Award Ceremonies are unlike any other event thanks to their high energy, celebratory atmosphere. Whether you are planning an event to recognise personal or professional achievements, there is nothing quite like the anticipatory buzz in the room as the shortlists are announced, or the ecstatic celebrations as winners share their success with their friends, family and supporters.

We have been working closely with our clients over the last couple of months as they navigate the process of taking their award ceremonies online. And whilst it may seem impossible to replicate the same energy and emotion of a typical awards event, thanks to innovative technology and a dose of forward planning, a virtual event can still capture the attention of your guests and be an immersive and exciting experience for everyone. 

From a business perspective, our clients have also found great value in making the decision not to postpone or cancel their annual awards event. By utilising virtual solutions and alternatives, you can maintain the momentum of your awards programme and keep your partners, sponsors and audiences engaged for when your event returns, hopefully in-person, next year. 

To help you transform your awards event into an online format, we’ve collated some of our best advice and top tips:

The Power in Planning:

Awards Ceremonies have lots of moving parts, from announcements and speeches to entertainment and performances, all of which need scheduling in to create a seamless experience for your guests. Virtual Awards are no different and whether you decide to deliver the whole event live or incorporate pre-recorded segments, it’s important that your timings and schedule are locked in, and well communicated to your host and production company to ensure flawless delivery.

It’s important to make sure everyone has the details well in advance if they are dialling in to make a speech or present an award, and allow time to test run the technology. It’s also worth considering the order of segments, in case extra time is needed for people to dial-in – your production company will be able to work with you to suggest timings so it’s important to engage them as soon as possible in the planning stages.

The Value of Hosts:

A charming and captivating host is an essential part of any awards ceremony, a skilled role which involves engaging the audience whilst also managing time and responding with ease to any technical problems or unexpected deviations. For virtual events, your host will be performing to a camera and it is important that they are well versed in presenting without a live audience. Radio presenters and TV personalities are often best suited to this type of presenting, but whoever your host is, it’s important to ensure they are comfortable and confident working to this new format with the extra technology involved.

Consider a Venue:

It may be that a ‘Hybrid Event’ format is possible for your awards ceremony and is definitely something to consider. Hybrid Events means that part of your event can happen ‘in-person’ and then be broadcast virtually to the rest of your guests.

The ideal format is where your main hosts and presenters gather safely in a venue, which is set up like a TV studio, with a branded background set and your production team on-site to produce and broadcast your event. This set-up can create a more professional, production feel to the event and helps to mitigate risks that can arise from people ‘dialling in’ to the broadcast without the on-hand support from a tech team. The ceremony is then delivered to camera and broadcast live to your audience at home.

Need inspiration for your venue – take a look at our partner venues

Engaging your Guests:

One of the positives of taking your event online is that it opens up the number of guests you can invite. The opportunity to involve more members of your community can lead to higher engagement and even more fundraising potential. 

As well as putting on a good show, it’s important to encourage your guests to get into the spirit of the awards so they are invested and engaged, as well as taking opportunities throughout the event to communicate live with the audience and respond to their comments. 

  • Dress Code – encourage your guests to dress up as though they were attending your event in person and then have them share photos of themselves looking their best on social media using a specific event hashtag. Not only will it help your guests to get in the mood for celebrating but it’s also an opportunity to generate further interest online. You could even offer prizes for best dressed!
  • Dinner – if your guests are missing out on a decadent three-course meal, you could partner with a chef, perhaps even the chef from your original venue, to share recipes for your guests to recreate the celebratory meal at home. It’s a great way to get people engaged prior to the event and also a way to generate additional exposure for your chef or venue. If feasible, you might even consider partnering with a food delivery service so the meal, or at least the ingredients, can be delivered to your guests.
  • Cocktails – no awards ceremony is complete without a celebratory tipple, and there’s a couple of options when it comes to cocktails. You could partner with a bar supplier to create a bespoke cocktail and have it delivered to your guests prior to the event, or you could share the recipe with your guests for them to recreate at home. This is another opportunity for your guests to feel involved with the event, and you could encourage them to share photos on social media for a chance to win a ‘best-looking cocktail’ prize.
  • Social Media Engagement – a great way to include your guests in the event and communicate with them live is by encouraging them to share comments and posts on social media using a hashtag or comments section. You can share these messages on-screen during the event and also have your host refer to them throughout the evening providing a great interactive element.

Don’t Forget the Fundraising:

Awards Ceremonies and Gala Dinners are often a key fundraising opportunity and thankfully there are various ways to incorporate fundraising into your virtual events and support your nominated charities and important causes. 

A simple way to gather donations is using fundraising platforms like Go Fund Me or Just Giving. You can set up a page, share the link with your guests and have the running total displayed live on-screen throughout the event to encourage donations. 

Auctions are a popular and fun way to raise funds and are often favoured at Gala Dinners and Award Ceremonies. Third-party providers such as 32 Auctions and Gala Bid can provide systems and infrastructure to facilitate your online auctions and they will be able to work closely with your production company to embed the auction into your broadcast. There may be other cost-effective solutions to consider depending on the platform you’re streaming on and it’s worth speaking to your production company about creative solutions. 

Raffles can also be a substantial revenue generator for your chosen charity and you can still incorporate them into your virtual event with some forward planning. We would advise running the raffle several days (up to a week) prior to your event and drawing your winning numbers during the live broadcast. Again you could manage the sale of tickets manually with your guests or use an online platform to facilitate. 

It is custom for a representative from your chosen charity to take to the stage and address your audience to share the story of their organisation and thank guests for their donations. This is no different for virtual awards and one of the best ways is to ask your charity to submit a pre-recorded video which can be played during your event.

The Awards:

The most important part of the event and the moment all your guests will be eagerly waiting for. To deliver an authentic award ceremony experience, you will need to configure your technology to showcase the full process, from announcing the shortlist to capturing the reactions of finalists and winners.

Your production company will be able to set up a system that enables the host to introduce the sponsor and have visuals of the finalists to appear live on-screen (this often works best with a maximum of four finalists). Your sponsor will then be able to announce the winner and the winner’s live feed can take centre-screen to accept their award, with sound functionality allowing them to deliver a speech live to your guests at home.

The benefit of working with a professional production company is that they will be able to take care of all the logistics so that these transitions are seamless and your guests get an interactive, realistic experience. There are also lots of ways to include pre-recorded segments including overviews of the finalists and pre-recorded acceptance speeches if any of your winners are unable to attend.

Satisfy your Sponsors:

Sponsors are a key ingredient to making events happen and it’s important you make space for them at your virtual event. Thankfully there are lots of opportunities to incorporate your sponsors and key partners and we’ve curated a list of ideas in our article: ‘Satisfying Sponsors: How to keep your sponsors happy and deliver value for money at your virtual event’ .

Transforming your awards event to a virtual experience can be a big undertaking and does require some clever planning and logistical and production considerations. However, working with a professional production company can make the process much more manageable and enable you to continue engaging with your audience, celebrating the achievements of your attendees and even raising funds for your charity partners.

A professional production company can provide all the necessary equipment, create contingency plans and provide on-hand support throughout the event to tackle any unforeseen challenges and help you to develop creative solutions that will make your event a success. 

The team at AYRE have an abundance of experience to help you bring your virtual event to life and are on hand to help you with as much, or as little, as you require through concept and planning through to set-up and delivery. We can provide technical AV solutions as well as staging, lighting and backdrops. Contact us today to see how we can help you with your next virtual awards event.