Take your next awards show or gala to the next level with these ideas from leading brands. Featuring examples from WeWork, Lean Startup, Gartner and more.
Awards shows, corporate awards and galas are a fun, engaging way to spotlight the people who have contributed the most to your business or industry.
Whether you’re planning an awards ceremony for your colleagues or your customers, it’s important to consider the ways in which this event, like all others, presents an excellent opportunity to further promote brand awareness and thought leadership.
To accomplish these goals, you’ll need to think outside of the box. Get a little inspiration from these 20 curated award ceremony ideas.
What Is An Awards Ceremony?
Awards ceremonies, also known as awards shows, can help organizations drive brand recognition and donations or revenue from a variety of sources. increasing ticket sales or donations is often a key part of this type of event strategy.
In general, awards ceremonies are commonly produced by media companies, publishers, associations and nonprofits. They can be a stand-alone event or part of a larger summit or conference. An award ceremony can often be similar to gala events, as you’ll see from the examples below.
Why Award Ceremonies Are Valuable
Having a clear event strategy is key for any occasion but it’s especially true for awards ceremonies. Regardless of what achievement you are aiming for, there are three main benefits to any event of this kind:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Expanding thought leadership
- Gaining additional donations or revenue from ticket sales and sponsorships
Knowing what you stand to gain from hosting an awards ceremony will help determine how you use your event software to measure ROI and, ultimately, how to plan a successful show.
Award Ceremony Ideas
1. Create an authentic experience.
There are lots of ways to celebrate with formal elegance while still being down to earth and personal. Involving attendees in the voting process is a great way to be authentic while also encouraging higher rates of event engagement.
The Europas’ Diversity Pass awards use public voting from thousands of attendees alongside the professional opinions of hand-picked judges, founders, and investors. They also make it a point not to livestream their event so that conversations can feel more intimate and in the moment.
Source: The Europas
2. Offer a wide range of creative awards categories.
Variety is the spice of life but it can also be the spice of your awards show. Use an interesting combination of traditional and unusual or highly specific awards categories to gain the attention of future attendees.
The Digiday Awards celebrates companies, campaigns, and innovative new media marketing. Because they’ve included a wide range of industries, their attendees and awards winners include a variety of publishers, agencies. From big name pizza delivery brands to high fashion advertisers, the Digiday Awards is a great example of how much freedom event planners have for their own awards show.
3. Cast a wide net.
While your event marketing needs to be specific, your list of potential awards ceremonies doesn’t. Opening up award entries anyone who has a great submission idea is a fantastic way to increase registrations and participants.
WeWork’s Creator Awards presents a global competition for anyone who qualifies under their theme (“Creating Your Life’s Work”). From comedians to nonprofits, WeWork welcomed interesting and passionate people from all walks of life to their awards show.
4. Add a People’s Choice award.
Even if you’d prefer to leave the scoring to your judges, you can still get the audience involved with a people’s choice award. By offering digital entries through your event registration page or onsite paper ballots, offering this award type helps attendees get in on the action.
The Event Technology Awards offer a highly prestigious awards show experience that gives attendees a serious Oscars vibe. Naturally this presentation style lends itself to a People’s Choice award where winners can bask in the recognition of their peers and colleagues for their exceptional products or services.
5. Increase the number of awards.
Your awards ceremony can follow the mantra go big or go home by doubling or tripling the number of awards recipients. If you plan to measure event ROI using ticket sales, increasing the number of winners also increases the number of attendees as award recipients are highly likely to attend with their partners, family, and/or friends.
The Content Marketing Awards recognizes the best in content marketing projects and plays host to a whopping 92 award titles each year. The awards cover every aspect of content marketing from strategy to distribution and everything in between.
Source: Content Marketing World
6. Combine your awards ceremony with another event.
Whether it’s another event you plan to host or an already established industry staple, combining your awards ceremony with another premiere occasion can be a benefit for both brand recognition and ticket sales. Since attendees are already planning to go to the main attraction, your awards ceremony will be a no brainer.
Gainsight’s Sally Awards are announced at the annual Pulse conference whose attendees include most, if not all, of their recipients. Adding this extra layer of prestige to the overall conference benefits the main event while hosting the awards ceremony at the conference guarantees a fantastic experiential marketing opportunity.
— Jason P. Hersh (@jasonphersh) December 1, 2016
7. Honor a single individual.
While it’s always nice to get as many people involved as possible, can you imagine what it would be like to have an entire gorgeous gala dedicated to your success? That’s exactly the kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience you could give to the lucky recipient of your annual awards ceremony.
The Outliers Awards Gala celebrates those who do things a little bit differently with fantastic results. Although there are finalists who also receive recognition, there is only one person who will receive the highly exclusive honor. Finalists still benefit from the increase exposure and relationship building opportunities presented through the recognition.
8. Make it luxurious.
No matter what size awards gala you plan to host, you can always make the experience extra special by infusing glamorous elements into the occasion. From venues to food to decor, there are lots of opportunities to add a little extra sparkle on an evening to remember.
Teach for America hosts their annual awards as an “exclusive-all-inclusive” affair with details like champagne, fine wine, and exquisite food. Their venue, the Ronald Reagan Building Rotunda, is appropriate for their Chiefs of Staff Awards which honors leadership on Capitol Hill.
Source: Teach for America
9. Hire a funny host.
Sometimes it’s great to liven up formal affairs with a bit of comedy. Whether you plan to include a professional performer or a naturally funny executive, having a professional host to set the tone for the evening could make all the difference.
TechCrunch’s Crunchies has repeatedly invited comedian and actress Chelsea Peretti to entertain their usually hoodie-clad recipients for these highly prestigious innovators awards. Making the occasion both more festive and relaxed, hosts like Peretti are often asked back due to popular demand from attendees.
10. Simplify awards entry.
No matter what corporate event theme you choose, removing barriers for submission to your awards show through the use of event technology is a powerful way to improve conversion rates. Through website design, eye-catching CTAs, and entertaining videos, streamlining awards entry can be included in your plan for any event.
The Summit Awards are a great example of how to simplify the entry process. Not only do they include all awards criteria for every category, they also offer submission assistance from their friendly office staff. Their simple four step entry process is carefully outlined, making entry very simple and straightforward.
Source: ASAE Center
11. Livestream the show.
Sometimes there are travel or budget restrictions that keep potential attendees out of the loop. However, live-streaming the awards ceremony offers one way to get them interested and involved, no matter where they are located. Already a popular method for watching entertainment awards like the VMAs or the Oscars, live streaming has become a natural stepping stone into the digital sphere for more and more events.
Lean Startup’s focus on technology innovators makes using modern tools like live streaming a very on brand and appropriate choice for their awards ceremony. Because their focus was more on building an audience and less on intimate roundtables, live streaming made a lot of sense for their awards ceremony.
Source: Lean Startup
12. Be the first.
Sometimes you may find that your industry doesn’t have awards ceremonies, or at least not like the one you’re planning. There are a lot of benefits to pioneering a show or award type.
The International Travel & Tourism Awards celebrated its inaugural event this year. They filled a need within their industry – recognizing travel business, locally and globally, on a grand scale. Their audience exceeded over 500+ senior industry professionals and has established itself as a strong contender for years to come.
13. Honor those who give back.
While it’s always great to recognize excellence in career or professional achievements, there are plenty of opportunities to honor those who are doing work that aligns with the greater values held by your brand. Whether it’s a social cause or an environmental effort, adding that extra element of recognition adds to your brand image overall.
The Shorty Awards offers a separate but significant category for excellence that they call Social Good. Whether it’s one particular campaign that had a strong impact or an entire platform strategy, taking time to acknowledge that businesses are more than just their annual revenue call brings a welcome element of heart back into the occasion.
Source: Shorty Awards
14. Book a special keynote.
In addition to having a great host, awards ceremonies are excellent places to showcase unique speakers. Be sure to choose someone who represents your event brand and is recognizable to your industry.
The PR News’ Social Media Awards invites speakers like Jennifer Dulski, Head of Groups & Community at Facebook to share useful tips on how all organizations can organically build and grow communities. This exclusive opportunity makes attending the event even more attractive.
— Sophie Maerowitz (@SophieMaerowitz) May 23, 2018
15. Educate your industry.
Whether it’s a new product or philosophy, awards ceremonies provide ample opportunity for industry leadership. Event planners can incorporate the educational aspect into their theme or make the event itself a leading example.
The Finance for the Future Awards were created in part to highlight how important the finance function really plays in promoting collaborative logic in leadership and successful models of business. In addition to honoring winners, their goal is to drive awareness and inspire action amongst leaders in their industry.
Source: Finance for the Future
16. Host a panel.
Event ceremonies are still great places to engage in lively debates or thoughtful discourse. Hosting a panel of experts, showcasing your judges, and interviewing awards nominees are all great ways to incorporate panels into your strategy.
The Behind the Chair Awards hosts a total of four discussion panels leading up the main event. Their conversations revolved around topic issues in their industry and often provide helpful insight from forward-thinking innovators.
17. Provide exciting opportunities for winners.
Getting recognition from your colleagues is great, but what if you kicked it up a notch by changing the trajectory of their entire career? Besides offering your prestigious title, consider adding development opportunities that can nurture top talent.
The Independent Music Awards recognizes excellence in self-released music all over the world. Winners are connected with opportunities for performances, career promotion, distribution deals, possible offers for representation, and, of course, the chance to increase their fan base.
Source: Independent Music Awards
18. Provide dinner and drinks.
Who doesn’t love to eat? Sometimes offering a delicious meal is incentive enough to push attendees over the edge. You can even theme your dinner to the event itself like in this next example.
The FIT Awards honors achievement in the fitness world and hosts a cocktail reception followed by a three course dinner. Because health is a top priority to attendees, the meals themselves were finely crafted with fresh ingredients and thoughtful cooking methods to help guests maintain their stunning physiques.
19. Become the new standard of excellence.
If done well, event ceremonies can become a hallmark of excellence for your industry as a whole. Although this can take some time to achieve, setting yourself up to produce a high caliber event now will get you there faster.
The annual Gartner Eye on Innovation Awards has become a best-in-class rating system for all financial services companies. Gartner assess all submissions and provides a detailed explanation on how they define excellence through benchmarking, in-depth research, and analytics from high-performing brands.
20. Offer fabulous prizes.
In general, the awards ceremonies themselves can derive inspiration from any corporate event idea or even fundraising event idea that proved successful in the past. What really makes this event type stand out are the awards and prizes themselves.
The Global EdTech Startups Awards offers a plethora of cash prizes, global exposure, valuable PR, exclusive mentorship opportunities, and business development coaching. Winning an award at their ceremony often means the recipients will move up to a new playing field in their careers.
Source: Global EdTech Awards
Key Takeaways: Awards Ceremony Ideas
Awards ceremonies mean more than just a shiny trophy or engraved plaque. They’re memorable and entertaining evenings that create lasting impressions of your brand. Keep these things in mind when planning your next awards ceremony:
- Make it fun through special extras like great hosts, panels, or a delicious meal.
- Get creative with who and what you choose to honor.
- Align your awards ceremony event choices with your brand’s audience and shared values.
No matter what theme, location, or activities you choose, remember that your award ceremony is made special because of the people who attend.