Planning an awards ceremony can feel like an overwhelming task. Bringing together so many different elements and ensuring guests and nominees have an experience they won't forget can leave you wondering where on earth to start.

But don’t panic, it’s all in the planning and preparation. Here’s our full-proof guide to ensure your attendees will return to your awards event year after year.


1. Nail Your Brief

A good brief can make or break an event. You and your team need to decide and agree on the overall objective of your awards ceremony. Leave no stone unturned and mentally walk through how you’d like the event to run, look and feel from the moment guests walk through the door to the moment their taxi door closes at the end of the evening. Think about you or your clients brand and ethos - how will you communicate this through every aspect of the ceremony?

  • What are your musts and must nots? Make a list, don’t compromise on the details.
  • What's the purpose and overall goal of hosting this awards event?
  • What do you hope this event will bring to your organisation?

 2.  Watch your Budget

Throwing everything you have at an event can often seem like the best strategy for achieving an unforgettable evening, however, this can be counterproductive if it’s not going to deliver ROI. Your awards ceremony will end up being unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. Remember it’s the small details that can start to add up. List and factor in other costs that you may incur for example:

  • The cost of the venue
  • Staffing
  • Event software
  • Catering
  • Printing costs for marketing materials or invitations
  • Entertainment and production equipment
  • Promotional items and products
  • Decorations
  • Contingency

Agreeing on a realistic budget and keeping safely within it (always ensure you have a buffer in place) is the most important element of organising an awards ceremony, particularly if you are working on behalf of a client or you are planning in running the awards year on year.

Don’t worry if you’re not rolling in cash, a smaller budget will mean you'll have the chance to come up with some stand out creative solutions and it may motivate you to build on valuable partnerships for support.

And don’t forget the fundamentals. How many tickets will you need to sell to break even?

3. Preparation is Key 

Your event will be as good as your plan. We can’t say it enough… spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets. From the get-go create a clear and detailed plan with a schedule of what needs to be organised, by when? This also goes for the evening itself. Don’t leave anything to chance and ensure you fully script your event. Plan the evening in clear time slots and allocate tasks and responsibilities to members of your team so your event is guaranteed to run smoothly.

And remember to iron out the key details.

  • How long have you got to organise your awards ceremony?
  • When is the best time of year to hold it?
  • Does your event clash with other key events in your sectors calendar?

Work out a detailed programme for the evening and rehearse it, again and again. 

 4. The Awards

Now you’ve got your plan in place you can start to plan the exciting details.

  • Who will be receiving your awards?
  • How will people vote for the nominees and how will the winners be selected?
  • How many winners will there be?
  • What will the awards look like?
  • Who’s coming and why? How will they know? Do they need to buy individual tickets or a table?
  • Will there be a theme or dress code? 

5. Choose a ‘Stand Out’ unique venue

When it comes to creating an unforgettable experience the venue you choose to hold your awards ceremony at is instrumental in your event’s success. Firstly, you need to establish the key elements you need your venue to deliver. Here’s some questions you need to be asking.

  • How many people will be attending?
  • What’s the capacity of the location?
  • Does the space work for what you’d like to take place on the evening?
  • Is there flexibility in the floor plan and layout?
  • Are there opportunities to have extra space, outdoor space or holding rooms?
  • What onsite facilities does your venue have or not have?
  • Will you have exclusive access to the venue?
  • Are catering and other services including staffing included?
  • Are there additional hidden costs?
  • What will you need to source externally?
  • Does the venue's equipment fit with your plan and theme?
  • Are there good transportation links and parking?
  • Is there appropriate accessibility for all of your guests?
  • Can you get into the venue prior to the event to set up, rehearse and decorate?
  • Do you have to use their vendors or can you bring in your own?
  • Do they require a deposit?
  • Does your venue hold appropriate insurance and safety certification for the type of event you’re running?
  • Will you be having an after party?

Most importantly does your venue match the tone of the evening and initiate an emotional response? Is the venue well respected and somewhere guests cannot resist visiting? 

6. Speakers and Entertainment

Once you’ve chosen your perfect awards ceremony venue, it’s time to start thinking about how you will dress the venue and keep your guests entertained. Think about what sort of mood and impact you would like to make on the evening. 

Award ceremonies are a great place to show off another side to your brand or company, so will you break up the ceremony with entertainment, music or other unusual elements?

  • What additional lighting can you use?
  • Will you be dressing the tables or does the venue provide this?
  • Will you be giving out gift bags or sponsors products?
  • How will the stage look and where will it be positioned? Will you need a host podium
  • Who will host your event?
  • Have they experience and capability?
  • Do they match the tone of the event? Likeable and unflappable?
  • Are they well known or respected within the industry? Do they bring an additional unique element to the ceremony?

Your guest speaker(s) should be relevant to your cause, preferably with experience in the field or someone who is passionate about what you are advocating for.

7. Manage your Logistics

Once you’ve made all the big decisions, once again it's time to iron out all of the small details. You’ll need to line up staffing for your event, create contingency plans, and think through how you’ll handle challenges that could arise. Above everything else, your guest's experience should be at the top of your priority list. 

  • Will guests be greeted at the door?
  • How will your guests be seated?
  • Will nominees and winners be seated so they can get to the stage with ease to collect their awards?
  • Will guests be moving around the room?
  • How will you ensure to avoid accidents and injuries at your event?

8. Food Glorious Food

For most attendees of any event, food can be the highlight of the evening. This is your chance to ‘wow’ your guest with culinary delights and experiences. Not sure what to serve at your event, check out our latest guide to the top food trends in 2018.

9. Spreading the word

It’s best to get publicity out early, even if this means you haven’t got all the final details of the event. In the planning stages create a media and promotion schedule and allocate people to key activities. Think about answering the following questions...

  • How will you get news of your ceremony out there?
  • What is stand out and newsworthy about your event?
  • Can you use social media with a specific hashtag to promote your event?
  • Who will be on your press list?
  • Can you connect with and invite influencers in your sector?
  • Do you have permission to use guest photos?
  • Will you need to hire a professional photographer for the evening?
  • Can you use flash photography at the venue?

10. After the Event 

Once the event ends, your work isn’t over. You’ll need to plan a follow-up in advance so that your supporters know how much you appreciate their attendance. Stay in touch and say thank you. Keep an eye on social media and share what people are saying.

If you’re planning to organise another awards ceremony think about what worked well this year and what could be better next year.

And most importantly don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy your event's success. Planning a rock solid awards ceremony is an amazing achievement. OK, now it’s time to start organising next year’s awards ceremony...

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