Best Practices for Awards Shows, As Told by a Seasoned Emcee

Let’s call a corporate awards show what it truly is: the centerpiece of every event! An awards show is a pivotal moment during any conference, workshop, or summit to show your most valued employees just how much they mean to your company. So, what can you do to make this year’s awards ceremony the best one yet

In my decade of experience in this industry, I’ve learned that a professional emcee is often considered a ‘nice-to-have’ addition for conferences, but almost always considered a must-have for corporate awards shows. Why? Because professional emcees have the necessary expertise to make any corporate awards show incredible!

If you have an awards ceremony fast approaching, consider these ten tips for making it truly memorable. 

Tip 1: Commit to Making This Year Different 

The first step to hosting the ultimate corporate awards show? Commit to making this year different — not just better, but the best awards ceremony yet! While it might sound silly, it’s important to give your upcoming awards show the respect it deserves. Think of your awards show as a reflection of your gratitude for your awards winners.

However, it’s just as vital to remember that if you plan to commit to making this year different, your upcoming corporate awards show may take more effort than it has previously. But don’t fret! In these next few tips, I’ll share the best practices I’ve learned for maximizing your event value all while minimizing your event-planning stress. 

Hosting Performing for Rent A Center Las Vegas 2023

Tip 2: Designate Who Fills Which Roles

Once you commit to making this year’s corporate awards shows unlike any other, it’s time to delegate the necessary event preparation to the appropriate individuals. Though it might sound obvious, I’ve lost track of the events I’ve hosted that lacked a singular point of contact to confirm the evening’s format or verify the agenda. 

Every corporate awards show needs someone at the helm. You can contract out that responsibility to a creative director or event producer, or delegate the task to a production company. Alternatively, you can designate that person in-house — just be sure that internal employee owns their role (and its level of responsibility).

Tip 3: Hire a Professional to Host or Co-Host

With an event producer decided, it’s time to clarify the format of your corporate awards show. One of the biggest decisions here is whether you will hire a professional emcee to entirely host your show, or hire an emcee to co-host alongside your previous year’s host. Let me take a step back to explain how either option would work.

Typically, a company’s Chief People Officer or CEO hosts the awards ceremony. If you hire an emcee as a dedicated host, the usual person in charge gets the night off. If you hire an emcee as a co-host, the focus remains on the executive. In this case, your emcee becomes more of a correspondent to facilitate the awards, engage the crowd, and bring a degree of entertainment to the ceremony. (P.S. A professional emcee like me can do either!)

Hosting for Honeywell Orlando 2022

Tip 4: Establish the Physical Layout

Now that you’ve started to assemble the main players for your corporate awards show, you can begin to establish the physical layout of your space. Like with any corporate agenda, the layout of the room can make or break your awards ceremony. You must make it as simple as possible for winners to reach the stage! 

Determine the placement of everything — from where the awards will live before the ceremony to where winners will enter and exit the stage — as soon as possible. It’s helpful to think of the ceremony as a choreographed dance routine. Remember to eliminate spare wires, excess chairs, and anything else that could interrupt its flow. 

Tip 5: Consider Timing and Pace

To nail down an effective format for your corporate awards show, consider the timing and pace of the ceremony. While it may be obvious to some, this step is where you want to remember basic math — as in, if you plan to announce 80 awards and each takes four minutes, you will have a 320-minute (or 6-hour!) awards show.

Not to mention, you will likely have to slot in all that activity before dinner… which could leave attendees (and even award recipients) feeling a bit frustrated. Instead, consider the number of awards you have to give away and the time it takes for each winner to enter and exit the stage, then fine-tune to create the optimal format.

Hosting for Honeywell Orlando 2022

Tip 6: Reduce Variables in the Format

Speaking of fine-tuning, one of the best-kept secrets for a memorable corporate awards show is to reduce as many unexpected variables as possible. What do I mean by that? Edit, simplify, and elevate! If you anticipate you will need several hours for over a hundred awards, reduce the variables that could impact your format. 

Some of the best practices to omit time-consuming variables in corporate awards shows include: 

  • Separate awards tiers. If you plan to work through upwards of 100 awards, consider hosting a dedicated winner’s luncheon prior to the ceremony to acknowledge lesser award winners. 
  • Save pictures for later. I recommend setting up an aesthetic backdrop somewhere in the ballroom for winners to take photos without feeling rushed (these pictures are great for social media, too).
  • Speeches are not for everybody. If you want to remove the risk of going way over time, consider reserving speeches for your top award winners, such as the last three to five award recipients. 

Tip 7: Weave in Entertainment 

When we talk about timing, pace, and uncontrollable variables in your format, we skip over a well-known fact: Corporate awards shows can be long! That’s why I recommend always including entertainment with a dedicated corporate entertainer or entertaining emcee! As you plan your format, be sure to include time for entertainment. 

The purpose of an awards show is to celebrate the winners, so you don’t want to take away too much attention from the ceremony. As a seasoned emcee, I can tell you that your best bet is to intersperse entertainment throughout the awards show. Include entertainment segments as a segue between awards categories or announcers. 

Tip 8: Nail Down Stingers and Graphics

As the last element of your format, do not neglect stingers and graphics. Stingers refer to pre-edited music clips that play as winners enter and exit the stage. If you have 92 awards, you will need 92 stingers — as well as 92 graphics to display the winner’s names and award types. Stingers and graphics should be queued up way in advance, so that they’re ready to go whenever you are. And remember to have them handy for our next step, rehearsal

Tip 9: Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse 

When I mention the term ‘rehearsal,’ I don’t just mean visiting the ceremony location and checking the sound quality on the microphones. A talk-through is not a walk-through. When you arrive at rehearsal, you must actively walk through each step of the awards show to eliminate any dead air that could negatively impact your format. 

Of course, your winners cannot rehearse winning. However, your executives, AV team, and event producer can nail down key format details like if they will enter stage left or stage right or where they will stand when an award is given. You can also time how long it takes to reach the stage from the floor to pre-edit your stingers better! 

Tip 10: Coordinate On and Off Stage

As a veteran on the events circuit and seasoned professional emcee, the last best practice I can share for corporate awards shows is to ensure that you coordinate the format both on and off the stage. With an emcee like me as your co-host, I can coordinate with your event producer to determine when we’re behind schedule and when we need to speed it up. I help remove any dead space, so the focus is all on celebrating your hard-working employees! 

Elevate Your Corporate Award Show with This Event Emcee!

When it comes to corporate awards shows, the most memorable evenings all begin with weeks of dedicated planning. As you brainstorm ways to make this year’s awards show the best one yet, I encourage you to partner with a professional emcee — like me, Jeff Civillico! Send me a booking inquiry today to learn how I can help elevate your next corporate awards show.