Don’t know where to start when moving an in-person awards ceremony to a virtual setting? Consider this first half of our two-part series, concentrating on tips that will help pivot your awards ceremony to a virtual format.
An awards ceremony is a great way to celebrate and reward individuals or teams who have made exceptional contributions to your business, industry, or association. It’s also an opportunity to network and build relationships, while having some fun.
While the coronavirus pandemic has limited in-person awards ceremonies, the show must go on, but in a different format. A virtual award ceremony is the next best thing to being there in person—minus the cocktail hour, fancy attire, gourmet dinner, live entertainment, and uncomfortable shoes. Think of it as one way to maintain normalcy, stay positive, and move forward during unprecedented times.
#1: Create a Game Plan
You’ve heard the adage that if you fail to plan, plan to fail. What’s your strategy for the awards ceremony? Obviously, you want to deliver the same kind of experience that attendees and sponsors have come to expect from a live event. How do you plan to accomplish your key business goals? Start by listing the things you want to achieve and determine how this event will help you reach your desired outcomes. Do you want to increase awareness, improve relationships, or drive sales opportunities in addition to recognizing the efforts of your award winners? Who are the best team members to help you accomplish these goals?
Timing is everything, so for maximum exposure pick a date and time that does not conflict with any other industry events. Virtual events eliminate physical restrictions, meaning there’s no need for travel. Your virtual event can reach attendees in different time zones. Will it be live, pre-recorded, or available on-demand?
What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you track to prove you’ve successfully transitioned from in-person to virtual? Number of registrations, gross revenue, or attendee satisfaction? Don’t forget to include a post-event evaluation to help drive change and improvement within your awards program.
#2: Design an Event Program that Flows
Keep in mind that your event attendees have been sequestered at home for months. After many hours of binge-watching, there’s no doubt that expectations for entertainment have changed. Incorporate an interesting theme with engaging and diverse speakers and alternate between live speakers and prerecorded video to keep your viewers’ attention. If you have the budget, hire entertainment. A comedian, singer, band, or a live illustrator can keep the audience engaged while viewing from their living room couches.
Form a creative team of SMEs and creators to list elements that are important to your industry. Do you need to kick off the award ceremony with the national anthem or a unique song written specifically for the event? If a military event, should you incorporate an armed forces medley? Will you have peers or high-ranking officials introduce the award winners? Think about elements you can take from the physical event and incorporate them into a virtual world to make it feel authentic.
One benefit of s virtual awards programs is that viewers don’t have to wait for award recipients to come to the stage. Prerecord introductions and acceptance speeches to expedite the program and keep keynotes and acceptance speeches to between five and 10 minutes. The entire event should not exceed one hour and if possible, schedule it during normal working hours.
#3: Promote Diversity and Inclusion
Make your event as inclusive as possible by starting with a diverse program committee or internal team. Choose a date that doesn’t overlap with key religious or international holidays. And consider gender, race, age, and abilities when filling speaker roles. Create a scholarship program with reduced or complimentary fees to encourage diverse attendance.
#4: Keep Sponsors Happy and Revenue Flowing
Virtual events have no physical signage, lanyards for name badges, or sponsored cocktail receptions. You’ll have to keep sponsors interested in your event by creating attractive benefit packages.
Consider increasing the number of lower-priced packages to attract more sponsors. Think of ways to promote more exposure of your sponsors’ logos, such as on-background visuals or the presentation template used throughout the ceremony.
While there may be fewer large-dollar sponsorships, the good news is that less may be spent on renting an event venue, catering, flowers, transportation, and hotel costs. Budget can instead be used to create better graphics and fund a higher quality production.
Stay tuned next month for the second part of this two-part series, “Tips for a Successful Virtual Award Ceremony,” where we will further break down how to produce and market a digital event effectively that will leave viewers with an award show experience they will never forget.
Click here to read more about how you can successfully shift your events to an online environment.