by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | January 01, 2008

Awards ceremonies are meant to be lively, celebratory events, but more often than not, they are formulaic and downright boring. Consider the mother of all award shows, the Academy Awards, which is probably the most talked about, costly and publicized awards ceremony on the planet. But isn’t it really tedious, too?

If you want to make your awards program more compelling than forgettable, take note of the common afflictions that ail such events. Following is a prescription for curing the boredom and rote nature of these programs.

Ailment: Apathy

Prescription: Focus on purpose. Are you giving winners or attendees a reason to care about who wins? Are you attempting to link the awards ceremony to the messages, goals and objectives of the program, or has this segment of the show become an afterthought? The purpose of an awards ceremony is to applaud the people responsible for making your company a success. Why would you neglect the mechanisms for such critical recognition?

Awards should encourage outstanding behavior, business practices or team spirit that ultimately supports the revenue goals of your company or organization. They can honor internal staff, partners, sponsors, distributors, sales, service, etc.

Ailment: Lost opportunities

Prescription: Include the awards portion of your pro-gram in the early brainstorming meetings. If your company messaging underscores and rewards quality, values or creativity, your awards ceremony should reflect these values. With earlier consideration, the presentation of awards can be designed and integrated cleverly. Keep in mind, if this has not been done for years (if ever), you might need to completely reconceptualize the awards.

Ailment: Formulaic functions

Prescription: Take a colossal leap of faith and break with tradition. You need to go so far as to imagine your awards ceremony without chairs, without a stage, without a master of ceremonies, and then possibly even without awards. Some ideas:

* Switch time. Do you squeeze the awards ceremonies into one of your general sessions? Your general session probably is too long already. Consider holding the awards on the exhibit floor or in staggered and dramatic “reveals” at breakfast, lunch or at the evening reception. Think like a museum curator, and place giant replicas of your awards in high-traffic areas that you can hide beneath elegant drapes and ultimately uncover at designated or random intervals.

* Make mementos meaningful. Are you still giving out crystal blobs or wooden plaques to winners? Get creative with awards. Environmentally aware companies might give out an award crafted of beautifully recycled material, or a philanthropic award -- for example, “adopting” an endangered species animal such as a polar bear ( in the name of the winner or winning firm.

* Change names. Does your awards program have “Star” or “Leadership” in its name? Choose a more interesting name (e.g., Apex, Innovator, Discovery) that supports your company’s messaging or core values.

* Extend honors. Does the recognition of the award end after the announcements are made? Reinforce the achievement in other ways. In addition to immediately announcing the winners on your website and flashing their names across e-mail kiosks, print congratulatory announcements in unexpected places such as on water bottle bands (for mere cents per bottle) and on customized granola bar wrappers at the next coffee break.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.