Feel the special flair of an award show – glitz and glamour are in the air. A very special drama that runs through the event like a red thread. From the stylish hosting, the lavish laudations to the overjoyed award winners. A fitting show act rounds off the gala program. That’s exactly what this article is about: to give your award show or prize giving ceremony that certain charm, the appropriate drama and to inspire your audience.
From my experience as a presenter and keynote speaker I can tell you that organizing and hosting an award show is really big business and you should never stumble into it unprepared. You have to pay attention to completely different points in the planning and also in the process than in “normal” events such as a kick-off event , a teambuilding event or even a company Christmas party. Here the “emotional rundown”, the dramaturgy, gets a special role.
In the past, I’ve had the privilege of hosting and co-designing several award shows, and I’ve seen what works great, what excites the audience, and what tends to cause boredom. In this article you will find the seven steps that will make your award show a success!
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Create the right setting for your award
Before you start working on the flow and dramaturgy of your show, you must first create the framework conditions. The following questions will help you.
1. Define the goal of your award show
As with all events, it’s important to keep the goal of the event in mind at an award show. Is it purely about thanks and recognition, or are you also pursuing other goals? For example, award shows provide the ideal setting to network with successful industry colleagues. These events also offer an excellent opportunity to convey a special message to the audience, e.g. by means of a motto.
Also think about what your emotional goal of the event is: what feeling do you want the attendees to go home with? All other points will be based on the goal of your award show.
2. Great guests for great awards
Before we start with the implementation we have to pay attention to one very important point: who are the people at your award ceremony? Why are they here and how important is this award to them? The better you can assess your audience in advance, the more tailored you can make the process.
Something else to consider when emotionally engaging your audience is whether your awards ceremony is part of another event, or if your show is the main program of the event.
3. Find the ideal location for your event
In addition to the obvious questions, such as the capacity or the expected guests, you should be clear in advance what kind of event location suits your event – there is everything possible from modern to magnificent to rustic.
What is very important here is what possibilities the location offers you from the house: is there already a stage and technical equipment for light, video and sound or does all this have to be set up first?
The setting in the room sets the tone
What has a great importance for the smooth flow is the type of seating. While cinema seating is ideal because the focus is fully on the stage, gala seating with tables is likely to cause a little more commotion in the audience. A no-go are bar tables, because here your event quickly turns into a standing party with an increasing noise level of your guests.
A gala dinner that lives up to your award show
Last but not least, the physical well-being also plays a role, especially at a festive award ceremony of a competition. In this regard, the topic of catering must also be considered in advance.
Even if this article is certainly aimed at the staging of the show, the catering cannot fall under the table here. Especially in the case of gala seating with galatas, free access for catering to the tables is unavoidable and must also be planned into the sequence accordingly: Delighting the palate and entertainment go hand in hand.
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How to make your award ceremony really exciting
Now we come to the point that makes the identity of your show. The program content that will be remembered from your award.
4. At the beginning is the schedule
No matter if you have a set time frame for your award ceremony or if you can choose the time freely, the following principle applies: your show should honor the award winners, appreciate all participants and entertain your audience. What sounds very simple is often not so easy to implement and varies from award to award.
The basic rule is: the individual parts may be entertaining and should not be too expansive. However, entertaining in this context does not mean that the guests are chased through the award ceremony. Try to build up an arc of tension during the program, let the audience linger in the right places and come to the climax with dignity.
How much time do you have for how many categories?
To make the content of your contest memorable, you should first answer the following question: how much time do you have for your award ceremony? This question goes hand in hand with the number of categories that will be awarded. While I have also presented award shows where 10 categories were awarded in 60 minutes, there are also award shows that take much more time per category.
Keep in mind, however, that the more categories you have, the more repetitive your flow per category will become and the more drawn out the flow will be for your audience. Short and dignified is often worth more than long and overcelebrated. Nothing takes away from the mood at an event more than having the audience wait endlessly. The right timing is part of the dramaturgy.
5. The right staging of the award ceremony
This is perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself as an award organizer: How do you stage your award presentation in a stylish and dignified way, giving the honorees the appropriate stage while keeping the suspense for your audience? This question becomes more and more challenging with an increasing number of categories.
Please keep in mind that music, such as performance jingles or suspense music, as well as atmospheric lighting and video settings are an inevitable part of your staging. These jingles and settings should underline the festive moment and reflect the motto and the dramaturgical structure of the award ceremony in the best sense.Perhaps the most important question for award organizers: How do you stage your awards ceremony with stature and dignity, give the winners the appropriate stage, and at the same time keep the suspense for your audience? Click To Tweet
The announcement of the award category
You have a wide repertoire of options for announcing the award category and its nominees:
Presentation through the host
The Gala Host presents the respective category and the respective nominees. This is a low-budget version that stands and falls with the host. And if you don’t have a budget for a presenter, here are my 9 event hosting tips.
The category and its nominees are presented via pre-produced videos. The advantage here, apart from the professional touch, is clearly the planning reliability in the time frame.
Member of the jury
Another option is to have a member of the jury introduce the category. The advantage of this is that you not only have someone who knows the category very well, but also express your appreciation to the jury. The potential downside is that you can neither plan the exact speaking time nor the ability of the speaker to keep your audience happy in advance.
Partner or sponsor
Of course, there is also the possibility that each category has a presenting partner that you want to give the stage to in this way. The disadvantages are analogous to a member of the jury.
The announcement of the winners
After your audience knows who is nominated for which category comes the climax of the suspense: the announcement of the winner. Here again, you have several options, which differ mainly in duration and effort.
Announcement by host
The easiest way is for the presenter to read out the magic words: “and the winner of category X is…”
Analogous to the announcement video, the winner of the category can be announced right away. The great advantage of videos is once again the ability to plan and the certainty that the right name will be announced.
Laudators are always used for very high-value honors. This is a (often prominent) personality who brings a connection with the person to be honored. This gives this award ceremony another very special touch, which is also often accompanied by an emotional story. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to implement for a larger number of categories due to the length of time involved. Here, it can be done practicably for one or two main categories at most.
Read out by important person
“And the Oscar goes to…” is probably the most famous award sentence in the world. This is regularly read out by movie stars who read out the respective category winners. Even if you don’t have any Hollywood stars available, a sponsor is often happy to read out the winner.
Awarding of prizes and honors
Now that the cat is out of the bag, it’s the moment winners have been waiting for since their nomination or submission…it’s their time to shine. Of course, as an award organizer, that means you have to make sure the honors are dignified. What options are available to you to do that?
Presentation of the prize
This moment is often quite emotional for the award winners. At many award ceremonies, a hostess is used here to bring the prize in style towards the award winner. Either she hands over the prize directly to the winners or to an important person who then does this on behalf of the organization.
Attention: In any case, for this part, think about a supporting background music and if possible a special light setting to give this moment the appropriate dignity.
Thank you speech or no thank you speech
Many of us think about the speech that follows when an award is presented. Some Oscars have run out of time because of this, because in all exuberance everyone was thanked: from the Inner Circle Team to the neighbor’s dog.
Therein lies the risk: the ability to plan. The more categories you plan for your award, the sooner I would consider whether victory speeches are absolutely necessary. It is quite possible to present an award in a dignified manner without such speeches.
What you should consider in any case in the process are photos with the winners. Preferably directly on the podium, if you have one set up. Nothing conveys the emotionality of your award ceremony better than freshly crowned winners with your award in their hands. It also gives you the opportunity to say goodbye to the winners with a round of applause from the stage.
6. It’s showtime…
When you think of awards, you automatically think of show elements. The entertainment should fit your audience and the theme of your awards. Especially at award ceremonies that are shown on TV, entertainment should not be neglected. With smaller awards, these show elements often fall victim to the budget. Depending on the length of your award, you can include 1-3 show elements without making the award artificially long. The following options are open to you…
Musical show act
No matter if singer, musician or band – to get your audience going musically not only gives your award its own touch but also a festive touch. Of course, depending on your budget, you can stretch your possibilities and create magic moments that your audience will talk about for years to come.
Your award’s got talent
In this day and age, we often see incredible performances by artists or groups of artists on television on shows like “America’s got talent” and so on. This can also be a treasure trove of ideas or artists for you as an award organizer, who are perhaps not yet so well known and can therefore be had at a reasonable price.
7. The right award host creates momentum and excitement
The award host is the unifying element who holds together and coordinates all the actors, show interludes and the individual acts. He is therefore the person responsible for implementing the program on stage. That this presenter should bring along a feeling for drama and tension, probably goes without saying. Also his body language as well as his stage presence should reflect your award.
Especially at an award ceremony, the presenter has to handle very many participants on stage. Flexibility is a basic requirement. Likewise, he should of course carry the award with dignity, style and charm. Here it is also quite worthwhile to get an experienced and stage-tested gala presenter on board. This article will help you, how to find the right event host.
A single host or a pair of them
Depending on the size of the event, it makes sense to have a pair of hosts to guide through your award. This automatically gives the award more life, especially if the two are well in-sync. The dialogue of two presenters can definitely add to the suspense. The additional quality also justifies the additional costs.
Define a contact person for your host
It should be clarified in advance who is the contact person on site for the host. Who decides on last-minute changes and informs the host if, for example, an award winner is not present?
At larger events, this is often a show director who is ideally also connected to the presenter via in-ear and keeps an overview of the show. In this way, all circumstances can be flexibly addressed. No matter if you produce your events in studios or other locations.
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How can I help you for your next award show?
Are you planning your next award show and need help or are you looking for the right presenter? Feel free to contact me at and let me know how I can help you.
What makes an award show so special for you? How does an award show differ from other events? Feel free to write me your opinion in a comment.