by Adam Sloyer | September 01, 2017

Awards ceremonies are a popular way for associations looking to engage membership, recognize outstanding work and increase revenues. But just like any other event, they need periodic tune-ups to remain fresh and relevant. Here are five tips to consider.

1. Have a Reason 

Constantly revisit your event goals. Why are you hosting this awards show? What are the desired outcomes? Is there a tool in place to measure if you've been successful in accomplishing these objectives, and should those goals remain in play? Periodically asking these questions is the best way to ensure that you're setting yourself up for -- and hopefully achieving -- success.

2. Set Clear Rules
Clearly establish criteria and categories. Too many categories run the risk of compromising quality; too few, and you might be losing entries, thereby stunting engagement and revenue. Be sure to examine categories that may be outdated, and look to incorporate new trends. If your award show encompasses individual honorees, communicate expectations up front. There's nothing wrong with asking award recipients to share their contact lists, connect you to prospective sponsors or otherwise help make your event a success. 

3. Consider a Format Change 

Awards shows traditionally comprise an hour-long cocktail reception, followed by a seated dinner/dessert and accompanying ceremony. There's nothing wrong with this configuration, but perhaps it's time for a format refresh. Consider extending the reception to 90 minutes or two hours and making it a dinner, with heavier passed hors d'oeuvres and food stations. Then hold the awards portion of the evening in a separate space using a theater-style configuration. Presenting the awards with all guests facing the stage -- and without the interruption of food service -- allows for a quicker program and maximizes participants' attention. 

4. The Show Must Not Go On... and On 
Regardless of event format, capturing and retaining guests' attention means keeping your program as tight as possible. If you're distributing a large number of awards on stage, consider having photo-ops take place earlier or  afterward to keep things moving. Keep a countdown clock for speeches; when possible, request copies of honorees' remarks in advance to regulate timing. Also, be selective in determining who speaks from your association. Select the best speakers to represent your organization, not just the ones with the loftiest titles. 

5. Make it Memorable 

More than anything else, guests want an experience to remember, so don't be afraid to incorporate new ideas and take chances. Consider a new set design or perhaps satellite stages. A live band can add a unique dimension to the proceedings. And remember, awards shows are hosted to commend outstanding work. Creatively showcasing that work and celebrating those being recognized in an engaging way is the key to event success -- and ensures that next year's event will be a can't-miss affair.

Adam Sloyer is CEO of New York City-based Sequence, an award-winning events agency specializing in production, strategic planning and design.