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Business awards – from venue to virtual

Lesley Billen

Lesley Billen

Principal Consultant, Boost Awards

The rise of the online awards ceremony

What happens to award ceremonies during a truly unprecedented global pandemic? Like many other events during 2020, the lavish venue has had to be put on hold or cancelled – and, in some instances, a virtual solution explored in its place.

While many awards have put their bubbly on ice and postponed the all-important final announcements until the world gets a bit more ‘real’ again, some determined organisers have decided that it will take more than a widespread deadly virus to stop them in their tracks.

So what happens during a virtual awards ceremony, and – without the slap-up dinner, late-night disco and bottomless fizz – how are awards ensuring that people are still interested enough to ‘attend’ (i.e. open their laptops, log on and sign in)?

The virtual awards experience

One high-profile award to venture into the virtual has been – perhaps quite unsurprisingly – the Bafta Games Awards. Live-streamed on 2nd April, just over a week after the UK lockdown, the awards were hosted by (a pre-recorded) Dara O’Briain, suited and booted a la red carpet – but, in reality, alone in his own home. Upon introducing the awards, Dara’s conversational quips about the unadulterated weirdness of the whole situation were somewhat inevitable. Despite the grave wider context, it’s hard not to smirk at the sight of a well-known comedian wearing a tux and presenting an awards ceremony in his lounge, in front of a modestly sized monitor. Strange times indeed! 

Somewhat ‘business as usual’, nominations showed short clips of every video game in the running, before the lucky winner was announced for the particular category. The video then cut to the winner’s speech, which had to be strategically pre-recorded in case they won. Cue more comedy from several winners, including a video which included a ‘Please imagine the team’ instruction appearing on screen and a Bafta trophy being symbolically used as a protective mask.   

As everything was pre-recorded except the winner’s announcement, not even Dara knew the outcomes of the night! Despite this sounding like it would make the whole thing seem majorly disjointed, the awards were delivered in a slick, seamless – and watchable – way. While it would never be able to quite compete with the excitement, camaraderie and spontaneous nature of an actual event taking place in the real world, it was still entertaining viewing, and successfully showed how this format could be adapted for today’s current abnormal climate. Its virtual nature also meant that viewers could take advantage of social media to discuss results/events as they unfolded – just like they may do if the event was being held under more normal circumstances.

online award ceremonies Bafta Games Awards
Dara O’Briain hosting the Bafta Games Awards from his own front room: could this be part of the new ‘normal’?
online award ceremonies bafta games awards dara

Back to business (awards)

While it’s still early days for virtual business award ceremonies, it certainly seems as though more may have taken inspiration from such high-profile, live-streamed events as the Bafta Games Awards. Digital and technology business awards in particular seem to be enthusiastically planning a digital version of the dinner, perhaps because they recognise an element of ‘preaching to the converted’ in terms of the industries/entrants they attract. While more are being announced all the time, below are some examples of awards that have chosen the virtual over the (eventual) venue:  

The Global Digital Excellence Awards (GDEA): These awards are fairly unique in that they have been created specifically as a response to the current crisis, in an attempt to unite businesses around the world and celebrate excellence at a time when it’s most needed. Unsurprisingly – and fully in line with its collaborative ethos – the GDEA have also embraced the ‘new normal’ way of doing things with a free virtual award ceremony for entrants. Describing the event as ‘an opportunity to share best practice, learn new skills and unite businesses’, the awards expect ‘usual award etiquette’ to help create a real sense of celebration. They encourage entrants to dress up in black tie, fine dine (or order a takeaway!), crack open some champagne and enjoy the show. Determined to uphold standards, they’re even offering prizes for such ‘on the night’ awards as Best Dressed and Best Dinner!

The UK Digital Experience Awards: These are using the latest videoconferencing technology to ambitiously host everything ‘from start to finish’ in one day. This means the virtual face-to-face presentations, the judging and the ceremony itself all in one online event. In parallel with the finalists presentations (see below for more details), there will also be six presentations about the FUTUREOFDIGITAL, a mini conference aiming to stimulate a discussion about how far tech is going to go in the near and long-term future. There will be three presenters who are not tech specialists who will tackle the subject, along with three presenters who will be tech specialists. The sessions will each be 30 minutes in length, with time for questions and a panel discussion.​

The VR Awards: The Academy of International Extended Reality, AIXR, have officially announced that the 4th International VR Awards will be a first-of-its-kind, fully immersive awards show. Playing to its strengths, these awards will continue to offer the largest global awards ceremony for VR, this time implementing state-of-the-art technology to deliver unrivaled networking opportunities, world premiers, and fully digitised entertainment.

The slickly designed event will feature a live studio panel, complete with pre-programmed livestream content, indistinguishable from a televised physical show.

From day one of launching the VR Awards, our goal always was to transition to a virtual space, to allow creators, no matter their location, to join via their browser, phone, VR headset and more. Given world climates, we’ve been handed an opportunity to make this a reality, and it was an offer we couldn’t refuse to innovate on. – Daniel Colaianni, Chief Executive, AIXR.

VR online award ceremonies

The Relocate Virtual Awards 2020: One business award that has already live-streamed a virtual ceremony is the Relocate Virtual Awards. Ambitiously connecting entrants and organisers from all over the world, the awards opened with a lively musical duo – performing from their own home – to enhance that ‘special event’ atmosphere. When it was live-streamed in May, viewers could participate via a rolling live chat feed to ensure a real sense of ‘as-it-happens’ community and inclusion in the event. Winners also had the opportunity to say a few words, live from their own homes, and the awards ended on more music, interspliced with viewers/entrants/organisers dancing – wherever they may be in the world. Smooth, slick and featuring well-rehearsed links from those connected to the awards, this is a great example of how an organised approach can seamlessly combine with modern technology to create an effective online awards ceremony. They have even written a great article to help inspire others, on ‘how we created our first virtual awards ceremony’.

relocate virtual awards
relocate virtual awards

“The Relocate Virtual Awards are a great example of how an organised approach can seamlessly combine with modern technology to create an effective online awards ceremony.”

Maximising your online experience

Obviously, not all awards within the industry will be as adaptable to the changing times as the ones listed above. Even if the award you entered is offering the bare minimum in terms of winners announcements, try and embrace and engage with anything they are doing if you can – while you may be sceptical of the value of any virtual event or participation at first, the chances are you may find it engaging and worthwhile in the long-run. They say ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ – but if you get involved, there’s always a chance you may join them AND beat them!

Read on for how to best maximise the experience…

Plan ahead: If you find yourself lucky enough to be shortlisted for an award, you may be wondering about next steps. If you haven’t been contacted by the organisers, don’t be afraid to approach them about what they plan to do. If they do intend to announce winners online – be that via a virtual ceremony or on their websites and social media – then at least you’ll have time to think about whether to ‘attend’/engage with it or not. Obviously, it’s not such a major decision as booking a table and deciding how many people will be physically attending a dinner, but it might help you to see it as more of an event in your mind. For example, if your team is up for a particular award, you could always suggest an informal video call with you and your colleagues before the announcements, so you can all feel involved, refresh yourselves with the entry and – hopefully – celebrate the results together. (Bubbly optional, but recommended!)

Get creative: You may even find your award is requesting recorded acceptance speeches from finalists, just in case you should be lucky enough to win. This could be a great chance to really get involved in the event – and you could perhaps even record a video call with you and your colleagues, so you all get a chance to say a few words. The added advantage of creating your own visual content is that you could also repurpose it for social media, internal comms, etc.

Again, if you’re uncertain of how long you would have to speak or the general rules regarding acceptance speeches, just get in contact with the organisers and double-check. The chances are they would also be open to creative suggestions, to help ensure their ‘on the night’ content is as entertaining as possible for all those tuned in.

online award ceremonies
online award ceremonies speech

Dust off your going-out garb: As comfy as those well-worn jogging bottoms are, how often do you get to dress up these days? Whether you’re recording a speech or not, getting glammed/suited up like you would for a typical awards ceremony will also help you to regard it as a special event in the calendar. Why not send a social media selfie to share your efforts with other attendees? You may even win best dressed!

Embrace networking opportunities: Just like at a real-world awards ceremony, you may well have the opportunity to network with other people within similar industries. Embrace the opportunity – you may find that pinging over a link to your business’s website or your own LinkedIn page is much more effective than passing someone a one-dimensional business card!

Ask questions, give feedback: Even if your award is announcing winners, that may not mean they are running any virtual events, or giving entrants the chance to interact with the results via social media. If you simply receive an email with the good news, don’t be afraid to ask the organisers about next steps. For example, will you be sent a trophy? Will you get the chance to be recognised via a web article, or social media post?

If you feel a little disappointed about how you received the all-important news, feel free to give constructive feedback – or at least ask the organisers why they decided against any entrant participation or virtual ceremony. While it will be too late to help them to shape that particular award, it may provide them with food for thought regarding how to potentially improve the process if they are running any other awards in the near future. After all, this is new territory for everyone, so the feedback could be invaluable.

Virtual ‘face-to-face’ presentations

Before the possibility of a virtual ceremony has even entered your mind, you may find yourself with more pressing digital-related dilemmas. If you’ve been shortlisted for an award that involves what is usually a face-to-face presentation for the final stage, you’ll no doubt be wondering ‘what next?’

With awards such as the UK Digital Experience Awards and UK Business Awards tailoring their presentation stage to suit the current times – often with winner announcements taking place on the same date – it does appear to be largely ‘business as usual’ for this stage of judging. Ensure you also take the changed F2F format in your stride by following our tips below:

Do your homework: First things first, contact the organisers or look on their website if you haven’t heard anything, to find out if the presentations are still going ahead. If they intend to judge presentations virtually, you’ll need to consider a lot of the same factors you would normally consider if in the room – allotted time, who will be speaking, what they’ll be saying, and how you’ll keep content informative yet entertaining.

Looks are everything: In spite of the similarities, there will inevitably be a greater emphasis on your visuals – so being as creative with your content as possible will undoubtedly pay dividends. For example, if you are allowed, why not mix more typical static PowerPoint slides with vibrant moving infographics, and/or relevant video clips?

Don’t get caught out by tech: Obviously you will be totally reliant on technology here, so a few rehearsals with your fellow presenters prior to the actual day is imperative, to reduce the risk of any awkward technical hitches. You’ll also need to scope out any rules regarding which tech can be used before you begin to form your presentation.    

Dress to impress: While you should have lots of visual content to compensate for the fact that you can’t be there in person, ensure you still look smart for the judges. While you might be used to dressing down while working from home during lockdown, remember that this is not just any old video call! Impressions matter – and the virtual world is no exception. The fact that you’ve thought about your appearance should also help you to feel confident and more prepared in your delivery.

online award ceremonies presentation stage

Contact us: As award writing experts, we’ve written and structured countless successful face-to-face presentations. During what is inevitably already a stressful time for your business, we can help with presentations to make this process as streamlined and stress-free for you as possible – regardless of the unconventional circumstances!

The future of award ceremonies

As with everything at the moment, it’s hard to provide a concrete answer regarding the future of award ceremonies. While (at the time of writing) UK lockdown restrictions have now eased somewhat, it’s fair to say that we are still a long way off seeing crowded, indoor ‘real-world’ events taking place. And, when they start to happen again, the appetite and enthusiasm for them remains to be seen. Glittery mask, anyone?

For the foreseeable, it looks like virtual is on the increase for award ceremonies – and, until we return to more of a sense of ‘normality’, hopefully more and more entrants will be invited to participate in an experience to remember on the big night. A recent Boost survey of awards organisers – gauging their thoughts on the current climate – seems encouraging for the future of virtual ceremonies, with over 80% planning a ceremony/multi-company event for their next award scheme.

If award organisers and entrants work together to inform and embrace the new way of doing things, then the ever-developing virtual awards landscape will no doubt help to keep the awards industry alive – until that swanky venue can be booked once more.

Cheers to that!

awards trust mark gold

(C) This article was written by Lesley Billen, Principal Consultant at Boost Awards, which owns the intellectual property rights contained within. Please contact us if you would like to contribute any other ‘virtual awards’ or suggestions to this article that might help entrants and organisers alike.   

Business awards – from venue to virtual

Lesley Billen

Lesley Billen

Principal Consultant, Boost Awards

The rise of the online awards ceremony

What happens to award ceremonies during a truly unprecedented global pandemic? Like many other events during 2020, the lavish venue has had to be put on hold or cancelled – and, in some instances, a virtual solution explored in its place.

While many awards have put their bubbly on ice and postponed the all-important final announcements until the world gets a bit more ‘real’ again, some determined organisers have decided that it will take more than a widespread deadly virus to stop them in their tracks.

So what happens during a virtual awards ceremony, and – without the slap-up dinner, late-night disco and bottomless fizz – how are awards ensuring that people are still interested enough to ‘attend’ (i.e. open their laptops, log on and sign in)?

 

The virtual awards experience

One high-profile award to venture into the virtual has been – perhaps quite unsurprisingly – the Bafta Games Awards. Live-streamed on 2nd April, just over a week after the UK lockdown, the awards were hosted by (a pre-recorded) Dara O’Briain, suited and booted a la red carpet – but, in reality, alone in his own home. Upon introducing the awards, Dara’s conversational quips about the unadulterated weirdness of the whole situation were somewhat inevitable. Despite the grave wider context, it’s hard not to smirk at the sight of a well-known comedian wearing a tux and presenting an awards ceremony in his lounge, in front of a modestly sized monitor. Strange times indeed! 

Somewhat ‘business as usual’, nominations showed short clips of every video game in the running, before the lucky winner was announced for the particular category. The video then cut to the winner’s speech, which had to be strategically pre-recorded in case they won. Cue more comedy from several winners, including a video which included a ‘Please imagine the team’ instruction appearing on screen and a Bafta trophy being symbolically used as a protective mask.   

As everything was pre-recorded except the winner’s announcement, not even Dara knew the outcomes of the night! Despite this sounding like it would make the whole thing seem majorly disjointed, the awards were delivered in a slick, seamless – and watchable – way. While it would never be able to quite compete with the excitement, camaraderie and spontaneous nature of an actual event taking place in the real world, it was still entertaining viewing, and successfully showed how this format could be adapted for today’s current abnormal climate. Its virtual nature also meant that viewers could take advantage of social media to discuss results/events as they unfolded – just like they may do if the event was being held under more normal circumstances.

Bafta Games Awards
Dara O’Briain hosting the Bafta Games Awards from his own front room: could this be part of the new ‘normal’?
bafta games awards dara

Back to business (awards)

While it’s still early days for virtual business award ceremonies, it certainly seems as though more may have taken inspiration from such high-profile, live-streamed events as the Bafta Games Awards. Digital and technology business awards in particular seem to be enthusiastically planning a digital version of the dinner, perhaps because they recognise an element of ‘preaching to the converted’ in terms of the industries/entrants they attract. While more are being announced all the time, below are some examples of awards that have chosen the virtual over the (eventual) venue:  

The Global Digital Excellence Awards (GDEA): These awards are fairly unique in that they have been created specifically as a response to the current crisis, in an attempt to unite businesses around the world and celebrate excellence at a time when it’s most needed. Unsurprisingly – and fully in line with its collaborative ethos – the GDEA have also embraced the ‘new normal’ way of doing things with a free virtual award ceremony for entrants. Describing the event as ‘an opportunity to share best practice, learn new skills and unite businesses’, the awards expect ‘usual award etiquette’ to help create a real sense of celebration. They encourage entrants to dress up in black tie, fine dine (or order a takeaway!), crack open some champagne and enjoy the show. Determined to uphold standards, they’re even offering prizes for such ‘on the night’ awards as Best Dressed and Best Dinner!

The UK Digital Experience Awards: These are using the latest videoconferencing technology to ambitiously host everything ‘from start to finish’ in one day. This means the virtual face-to-face presentations, the judging and the ceremony itself all in one online event. In parallel with the finalists presentations (see below for more details), there will also be six presentations about the FUTUREOFDIGITAL, a mini conference aiming to stimulate a discussion about how far tech is going to go in the near and long-term future. There will be three presenters who are not tech specialists who will tackle the subject, along with three presenters who will be tech specialists. The sessions will each be 30 minutes in length, with time for questions and a panel discussion.​

The VR Awards: The Academy of International Extended Reality, AIXR, have officially announced that the 4th International VR Awards will be a first-of-its-kind, fully immersive awards show. Playing to its strengths, these awards will continue to offer the largest global awards ceremony for VR, this time implementing state-of-the-art technology to deliver unrivaled networking opportunities, world premiers, and fully digitised entertainment.

The slickly designed event will feature a live studio panel, complete with pre-programmed livestream content, indistinguishable from a televised physical show.

VR online award ceremonies

From day one of launching the VR Awards, our goal always was to transition to a virtual space, to allow creators, no matter their location, to join via their browser, phone, VR headset and more. Given world climates, we’ve been handed an opportunity to make this a reality, and it was an offer we couldn’t refuse to innovate on. – Daniel Colaianni, Chief Executive, AIXR.

The Relocate Virtual Awards 2020: One business award that has already live-streamed a virtual ceremony is the Relocate Virtual Awards. Ambitiously connecting entrants and organisers from all over the world, the awards opened with a lively musical duo – performing from their own home – to enhance that ‘special event’ atmosphere. When it was live-streamed in May, viewers could participate via a rolling live chat feed to ensure a real sense of ‘as-it-happens’ community and inclusion in the event. Winners also had the opportunity to say a few words, live from their own homes, and the awards ended on more music, interspliced with viewers/entrants/organisers dancing – wherever they may be in the world. Smooth, slick and featuring well-rehearsed links from those connected to the awards, this is a great example of how an organised approach can seamlessly combine with modern technology to create an effective online awards ceremony. They have even written a great article to help inspire others, on ‘how we created our first virtual awards ceremony’.

relocate virtual awards
relocate virtual awards

“The Relocate Virtual Awards are a great example of how an organised approach can seamlessly combine with modern technology to create an effective online awards ceremony.”

Maximising your online experience

Obviously, not all awards within the industry will be as adaptable to the changing times as the ones listed above. Even if the award you entered is offering the bare minimum in terms of winners announcements, try and embrace and engage with anything they are doing if you can – while you may be sceptical of the value of any virtual event or participation at first, the chances are you may find it engaging and worthwhile in the long-run. They say ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ – but if you get involved, there’s always a chance you may join them AND beat them!

Read on for how to best maximise the experience…

Plan ahead: If you find yourself lucky enough to be shortlisted for an award, you may be wondering about next steps. If you haven’t been contacted by the organisers, don’t be afraid to approach them about what they plan to do. If they do intend to announce winners online – be that via a virtual ceremony or on their websites and social media – then at least you’ll have time to think about whether to ‘attend’/engage with it or not. Obviously, it’s not such a major decision as booking a table and deciding how many people will be physically attending a dinner, but it might help you to see it as more of an event in your mind. For example, if your team is up for a particular award, you could always suggest an informal video call with you and your colleagues before the announcements, so you can all feel involved, refresh yourselves with the entry and – hopefully – celebrate the results together. (Bubbly optional, but recommended!)

Get creative: You may even find your award is requesting recorded acceptance speeches from finalists, just in case you should be lucky enough to win. This could be a great chance to really get involved in the event – and you could perhaps even record a video call with you and your colleagues, so you all get a chance to say a few words. The added advantage of creating your own visual content is that you could also repurpose it for social media, internal comms, etc.

Again, if you’re uncertain of how long you would have to speak or the general rules regarding acceptance speeches, just get in contact with the organisers and double-check. The chances are they would also be open to creative suggestions, to help ensure their ‘on the night’ content is as entertaining as possible for all those tuned in.

online award ceremonies
online award ceremonies speech

Dust off your going-out garb: As comfy as those well-worn jogging bottoms are, how often do you get to dress up these days? Whether you’re recording a speech or not, getting glammed/suited up like you would for a typical awards ceremony will also help you to regard it as a special event in the calendar. Why not send a social media selfie to share your efforts with other attendees? You may even win best dressed!

Embrace networking opportunities: Just like at a real-world awards ceremony, you may well have the opportunity to network with other people within similar industries. Embrace the opportunity – you may find that pinging over a link to your business’s website or your own LinkedIn page is much more effective than passing someone a one-dimensional business card!

Ask questions, give feedback: Even if your award is announcing winners, that may not mean they are running any virtual events, or giving entrants the chance to interact with the results via social media. If you simply receive an email with the good news, don’t be afraid to ask the organisers about next steps. For example, will you be sent a trophy? Will you get the chance to be recognised via a web article, or social media post?

If you feel a little disappointed about how you received the all-important news, feel free to give constructive feedback – or at least ask the organisers why they decided against any entrant participation or virtual ceremony. While it will be too late to help them to shape that particular award, it may provide them with food for thought regarding how to potentially improve the process if they are running any other awards in the near future. After all, this is new territory for everyone, so the feedback could be invaluable.

Virtual ‘face-to-face’ presentations

Before the possibility of a virtual ceremony has even entered your mind, you may find yourself with more pressing digital-related dilemmas. If you’ve been shortlisted for an award that involves what is usually a face-to-face presentation for the final stage, you’ll no doubt be wondering ‘what next?’

With awards such as the UK Digital Experience Awards and UK Business Awards tailoring their presentation stage to suit the current times – often with winner announcements taking place on the same date – it does appear to be largely ‘business as usual’ for this stage of judging. Ensure you also take the changed F2F format in your stride by following our tips below:

Do your homework: First things first, contact the organisers or look on their website if you haven’t heard anything, to find out if the presentations are still going ahead. If they intend to judge presentations virtually, you’ll need to consider a lot of the same factors you would normally consider if in the room – allotted time, who will be speaking, what they’ll be saying, and how you’ll keep content informative yet entertaining.

Looks are everything: In spite of the similarities, there will inevitably be a greater emphasis on your visuals – so being as creative with your content as possible will undoubtedly pay dividends. For example, if you are allowed, why not mix more typical static PowerPoint slides with vibrant moving infographics, and/or relevant video clips?

Don’t get caught out by tech: Obviously you will be totally reliant on technology here, so a few rehearsals with your fellow presenters prior to the actual day is imperative, to reduce the risk of any awkward technical hitches. You’ll also need to scope out any rules regarding which tech can be used before you begin to form your presentation.    

Dress to impress: While you should have lots of visual content to compensate for the fact that you can’t be there in person, ensure you still look smart for the judges. While you might be used to dressing down while working from home during lockdown, remember that this is not just any old video call! Impressions matter – and the virtual world is no exception. The fact that you’ve thought about your appearance should also help you to feel confident and more prepared in your delivery.

online award ceremonies presentation stage

Contact us: As award writing experts, we’ve written and structured countless successful face-to-face presentations. During what is inevitably already a stressful time for your business, we can help with presentations to make this process as streamlined and stress-free for you as possible – regardless of the unconventional circumstances!

The future of award ceremonies

As with everything at the moment, it’s hard to provide a concrete answer regarding the future of award ceremonies. While (at the time of writing) UK lockdown restrictions have now eased somewhat, it’s fair to say that we are still a long way off seeing crowded, indoor ‘real-world’ events taking place. And, when they start to happen again, the appetite and enthusiasm for them remains to be seen. Glittery mask, anyone?

For the foreseeable, it looks like virtual is on the increase for award ceremonies – and, until we return to more of a sense of ‘normality’, hopefully more and more entrants will be invited to participate in an experience to remember on the big night. A recent Boost survey of awards organisers – gauging their thoughts on the current climate – seems encouraging for the future of virtual ceremonies, with over 80% planning a ceremony/multi-company event for their next award scheme.

If award organisers and entrants work together to inform and embrace the new way of doing things, then the ever-developing virtual awards landscape will no doubt help to keep the awards industry alive – until that swanky venue can be booked once more.

Cheers to that!

awards trust mark gold

(C) This article was written by Lesley Billen, Principal Consultant at Boost Awards, which owns the intellectual property rights contained within. Please contact us if you would like to contribute any other ‘virtual awards’ or suggestions to this article that might help entrants and organisers alike.   

 

boost award entry writers

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