How to create award ceremonies that sparkle

16 Jul 2018 Events

The traditional award ceremony has never gone out of fashion. There is a reason that the Oscars haven’t changed much since 1929. However, that first show saw just saw 270 people attend the event, and the presentation ceremony lasted just 15 minutes. And today, while it might look glamorous watching from afar, with a ceremony lasting almost four hours, in reality even with all the glitz there is a fine line between keeping everyone engaged and boring people.

So, if even the Academy Awards are criticised for being dull, what can event organisers who don’t have the star power of Meryl Streep and George Clooney do to keep their shows from falling flat? Because let’s face it, while Maggie from accounts and Dev from sales are undoubtedly lovely, a constant stream of people wandering up to the stage to get their handshake from the boss and an envelope full of vouchers can (and often does) fall pretty flat after the first few minutes.

At Apex, we have been helping our clients to overcome this problem for over 30 years. As such, we know what it takes to add excitement to gala dinners, themed events, prestigious awards and celebrations. Sharing this experience with you, here are our top tips to help you create award ceremonies that sparkle.

1. Put a strategy in place

We know that planning isn’t the most exciting of tasks, but regardless of what type of event you are organising you should always start with the strategy. Set out why you are holding your event, what you want to achieve and how you will measure success. Because only once you have identified your goals can you start to plan a ceremony that will meet them.

With businesses everywhere looking to up their game, what can you do to create the type of events people want and will remember?
Creating events in the experience economy

2. Agree a budget

Okay, we know you want to get to the fun stuff, but before you know what you can do, you have to know what you have to do it with. There is no point devising a ceremony with thousands of guests scoffing lobster and swigging champagne if your budget is more 100 people drinking cava and eating prawn cocktail (not that we can’t turn that into something special too!). Establish what money you have to spend, and, if necessary, where you can raise some more (e.g. sponsorship opportunities).

Find out how to use event sponsorship to generate valuable income to cover your event costs.

3. Create a wish list

Note down everything your event needs. From venue, décor, food and drink and entertainment to AV, guest speakers and marketing. Once you are sure you have covered everything, start sourcing quotes to find out how much everything is going to cost and where savings – or indulgences – can be made.

4. Choose a theme

Here’s where it does get fun! Having a theme for your awards ceremony helps to get people excited and makes it stand out. But be sure to choose something imaginative and inspiring.

Our event organisers have built circus rings, entire fairgrounds, and ice rinks. And we've done this inside hotel, marquees, and hangars. We've even recreated the city of New York. We’ve taken delegates into space, to the casino, on a Beatles Magical Mystery tour, and on an ocean liner. All without leaving the earth or even the venue.

Events Organisers UK

If you don’t want to have a theme, but still want to add that extra layer of excitement, we’ll come up with something that will delight and inspire.

5. Choose a venue

Your strategy, budget and number of guests are crucial when selecting a venue. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get somewhere with real ‘wow factor’. Awards ceremonies should be exciting, so the last thing you want is a drab space just because it was the only place you can fit everyone in.

At Apex, we search out the right venue for your event. There are plenty of places that aren't well publicised, but which offer something genuinely different. And we know how to find them. As part of our overall service - and at no extra cost to you - we research availability and prices and present you with a shortlist highlight the spaces that we think will work well for you. If you want to visit your top choices, we’ll set that up. And we can accompany you if you need some ideas on how best to use the space. For example, we can give you suggestions on how creative lighting and dressing can transform an unlikely space into somewhere magical.

Events Organisers UK

6. Keep your guests entertained

The one thing guaranteed to make your award ceremony turn into a snooze-fest is boredom. So investing in suitable entertainment is a must. Just reading out a long list of names isn’t going to inspire anyone after the first half hour.

Entertainers come in all shapes and sizes, and we have a list of them to match. From classical harpists, fire-eaters and after dinner speakers, to military bands, jazz trios, comedians and singing waiters we’ve got a portfolio of contacts that would be the envy of many a reality show judge. And we carefully quality control everything we put forward to make sure you get a top-class performance.

Find out how to add some surprise elements to thrill throughout your events – be that guest speakers, immersive tech, or something unexpected.
How to create disruptive events

7. Use AV production and design to wow your guests

Use music, video and light to create a real spectacle. You can even use cutting-edge technology such as augmented reality and holograms to add additional wow-factor and give your audience something to talk about.

At Apex we use video, pre-recorded sound, interactive techniques and expert knowledge of timing and choreography to create awards that are fast-paced and visual, while still keeping to a time-honoured format.

At the annual Elior Awards for Excellence in March 2017, Apex installed DMX controlled table centres (which provide amazing lighting effects), and lasers throughout the event. While for entertainment we sourced two stunning laser violinists to perform a duel.
Events Organisers UK

8. Use a professional

Where maximum impact is needed, we have relationships with some of the biggest names and celebrities in the business. So we can help you to wow your guests and add kudos to your event.

But, while celebrity names are all well and good, booking the wrong guest speakers, however famous, can be a very costly mistake. So, we work with you to find the right person for you. Someone who can add real value to your award ceremony and positively inspire your audience. With an eye on your bottom line, we also provide you with guidance on the most appropriate presenters and hosts within your budget.

Contract caterer Elior hosts an esteemed annual awards ceremony and management conference. As a long-standing client, find out what we do to make sure their events are a resounding success.
Elior Awards starring Gary Lineker. Event Management by Apex.

9. Feed your guests well

Food and drink are often the elements of an event most commented on by guests and delegates. So it’s crucial to get them right with a service that positively represents your business.

10. Create a buzz

Social media is no longer “shiny and new” – it’s part of the modern zeitgeist. So, there’s simply no excuse for not using it. Today, social media offers a great way to build excitement around an event and shout about it when it is happening. Things like announcing each winner’s name on Twitter can help them feel extra special while raising awareness of your brand.

Social media “stories” are also growing in popularity. Capturing the best moments from a day (and vanishing soon after), stories are a fun, bite-sized way to present video content. And encourage people to view them before they disappear.

Find out how to use the power of social to promote and enhance event experiences
Using social media at events

In our modern, multi-sensory world, expectations are high, so event organisers have to pull out all the stops to add some magic and make events memorable.

At Apex, we understand the immense effort that goes into preparing for award ceremonies, and we work with you to help reach your goals and achieve a truly dazzling experience. If you’d like to find out more about how we can make your events captivating contact us today to find out more, or give us a call today on + 44 (0)1625 429370 to discuss your requirements in more depth.

Don't miss out on the latest creative ideas from Apex. Sign up for insights that can take your events to the next level.

Paul Ashford

Paul Ashford is a founding director of and has over 25 years’ experience in live events and conferencing. He has a particular interest in creative communication and team dynamics and advises Apex’ clients on how to build teams and convey their key messages in visually stimulating and effective formats.