When meeting and event planners are forced to cancel their in-person events due to COVID19, much more is lost than just education and networking. Many planners use these in-person events to celebrate the successes and accomplishments of their members! Without the glitz and glamour of an in-person event, planners are tasked to create something entertaining in a virtual environment that still recognizes the great efforts of the nominees and winners.
Here are some ideas to help you create engaging Virtual Awards Celebrations:
- Nod to the Oscars – Take advantage of virtual tools and turn your awards gala into an Academy Awards-style TV show. Some fun styling ideas:
- Ahead of the stream, ship them their awards, and some glasses and champagne to toast to their success
- send them a red carpet or backdrop to take their award photos with!
- Once you have the whole show edited together, you can stream it as a live event so employees can host watch parties and get in on the fun. (idea courtesy of Liz Lathan)
- Ed, is that you? Either via Zoom or by showing up on their doorstep, surprise the award winner of their accomplishment, (think “Publisher’s Clearing House”!) Incorporate snippets of recorded announcements into the awards show
- Socially distanced fanfare – via live Zoom, have family/friends/supporters of nominees gathered to see if their nominee will win, and then post their reactions live!
Some additional best practices and ideas for awards celebrations….
- Have an engaging opening sequence – tap into the expertise of an audio-visual firm or design firm to help with this piece
- Use a master of ceremonies – tapping into the professional talents of a master of ceremonies will help keep the show moving along
- Use look-alike celebrities – tap into some talent and keep your audience guessing by employing some “famous” talent – check out Hollywood Heaven Entertainment or the talented Tracey Bell
- Keep the show short, tightly scripted and quick-moving – this, alongside an experienced MC, will keep your attendees engaged
- Pre-film acceptance speeches – if your awards members are chosen in advance, pre-film and edit their acceptance speeches and launch their speeches during the live show
- Story-telling – have members of your organization share engaging anecdotes about the industry; ensure the stories are well-scripted and rehearsed by those delivering the address
- Graphics and transitions between slides – use eye-catching transitions and music to build up suspense and excitement when announcing your winners!
- Include live trivia between awards – fun trivia games keep attendees engaged and helps make them winners as well! Some options include Visioneer, slido and Kahoot
- Host breakout rooms for the winners post-show – have each award winner be the focus in a breakout room after the awards show. Include a moderator in each room to help monitor the chat and ask the award winner questions about their contributions to the organization
- Create smaller networking hubs – host an awards “afterparty” where attendees can flutter from room-to-room and network with one another. Platforms like Remo and YoTribe are great for this
Recognizing Your Award Winners – some organizations provide lucrative awards packages to their winners, check out these great ideas from Liz Lathan:
- Awards Trip Incentive – if you typically award your winners with a trip to a tropical location, bring the awards trip home to them! Create a vacation-in-a-box filled with activities, memorabilia, cocktail mixers, and all the accouterments that would have come along with that trip. Plan virtual excursions and events to bring winners together online, such as hosting a locally-inspired dinner on the first night. You can host a chef from the intended location via live stream and send participants a cook-at-home kit in advance, creating a virtual cooking show experience for winners and their families to participate in. The following day, run a lively workshop over lunch, and give participants a gift card to support their local restaurants by ordering food to enjoy while the discussion takes place.
- The Gift of Mentorship: Have your awards recipients choose a session with their dream mentor! Let the winners select a 30-minute session from their idol, be that Bill Gates or Gary Vaynerchuk, so they can get one-on-one time with pros that will inspire them personally and professionally. After these sessions, create digital photo albums for the winner so they have a keepsake they can look back on and share with the rest of the company.
- Pay It Forward: Perhaps your winners would like the money that would normally be spent on their accomplishments to go to a good cause. Let them choose their charity of choice, and make a donation in their name—and then offer winners the opportunity to have a 30-minute coffee date or happy hour with company leadership. This way, they can feel good about paying it forward, and also get valuable facetime within the organization—which sometimes is the most rewarding opportunity of all!.
And if you ARE able to meet in person….
- Change of venue – if your event is “local”, changing the venue may increase your ability to have everyone come together. A restaurant buy-out or dinner theatre like the Mayfield Theatre at the Doubletree Hilton West Edmonton may work better than a traditional hotel meeting space
Best of luck on your awards events this season everyone!
This blog post made possible through collaborations with the following individuals:
- Liz Lathan, CMP
- Laura Warren, Rare Affairs Event Management
- Mahoganey Jones, Halifax Convention Centre and Event Specialists
- Jess Poon, Canadian Cardiovascular Society
- Deanna Nwosu
- Holly O’Neill, Doubletree by Hilton West Edmonton
- Stephanie Barkley, Mosaic Events