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How To Run A Successful Awards Presentation
At least it hadn't
rained. As the planner mailed the post-presentation questionnaires to the award
recipients, he mentally clicked off everything that had gone wrong. While the
courtyard looked beautiful, it had smelled like bug spray, giving everyone a
headache. The noisy health fair nearby had set a bad tone from the start. Two
presenters had appeared late and forgotten their notes. The microphones
constantly screeched with feedback, and why couldn't management learn to
pronounce people's names?
He knew the recipients were upset. This was
supposed to have been their moment in the spotlight, the culmination of months
of hard work. Instead of glowing with achievement, they had all departed
growling with disappointment. Walking out of the office, the planner wondered
how many of the top performers would soon be with the competition.
effective award presentation can create greater feelings of loyalty and even
improve productivity among a company's employees. And a bad experience achieves
just the opposite. Nothing confirms an employee's worst fears about his
organization more than a shoddy presentation. The circumstances don't have to be
catastrophic to be disastrous; mediocrity is just as unmotivating.
Visibly showing people that you value their work and effort, and doing
so in front of peers, is key in retaining top people. This is an invaluable
opportunity to define, communicate and reinforce key aspects of outstanding
performance. Also, it gives management a textbook example to show employees how
individual excellence affects the company overall.
How an effective
presentation is handled reflects a company's vision, goals and culture. Clearly,
the amount of effort put into the launch of a program should be equally devoted
to its closing. The award presentation is the last impression the participants
have of the program. In truth, the incentive isn't really over until the
participants receive their rewards.
Award presentations usually fall
into two categories:
1. Informal, small gatherings - smaller ceremonies
can be for everything from on-the spot recognition to service awards
Larger, public affairs - recognizing people and anniversaries in a more grand
style creates an impact that is likely to increase performance even more.
If you don't believe you have time to pull together even the most
informal gathering, remember . . . it will take much longer to train your top
This step-by-step guide provides a thorough
understanding of what is necessary to run a successful professional
presentation. From a small gathering to a large gala, this how to e-book
addresses the details that can make the difference between thrilled award
recipients and disgruntled employees.
Before the Presentation
Much of the foundation for a good awards presentation is laid before
anyone takes the stage. Determining the budget, who will present the awards as
well as when and where the ceremony will occur make up the initial concerns.
When you're first planning your presentation
program, decide which of the three budget lines - administration, promotion and
award - will cover the presentation. The best policy is to include all elements
of the celebration in the award category. This approach confirms that the
presentation is an important part of the award itself.
incentives, usually the ceremony is part of a larger event. Any extra expenses
for the award presentation are easily lumped in the dinner/party costs. If the
award ceremony is part of a company day, probably a percentage of the award
budget will be directed to this event.
For small, casual gatherings,
it's harder to plan for extra costs because these are such informal affairs. One
effective method is to allocate a certain monetary amount to each award. For
instance, managers commemorating a five-year anniversary are given $100 to use
for the celebration.
Whether a small celebration
or elaborate affair, at least one member of upper management should attend. This
provides a sense of prestige to the event. Some experts suggest the recipient's
highest-level supervisor actually present the award since he knows the most
about his accomplishments.
Also, peers should be invited to the
ceremony. Co-workers, after all, understand better than anyone the value of a
fellow employee's dedication and hard work. Plus the power of peer recognition
at times rivals even the most impressive awards.
Service, corporate anniversary and safety presentations
informal gathering of peers is a popular way to present service awards. Schedule
the ceremony as close to the official date as possible to make it more
meaningful. Also, a celebration earlier in the day decreases the possibility of
presenters and co-workers becoming sidetracked and unable to attend. Morning
presentations also avoid any lunchroom conflicts or aromas.
safety, corporate anniversary and service award presentations are included in
company day festivities. This gives upper management a valuable opportunity to
increase the visibility of the recipients as well as the awards themselves.
When award presentations are part of a companywide event, push for them to
be scheduled earlier in the proceedings. This will help you avoid rushing
through the ceremony and making the recipients feel like afterthoughts.
Another approach is to mimic the Academy Awards ceremony. The Oscars
always begin and end with a big award. This grabs people's attention at the
start and makes them stay until the end. Also it's a good way to bookend your
There are a few negatives to including safety and service
awards with companywide activities. Most importantly, employees recognize double
tasking when they see it. They know salespeople are getting a separate
celebration. The best way to combat this second-best sentiment is to make their
moments in the spotlight as memorable as possible.
If the ceremony is
part of a separate luncheon, present the awards at the beginning. Again, you
won't be crunched for time, but also your odds of attracting upper management
increase. These people won't sit through a meal with you; but they will show up
if you promise they only have to allocate 20 minutes of their schedule at the
beginning of your event.
Presentations honoring salespeople usually occur on the final night of
an incentive program trip or during a special event devoted to them. As above,
consider scheduling the award ceremony at the beginning of the festivities,
perhaps with music and dancing at the end.
First of all, you truly have
people's attention at the beginning; later in the party it's much harder to
accomplish. Second, this allows you to avoid problems with alcohol. There is no
diplomatic way to tell a presenter he's drinking too much, so just avoid the
The budget greatly determines where a
presentation will occur. Ceremonies for salespeople usually have larger budgets
and are held off site, whether at a local venue or during a travel incentive.
Smaller budgets, such as those for service and safety awards, require
on-site celebrations. With small gatherings, conduct the presentation in a
conference room or surprise the person in their supervisor's office. If possible
take the group out to lunch and present the award at the restaurant.
When the award ceremony is part of a larger company event, make sure the
venue fulfills the presentation's needs. For instance, an amusement park is a
great place for a companywide party. Unless the park offers a theater or stage
area that can accommodate all employees, however, it's not appropriate for an
Now that you've
determined when, where and who is attending your event, as well as how to pay
for it, here are a few important details that should be addressed before the
Create excitement in the office. Write a story about each
winner and what he or she did to win the award for the employee newsletter or a
Notify top customers. If your company has just
reached a safety milestone, for instance, this could improve a client's
perception of the organization. Ask top salespeople and service award recipients
if they want to spread the word of their accomplishments among clients.
Prepare brief notes for members of upper management who are unfamiliar
with the recipients. Personalized praise enriches the experience and helps
people feel they are not just one of many. Also, it is far more interesting for
Include information on any unusual names or
pronunciations, as well as personal preferences. You don't want Stefan annoyed
because he was called "Steven" during his big moment.
Create a printed
program for the award presentation ceremony listing all the recipients and their
accomplishments. This is a great keepsake and one of the little touches that can
really make a difference.
Wrap the awards and include a handwritten
note. Even if it is a gift certificate, wrap it. An unwrapped award gives the
impression you couldn't be bothered.
Arrange for a photographer to take
pictures of each winner receiving the award. Give him a complete list of the
recipients and specify any special circumstances. If you choose to use a company
employee in order to save money, see samples of his work beforehand.
Make copies of all multimedia elements and keep them separate from the
originals. If computers or projectors are used, arrange for a backup to be
Do a complete rehearsal of the presentation. The lighting,
multimedia, equipment and order of the rehearsal must be exactly as they will be
during the event.
The Presentation Itself
small, the primary goal of any award presentation is the same: to ensure the
recipients feel valued by and committed to the organization. The body of the
presentation should address the following issues:
Ask everyone to silence their cell phones and pagers.
exactly why everyone is there and who will be honored. If several people will be
recognized for different accomplishments, provide a general overview.
Give a brief explanation of what each person did to earn his or her
award. Make it clear this is not a gift. For service awards, talk about their
accomplishments during their tenure. Cite the impressive numbers for
salespeople. Personal anecdotes reaffirm an emotional attachment to the company
and co-workers. Don't go into information overload, but the more specifics, the
Tie achievements to corporate values and goals. Connecting
individual performance to a company's success helps people see the big picture.
For example, if reaching a safety goal saved the company an estimated amount of
money, mention it.
Balance time spent discussing company culture and
goals with the individual's achievements. Don't make the recipient and those in
the audience feel as if the ceremony is just the hook to get people in a room to
hear the company mantra. After all, this is the employee's moment to shine.
Describe the award. If the reward possesses significance to the company,
explain it. If it is an impressive merchandise or travel award, a brief
description creates just the right amount of envy among the recipient's peers.
Hopefully, the award will inspire others to improve their performance.
Display pictures of the recipients on a large screen when their name is
read, if appropriate. Regardless of the other multimedia elements, seeing their
picture on the big screen will give the winner a thrill.
Go overboard with multimedia. It's an award
presentation, not an action movie.
Discuss inadequacies or past
mistakes. The goal may be to show how much the recipient has learned and
progressed, but it could be embarrassing. Even if the goal is to be humorous,
what is funny to one person is humiliating to another.
co-workers to speak. If you want to include peers for a larger presentation,
consider videotaping segments and then presenting the best contributions during
the ceremony. With smaller, informal gatherings, co-workers may present examples
of the recipient's personal qualities and work achievements. This approach
promotes a warmth and sincerity that can go a long way toward building an
effective work group. However, make it clear this is an award presentation, not
Use too much industry jargon in companywide events. Odds are
everyone will not understand the acronyms and unique lingo. People will either
feel left out or simply become bored and tune out the proceedings.
Discard all sense of decorum in a quest for fun. It is perfectly
acceptable to have a degree of fun during the presentation. However, leave the
real partying until after the official ceremony.
Team or group awards
Whenever possible, briefly
explain each person's role in the achievement. Ideally keep it to one or two
sentences. As above, make sure it's clear how the group's accomplishments
benefit the company overall. If the unit is simply too large for individual
summaries, break it down into smaller teamwork presentations and discuss how
Catalog award programs
The goal is to avoid
any letdown since the recipients won't be collecting their award during the
presentation. Give them a certificate with a picture of the award they've chosen
as well as the date when they can expect it to be delivered.
desktop publishing technology available today, it's simple to create a picture
of the recipient holding the merchandise award. The same can be done for travel
If the participants haven't chosen their awards yet, give
them a packet providing all the information during the presentation. For
instance, the folder should include a copy of the catalog, toll-free help
numbers, Web site addresses, any expiration dates or deadlines, etc. If the
program features a strong online component, create an introduction on the Web
site welcoming the winners.
Short-term sales programs
Recognizing winners of short-term incentives helps increase visibility
and interest in the overall program. Small, informal gatherings are appropriate,
or you can do everything online. When a participant reaches a certain number of
points the Web site could be programmed to run a clever multimedia presentation
honoring his achievement and announcing the reward.
Smart planners survey participants after an incentive to
find out how they can make improvements for successive programs. This policy
should include the presentation as well.
Talk with recipients about the
awards presentation. Get a sense for how they felt during their shining moment.
If one-on-one conversations are not possible, distribute a post-program survey
by email or regular mail, if anonymity is preferred.
Send recipients the
official photos taken during the award presentation in a frame. Include
information on how to get reprints.
Print photos of top performers taken
during a travel incentive or posing with their merchandise award in the company
newsletter. Photos should also be posted on the company's Web site.
Confirm the awards arrived at winners' homes or offices if it's a
Notify the local press of the award presentation. Also,
contact trade publications that cover your industry. It may trigger a story idea
or become part of an article in development.
The press release should
explain the recipients' special accomplishments as well as the incentive program
and its benefits. If the event celebrated a corporate anniversary, relate
significant events in the company's history. Enclose photos with captions, if
appropriate, and be sure to include a media contact.
BEST OF AN EMPTY ROOM
Hotel ballrooms usually come with all the
bells and whistles needed for a successful award presentation. But what if you
must use the company's boring, all-purpose area and your budget covers the
awards and little else? It may never look like Carnegie Hall, but keep these
points in mind when working with a raw space.
For a group of 25 people or more, use a platform or podium to raise the
presenter and recipients two or more feet off the floor. When a stage isn't
possible, arrange the seating so everyone faces the presentation.
the background wall with a curtain or drape of some kind. A plain concrete wall
evokes memories of high school assembly. Some speaking coaches also suggest
telling presenters the color of the background. This way they won't wear a gray
suit that would blend in with a gray curtain.
You only need two "stage" lights to cross-light the presenter
effectively. Most of the light in the room should be focused on the presenter,
with just a bit distributed over the audience. If the venue doesn't offer
multiple lighting options, simply go for clarity.
The best presenters avoid lecterns, but the rest of us need them like a
security blanket. Truthfully, it's much better to allow someone to fidget with
his tie or play with a pen behind a podium than to leave such behavior exposed
to the audience. Use an adjustable lectern if several presenters are scheduled.
Project images high and large. The bottom
of the screen should be at least six feet off the stage.
What is perfect for a dinner may not accommodate a
presentation. Half-moon arrangements suit award ceremonies best since people
don't have to fidget to see the action. If using theater-style seating, create
several aisles instead of just one down the middle.
All-purpose areas aren't known for their acoustics.
Carpets or tapestries of some kind will help dull the echo somewhat.
Whether you're using an outside firm or
the in-house staff, plan a full rehearsal to become familiar with the quirks of
the space. The dry run should use live microphones in order to find the ideal
positions to avoid feedback.
humor is appropriate?
The presentation should fit the accomplishment
as well as the overall company culture. Since this is a significant honor for
the recipients, err on the side of light-hearted humor rather than actually
poking fun at others.
Theme parties and skits also walk a fine line. For
instance, one company tried a 'from hell to heaven' premise. Many salespeople
decided it really was hellish working at the company and left.
other hand, a company celebrating its 50th anniversary did a wonderful job
depicting the organization through the decades with a series of skits. The
performers used just enough humor to make the event enjoyable while still paying
tribute to the company's accomplishments.
What is the best way to
keep track of ideas for presentations?
Create a presenter's journal.
Allocate a section of your day planner or electronic organizer for ideas and
examples of effective presentations. Information can range from a good opening
anecdote to clever, affordable decorations.
Should I cancel award
presentations during business slumps?
Celebrations shouldn't be
reserved only for the good times. A safety award, for instance, can pump up
morale and give employees a sense of accomplishment despite the bad times. Sales
awards honor people who have achieved some success despite the circumstances.
That said, timing is something to keep in mind. No presentation should
be scheduled anywhere near a day filled with layoffs.
What if the
recipient is shy?
In this case, attention may be more a punishment
than a reward. Discuss the prospect of a public presentation with the winner.
Arrange a special presentation only with his peers if he isn't comfortable
beyond his immediate work group.
How do I ensure employees in satellite
offices feel part of the festivities?
Technology can help bridge the gap.
Broadcast the event live on the company's Web site and arrange for people in
branch offices to watch it together. Also, the presentation can be videotaped
and sent to the satellites.
Employees in branch offices may still feel
left out. Whenever possible, directors from headquarters should participate in
presentations for top performers in these off-site locations.
What about email?
Don't use it to notify recipients
of their honor. Online communication is most effective for basic information
after winners have been announced.
Considering how many emails people send
and receive during an average day, the award notice could easily be lost. Also,
since their achievement is something outside the norm, everything about the
award experience should be as well.
ARE CELEBRITIES WORTH IT?
The planner might as well have hired a clown to throw pies in their
After hours of negotiating, cajoling and outright begging, he had
convinced a popular, up-and-coming singer to present the awards to the company's
top salespeople. Unfortunately, the thrill turned into a nightmare.
singer showed up late, was dressed too casually and spent more time on his cell
phone than on stage. But the ultimate insult carne when he refused to shake
hands with each of the winners. He just mumbled each name and handed the plaque
to the recipient.
All in all, a night the planner wished everyone would
Celebrities can generate incredible buzz for an award
presentation. When it works well, it is an experience your participants will
never forget. Unfortunately, the same is true when circumstances go awry.
Clearly, the risks are as high as the rewards. Fellow planners and suppliers,
such as destination management companies, can offer advice about which
performers behave professionally and who isn't worth the headache.
you like the idea of a celebrity but can't afford the price tag or the risks,
try an impersonator. A Billy Crystal look-alike hosting your next award
presentation would surely create excitement among your top people.