A Night to Remember: Tips for Hosting a Show-Stopping Award Ceremony


Everyone likes recognition for their accomplishments. Being presented an award in front of their peers is a special moment that recipients will always remember. An award ceremony is also a great way to engage your audience. Whether you are hosting an employee function, an industry event, customer appreciation, or a community celebration, award ceremonies are fantastic ways to recognize individuals for their contributions and celebrate your entire community, as well.

The typical picture of an award ceremony is black tie and formal gowns, a red carpet, and orchestral music. And if you want to go that way, that’s great. However, some crowds may not need all the pomp and circumstance and are better suited to a more relaxed environment.

Regardless of your approach, you want your award ceremony to stand out from the rest, to be special not just to the recipients but to everyone in attendance. By successfully hosting a memorable award event, you have created something that will be talked about long afterward and anticipated as the next one arrives.

Combine the Award Presentation with Another Event

Making the award ceremony part of a larger, multi-day meeting or convention adds an element of excitement to an already highly anticipated event. Joining forces will increase the brand recognition of your awards and boost attendance since there’s already a demographically appropriate crowd just feet away from your celebration. Similarly, by adding your awards to the larger event, you are bringing a new layer of prestige to the overall proceedings. The partnership benefits both parties.

It is common to hold an award ceremony on the last day of an event. However, since this is common, it also tends to feel routine and predictable. So, maybe that’s not the best course of action. Attendees are potentially worn out at the end of an event, antsy, and unfocused. Attendance may suffer, and those that are there may not be the best-behaved audience (lack of focus tends to lead to murmurs during speeches and empty seats before the show draws to a close).

Instead, consider hosting the award presentation on the event’s first day as part of a celebratory kickoff. A big crowd is more likely to be in attendance on the first day as opposed to the last, they are more likely to remain attentive, and award recipients have the rest of the event to receive congratulation from their peers.

Keep the Crowd Engaged

Regardless of when and where you host the event, you will have to compete with the biggest distraction of all: the smartphone. There are a few tactics you can take to pry the audiences’ eyes away from their screens and toward the stage.

The Host

Even if your event is a formal affair, that does not mean that it has to be stodgy. People wearing formal outfits also like to laugh. When you are hiring (or selecting) a host, be sure to choose someone personable, funny, and able to think on the fly. The host needs to be comfortable in front of crowds (naturally) and ready to soothe the nerves of award winners who may not be. Also, if you hire someone from outside of your industry, make sure they are briefed on the theme of your ceremony and understand the event before they agree to host (otherwise, things can go badly). The host establishes the initial tone for the evening and helps to ensure that the feeling continues throughout. So, selecting the right host is crucial.

The Stage

Again, formal isn’t boring. The stage is where you want to draw people’s attention throughout the presentation, so just placing a couple of potted plants at the corners is not going to cut it. Instead, use technology to keep your crowd engaged. One idea is to utilize projection mapping to make the stage come alive. Projection mapping is a technique that uses video on surfaces that creates an illusion and turns an ordinary background into something mind-bending and innovative.


The Lights

Often, the only time someone notices the lighting at an event is when it is bad. Don’t let your award ceremony be the time people notice the lighting. The ambient lights in your venue will be flattering to precisely no one. Work with a professional production company and lighting team to draw the audience’s eye exactly where you want them and ensure that everyone who walks on stage has a moment to shine.

The Speaker

The host doesn’t have to be the only entertainment of the evening. Having a featured keynote speaker can improve turnout and audience attention. When booking a speaker, make sure it is someone who ties into your event’s theme and has a connection with your audience. The right speaker can be the tipping point between someone deciding to attend or heading to their hotel room instead.

Take Time to Honor Philanthropy and Activism

Professional or personal achievements deserve recognition and may take up the majority of your awards, but you should also carve out some time to recognize someone for helping others or the environment. It will give a boost to your brand by showing that you support a cause (or, at least, support those who support a cause). It will also highlight the values of those in your industry or demographic and add to the good vibes of the occasion.

Make it a Night to Remember

An award ceremony isn’t quite the same without actual awards. So, give the winners a special keepsake by presenting them with a trophy or plaque. You could also make the evening special by rolling out a literal red carpet. If you include an industry perk (like specialized training, etc.), you can present it on a certificate.

Wine and Dine Your Guests

Work with your catering company to see if they can create a menu that accompanies the theme of your event. If you are hosting a traditional banquet, consider having your award presentation run throughout the meal. If you wait until the end of a meal to kick off your awards, you risk facing an audience that’s ready to move on to other things. Instead, kick off the meal by introducing the ceremony and present the final award once dessert leaves the table. The other presentations can run in between courses.


An alternative to a banquet is what’s known as action stations. These are tables interspersed throughout a venue where chefs prepare specific dishes. Some examples include sushi and sashimi, carving stations (prime rib, turkey, ham, etc.), risotto and pasta, dim sum, seafood, local specialties, etc. Action stations encourage people to get up and move around the room. So, if you intend for networking to be a part of your event, action stations are a great choice. However, because of the cost of a chef per station, action stations are not the most budget-friendly option.

Like action stations, place bars and beverage throughout the room. This way people will not have to wait (im)patiently for a waiter to refill their drink (even a non-alcoholic one). Beverage stations also encourage mingling and networking.

Non-alcoholic beverage areas can be set up as self-service stations, similar to a buffet-table, and placed in a central area. Stations for alcoholic drinks need to be along the perimeter of the room because bartenders need storage room for additional supplies.

By aligning your award ceremony with both your brand and your audience – and making the night special with food, drinks, a fun host, and a spectacular presentation – you will truly make the ceremony a night to remember.