody bags
  • Entertainment
  • Raffle

Market your ceremony using:

  • A social media strategy
  • Dedicated hashtag
  • Email updates
  • Blog content
  • Sign-up landing page
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