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The events industry can be an odd place to be. We often work so far ahead that we’re planning Christmas in the spring, summer events in the winter, or even a major convention three or four years in advance. So, when we find ourselves catching up with Mark Stormont, Co-Founder of London Event Productions, it may be that we’re basking in one of the hottest summers on record, but we’re talking about end of year award ceremonies.

Mark has a business that, at Lime Venue Portfolio, we’re always keen to work with. He represents a modern event organiser who keeps a keen eye on the operational detail, but also ensures the events he works on are strategic, creative, and in keeping with the client’s business and brand – in short, he likes unusual venues because they send a message on the outside of the venue, that reflects what he’s curating on stage inside.

So, as we enter one of the key periods for organisations booking their award-led events, it’s good to sit down with Mark for some knowledge and inspiration. However, before we start, it’s worth learning a little more about the businesses Mark has created:

He comments: “London Event Productions (or LEP) is a production agency - a blend of the service style of an event agency, with the expertise of a production company. It is the sister brand to Stormont London, our discerning entertainment agency. Both technical production and entertainment are key elements in a great awards show, so we have business expertise to cover both sides and we produce or support roughly 30-40 a year.”

Is there are peak season for award ceremonies? “Within the corporate world, the general trend is to host internal and external award ceremonies in a bell curve centralised on October and November. January, February and March also see a few ceremonies but they certainly drop off in the summer.”

With so many happening in such a concentrated period, how do they get them so right? “The key to managing awards - particularly if you are inviting clients, press or external partners is to plan to finish all organisation one to two weeks before the live day,” continues Mark.  “Organisers commonly organise macro elements such as venue, catering, production, and entertainment in good time, but underestimate the amount of time that should be spent on the micro: guest experience, event flow, and most importantly, the coordination of all stakeholders.

“If you can spend a week before live day doing nothing but running through a schedule in five-minute interval detail then you’re in a good place, and that should be your goal. You will always find incremental improvements or tweaks to be made.”

Great advice for any event professional, and one that we’d endorse here at Lime Venue Portfolio. But is there a danger that with so many events taking place year on year, things could get a little same-y, what are LEP & Stormont doing to change the way we look at awards? “When some of our clients are looking to break with the status quo we take them back to what a good award show is all about; rewarding and inspiring people. It is easy to skip past the why of the event and jump in to the how.”

“We challenge ourselves and our clients to question assumptions, why do we so often see; a drinks reception, a sit-down dinner (which is too long because all of the awards are bundled together at the end), followed by a forgettable DJ set? Is this the best way of rewarding and inspiring people? We then deconstruct proceedings with that question constantly in mind and align every part of the event to that goal.”

It’s an important point and again underlines that #teamstormont are looking deeper into the event experience. So, what is the secret sauce, the magic ingredients to creating a great awards event?

“Obviously, you want to prioritise a captivating and on-brand venue, excellent serving staff, interesting food, a grand stage set to make your winners feel honoured, and entertainment that will secure a smile on every face! But, if you're looking for that saucy soundbyte I would encourage planners to prioritise authenticity and momentum.” (hurrah)

“Tie everything you can about the event into your company values and ensure that something interesting and engaging is always on the horizon. For example: stagger awards throughout the evening and ask department heads to present awards to winners who they know personally. This involves more of the team and makes the experience far more authentic for the winners and runners up. A simple tweak with excellent effects.”

The team at Stormont London seem to have a pretty great job, picking new ways of exciting and entertaining crowds of happy people, so any advice there?

“If you are considering cabaret performances, look for on-brand, innovative and interesting acts, not shallow gimmicks. Hire a magician to create a custom stage performance that is scripted around the company’s values or products. Hire a graffiti artist for the drinks reception to make a company mural that guests can contribute to and could be mounted in the office afterwards. Entertainment should not be plugged in to events. At Stormont London we always focus on the ‘why’ of an event and work with our clients to tie brand values and messaging in to the entertainment.”

Sound advice indeed, and pretty indicative of what makes a great event, and a professional event management. So, look out for Mark, London Event Productions and Stormont London, if you’re organising awards, banquets, and pretty much any other event that requires a contemporary and creative eye. They may be busy organising a huge number of events right now, but hey, they had time to sit down with us! Thanks Mark.

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