Layout and Location Logistics
It feels natural to jump right into themes and stage decorations, but it’s imperative to first consider the logistics of the venue. Winners need clear aisles to walk up to the stage, plus the stage should be large enough for award recipients to walk across, accept their award, shake hands, and exit the other side in a safe and efficient manner. There should also be room backstage for winners to line up before and after accepting their awards.
Another key consideration is the inclusion of handicap accessibility for potential winners, by providing ADA-approved access via ramps or an elevator to the stage.
A/V in High Gear
It goes without saying that the visual aesthetic can make or break any program, but this holds especially true for awards shows. Creating a dynamic flow starts with onscreen content, whether that is an exciting slide presentation with categories and award winner names or custom-developed video rolls announcing winners.
Don’t rely on the overhead lights of the venue, which can be difficult or impossible to arrange and adjust. Advanced lighting, such as ballyhoos (moving lights) and up lighting will create a more stimulating ceremony feel.
Cameras are an essential piece of equipment for an awards show. Having two cameras is a must for any large event, especially if the awards are going to be announced one right after the other (known as “graduation style”). This allows camera operators to set up a shot of the next award winner while the current winner is crossing the stage, ensuring each moment is captured. If the budget only allows for one camera, having an image to put on the screens between award winners is important so the camera operator has time to reset their shot. Remember, this is the winner’s time to shine, and most everyone would like to be showcased on the big screens!
When photos are required while onstage, point out audience sightlines to the photographer. They should be mindful of camera angles and avoid blocking any views, which could potentially hinder the attendee experience. To prevent this, have a full rehearsal for photographers and camera shots. Mark the stage or floor space with tape where the award winners and photographers should stand to ensure clean sight lines and a professional look.
Keep Things Moving
The last thing anyone wants at an awards show (barring any unforeseen disasters) is for the crowd to feel bored and disinterested. An enthusiastic host can keep the awards from becoming stale, whether that is an announcer offstage, an emcee onstage, or varied executives who juggle the duty. If the budget allows, hiring a professional emcee with a comedic background may be a good option. The goal is to keep the show moving, since awards shows can sometimes be lengthy.
Truthfully, handing winners their award while on stage is a major way to slow down your show. It can be cumbersome, particularly if the awards are personalized and engraved with the winner’s name. Keeping the awards in order can be tricky. A viable solution is to have two blank awards for immediate photo ops, which will help keep things flowing. Additionally, consider offering to send the actual award to the winner’s home location, which prevents them from having to transport bulky, and oftentimes fragile, awards back with them on their travels.
A Place for Everyone, and Everyone in their Place
Depending on the size and scope of the awards show, the following members may be included: Producer, Technical Director, Show Call, Graphics Op, Stage Manager(s), and VIP area manager (if applicable). The stage manager is considered the last point of contact for award winners as they hit the stage. They are directing the flow of traffic, keeping winners in the camera shots and ensuring the proper person is hitting the stage when their name is called, among many other important duties.
Next, coordinate a strong plan with the client, the venue, the entertainment, the photographer, the host/emcee, and the entire technical team. Know when dinner service begins, when the awards are going to start, and determine the estimated number of award winners taking the stage. It will help the host and client set the pace for the evening.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the minutiae, but it’s important to remember why you’re there in the first place. While this may be just one show out of many for an events and production team, to the winners it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and they deserve to be treated as such.
Haley Wakefield has been working in the Production Services division at metroConnections since February 2014. As a Producer, Haley sets the tempo for production related programs and manages components to provide a creative, technically sound experience for clients and audience members. Find out more at www.metroconnections.com.