7 Creative Ideas to Energize the Annual Awards Dinner
For many companies, the beginning of a new year marks the planning of the very necessary but often, yawn, dare we say it dull, data laden and well, kind of boring annual awards dinner – ouch! So, how do you do away with the same old thing and kick things up at your next awards dinner? We asked a few creative minds in event production, marketing and design to share some ideas that will certainly break the monotony and get people fired up to attend the annual awards dinner (even if you have a tight budget)! Here are their suggestions:
Start with a Theme – We’re not talking about recreating the Oscars or bringing in thematic props etc. It is important though, to have an idea as to what type of vibe you want the awards dinner to have. Is it a tailored, and classic feel you’re hoping to achieve or do you want a contemporary, chic atmosphere. In either case, you’ll have to think in terms of carrying that feeling throughout the entire event from start to finish. Everything from invitations to food and beverage choices, entertainment to presentations should incorporate this same look and feel. Remember, so much of an event is emotional, anytime you can touch the emotions by playing to the senses through music, textures, food and lighting, you’ll have a winner. Look for ways you can incorporate the destination. A good way to do this is to hire local musicians or entertainment indicative of the area, use indigenous florals, or boost your awards with items representative of the area, all of which will help weave the vibe of the destination throughout the entire event.
Add Surprise Elements – Incorporate a surprise element or two. One of the easiest ways to capture audience attention is to zap them with a surprise. Need to move a chatty group from the reception to dinner? Round them up with musicians, think mariachis or flash mobs, perfect for gathering groups quickly. Need the noise level to drop? Cut the lights and use a spotlight to grasp attention. Spotlights naturally heighten anticipation and excitement. Try adding some zest with a reveal. This can be as simple as keeping the ballroom doors closed in anticipation of the ‘event’ and having a completely different look in the ballroom than that during the reception. We know what you’re thinking, this completely goes against weaving the “theme” through the evening, but not necessarily, you can change up the look but keeping a similar color palette. Traditional cocktail rounds or high tops can give way to non-traditional seating with dinner banquettes mixed with rounds or squares and still retain a sophisticated, classic vibe. Likewise, a reception filled with Tuscan inspired linens and strolling violinists for example, can move to a family style dinner with long wooden tables and farmhouse chairs, still keeping with an outdoor Italian theme. On that note, don’t be afraid to veer away from hotel banquet rounds, switch things up easily by choosing eclectic seating – yes – even at an awards dinner.
Rely on Lighting – Lighting is the easiest way to change the mood of an event. Lighting can transform your meeting space to an elegant ballroom in a matter of minutes. LED lighting is ideal to signify program transitions and highlight awards as it can be programmed to change throughout the evening. Another great use of light is to pinspot tables, which will add a touch of elegance to the evening. Although beautiful, pinspotting was one of those “we wish we had the budget for it” items. The cost of pinspots and labor required to hang and adjust lights over each table took away a big portion of the budget, but thanks to technology now there are magnetic pinspots making it much easier and more affordable to use pinspotting.
Use Creative Staging – Get creative, do away with screens flanking the stage. Try mixing it up a bit by placing screens of various sizes on the stage and even along the perimeter. Or put your budget into an LED wall, a great stage enhancer, an LED wall can create a three-dimensional-looking background. If your budget won’t allow an LED wall, try hanging a few elements to give depth and dimension. Simple pvc pipe in various sizes, hanging vertically behind the screens is an inexpensive set design. Corrugated cardboard pieces placed in columns and uplit can give the illusion of an expensive set design. Consider using gray drape as the backdrop rather than black, as gray provides a neutral background, which can be lit in any color. Gray drape also prevents the floating head syndrome, often an issue when presenters where black suits and stand against the black drape!
Use Visuals – Consider incorporating a well-produced video into the dinner. Some of the most entertaining events we’ve attended are those that incorporate bits of popular television shows or movies and mix them with their everyday work world. Talk about a surprise! Having your CEO walk through the door in “The Office” or stand before Dr. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) nodding as Sheldon recites the latest sales trends, will absolutely get attention! Of course creating a video requires some forethought, budget and a strong production team. But nothing will help avoid a room full of dozing heads faster than the unpredictable, and video is one of the best formats to deliver a twist.
Use a Production Team and Rehearse – Hire a production company to help you coordinate the evening, particularly the A/V. Their expertise can streamline and help with the creative. If you don’t already have a string production partner take the time to interview companies, ask industry partners for recommendations and make certain you feel comfortable with your production team. You’ve taken the time to select your destination and meeting space, and you have attendees who have worked hard all year to get here, you won’t want to make any compromises with such an integral part of the program. A strong production team will keep things on-track, make transitions seamless and be able to read the energy in the room. They should also be insistent on rehearsal time, no one should be flying by the seat of their pants – certainly not at an annual awards dinner.
Hire an Emcee – Not everyone is a great speaker or even a good speaker for that matter. It takes a strong team to prepare a script and visuals especially when company execs may not be very engaging from the stage. Take the pressure off everyone and hire a professional who can keep things entertaining, on track and interesting.
There you have it, seven ideas from several creative minds sure to help you liven things up at your next annual awards dinner!