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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Awards Evenings - How to make them a success.

Are awards evenings a busted flush? Do you know anybody in business media who says they would like to go to more award evenings? I must have attended more than a hundred in my career and there are more launched all the time. Two years ago some bright spark launched an awards awards. This was clearly a step to far and the event has not been repeated.

In the early eighties, awards evenings were a novelty. I remember guests literally gasping at the splendour of the Grosvenor House Great Room and at the dazzle of a set built from Tri –lite and star cloth in twinkle mode. One of the first awards events I attended was hosted by Michael Aspel and we all bathed in his reflected celebrity. Denis Healey spoke, and, clearly having greatly enjoyed the pre dinner reception and his meal, stood up, pulled what must have been the wrong speech from his pocket and delivered a homily on the IMF to a crowd of computer programmers. He didn’t go down well but the audience, transduced by the glamour of the occasion, forgave the organisers.

These days awards are old hat and it is ever harder to dream up new ways of pleasing an increasingly awards literate audience and demanding sponsors. All awards evenings are described on the night as the “Oscars” of their industry but frankly only a few would pass that particular sniff test. Here are my top five tips for running admired and successful awards evenings.

1) Hire a venue that’s too small. There is no better way to increase the kudos and credibility of your event than by annoying people who can’t get a table. Make sure that at least one of the potential guests who can’t get a table is hugely important and the gossip will be, “do you know that tickets were so exclusive that even Sir Rambly Bigcheese couldn’t get in?” It will do wonders for next years ticket sales.
2) Never ever hire an unknown comic to entertain your guests. If you have made this mistake in the past you’ll know why you’ll never do it again.
3) Make your judging criteria and process rigourous and probitious. Never leak the results, never fiddle the result and most important of all get the most credible unimpeachable big wig from your industry to chair the judging panel – that way the losers will blame him, not you, when they lose.
4) Remember that most of the people at your awards are losers and will hate the winners. Throwing a party where most of your guest will leave angry and disappointed can be a challenge when it comes to the following years’ event. Think about how to make the losers have a good time too.
5) Go over the top with publicity in your own magazines. If your own titles don’t think your awards are the most important event of the year, why should anybody else?
6) Under promise and over deliver for your sponsors. Tell them why they are they there. By the end of the evening they will have forgotten and then they won’t come back.
And if all else fails come up with an original idea and whatever you do never use the expression, “these coveted awards are the Oscars of the industry. It probably isn’t true and it’s a terrible cliché.

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