Virtual Awards Ceremony Guide

Expert tips and ideas to make your online event engaging and successful and engaging for all attendees

In a world where digital connections are increasingly pivotal, celebrating achievements and recognizing milestones through a virtual platform offers a unique and accessible way to bring people together. As more organizations and teams turn to online venues for their virtual award ceremonies, understanding the nuances of these virtual events becomes crucial for the success of your employee recognition program.

Whether exploring the concept for the first time or seeking to enhance an existing format, this guide provides comprehensive insights into the world of virtual celebrations. We delve into various themes and best practices for virtual awards ceremonies, address common questions like etiquette and platform selection, and offer innovative ideas to make your virtual event not only seamless but also memorable.

Discover how to create a vibrant and engaging virtual environment that honors achievements in a way that is both meaningful and joyous, fostering intentional connections among attendees and celebrating success in a digitally connected world. This guide is your go-to resource for transforming the traditional awards ceremony into a modern, inclusive, and exciting virtual experience, ensuring that every award and accolade is recognized and appreciated by employees and teams alike.

Why should you hold virtual award ceremonies?

These days, it seems like "agreeing to disagree" has become the norm, but if there's one thing that just about everyone is like-minded about it's appreciating being appreciated. It's such a great feeling to be recognized for all your hard work, which is something that employers are reminded about a lot and urged to express in training and human resources seminars. When award winners are made to feel important, it can serve as motivation for them to continue to put 110% effort toward everything they do. As OfficeTeam Executive Director Stephanie Naznitsky says, "There's no such thing as too much employee recognition."

At the same time, award ceremonies that are done in person may not be everyone's cup of tea if they're uncomfortable with being the focus of attention — where all eyes are literally on them. However, when one conducts an awards ceremony virtually, your staff — especially those with stage fright — will likely be more comfortable with the tribute since they're at home and in their comfort zone during a virtual online event.

Rebuilds and renews energy and purpose

Forty-hour work weeks are hard enough, but with all that's going on in the world right now, your staff may feel like they're putting in overtime on a daily basis. Indeed, according to a recently released poll conducted by Robert Half, more than one-third of respondents said they are feeling a lot more drained today than they did at this time last year.

"The pandemic has piled on new pressures for professionals, many of whom are juggling job and personal needs while working from home," explained Paul McDonald, senior executive director at the Menlo Park, California-based staffing firm. "In many cases, employees have also absorbed the responsibilities of laid-off and furloughed colleagues and feel they must get more done in a day."

While working from home can be easy for some by eliminating the need to commute back and forth to the office, telecommuting may cause difficulties when they have other responsibilities vying for their attention, such as children, distractions and appointments.

Awards ceremonies done by virtual meeting can help reestablish stamina simply from the wonderful feeling they get knowing their heavy workload piled on their shoulders hasn't gone unnoticed, and recognition awards are a part of the company values and culture.

Can be done from pretty much anywhere

From thank-you notes to a celebratory lunch or after-work drinks, there is no shortage of ways to say "Job well done" to your hardworking employees. But one of the most common is public praise. In a 2019 poll from Robert Half, 35% of senior managers said that this method was generally how they paid tribute to their staff who outdid themselves, the third-most common approach to worker acknowledgment.

Yet given the fact that so many Americans are working remotely — 55% say they "always" or "sometimes" do, according to a Gallup survey public praise is hard to come by these days.

Through a virtual awards ceremony, the public praise that your staff richly deserve is never more than a few clicks or keystrokes away. If individuals have commitments or are traveling, mobile apps enable them to participate wherever they are.

So you know the reasons why a virtual awards ceremony makes sense. But how do you actually run a virtual awards ceremony? If you are in need of virtual award ceremony ideas, it all starts and ends with planning, planning and more planning.

How To Have A Successful Virtual Awards Ceremony

  1. Decide on award categories
  2. Select the judges and collect nominations
  3. Pick the award item(s)
  4. Determine how the awards should be distributed
  5. Have nominees of your best awards prepare an acceptance speech in advance
  6. Select a virtual award ceremony platform, a virtual event platform, and streaming service
  7. Have a back-up plan in case of technology glitches
  8. Do some dress rehearsals first
  9. Promote Your Virtual Awards Ceremony
  10. Include your sponsors
  11. Define an even dress code and suggest that guests dress up
  12. Show up early

Decide on award categories

One of the best ways to keep your attendees engaged during your online award ceremony is to emulate your favorite award shows. For example, if you're a film buff or enjoy watching stars on the red carpet, you know that the Academy Awards hands out 24 Oscars each year, from "Best Supporting Actor" to "Best Film Editing." The honorifics you bestow — as well as the amount — will undoubtedly differ for your virtual awards ceremony, but you should decide on which awards categories will be the most memorable or meaningful. Whether it's "Employee of the Year" to "Most Improved" to "Most Helpful" the categories you select will ultimately guide which team member the award goes to.

Select the judges and collect nominations

Of the online award ceremony ideas we're covering here, one of the most important decisions for your event organizers is deciding on who judges. Who is awarded will ultimately be up to the judges. The question is: Who will those judges be?

You have plenty of options in this regard, be it forming a panel (e.g. executives at the company, project managers, stakeholders, etc.) to write-in. In the latter case, everyone can jot down their pick for who deserves the award from a field of a few options. Who those nominees ultimately are – and how many — is your call.

Pick the award item(s)

Be it gift certificates, company merchandise, food or commemorative items, the awards that you can choose from are almost unlimited. For instance, inscribed wine glasses with the date and description is something that recipients can always look back on with fondness. Glass awards are beautiful and combine elegance as well as prominence, especially when they're inscribed or engraved. Both glass and crystal awards come in a wide variety of sizes, designs, cuts and innovative shapes that add to their prominence and distinction. Perhaps something simpler, such as an ornament, would send the right message. Personalizing these awards is the best way to show appreciation for recipients' job well done.

Determine how the awards should be distributed

A complication associated with virtual award ceremonies is the actual awarding part — how to hand them out when everyone is at a distance. There are a few ways of going about this, including shipping the award to their home through delivery services like UPS or FedEx or the USPS. If you choose this method, you may want to get your recipients' updated and accurate addresses so their custom awards are delivered without issues.

You could also keep them at your workplace or home for the time being. No one knows for sure when the coronavirus restrictions will end, which may explain why a recent poll found nearly half of workplaces had yet to establish a return-to-work date, the Society for Human Resources Management reported. It will happen eventually, and when it's deemed safe to get things back to normal, you can hand them all out in person then. Alternatively, you may want to ask individual award recipients what they would prefer and what would be best for them.

Have nominees prepare an acceptance speech

Create pre-recorded videos of your nominee acceptance speeches and keep your audience hooked with funny interviews. Even if team members don't win a prize, including everyone in fun pre-recorded sketches and interviews will do well for maintaining audience engagement.

Consider adding speeches from management, covering some of the funniest goings on in the office, or recognizing entire teams for great performance. This sort of recognition is very effective for remote teams, and those who are atomized or not always present in the office.

Select from video conferencing platforms and streaming services

Virtual live events need at least two things: People and the broadcasting platform. There is an incredible number of options available for you to choose from. Here is a partial list of some of the more popular platforms:

  • Google Hangouts
  • Zoom
  • Twitch
  • YouTube Live
  • Facebook Live
  • YouNow
  • Bambuser
  • UStream
  • Dacast
  • Livestream
  • Brightcove
  • Skype

Like all choices, there are pluses and minuses to each virtual video conferencing outlet. Additionally, some platforms have features and add-ons that are more geared for businesses of differing sizes. For example, Brightcove is a popular selection among midsize organizations, although there is a subscription fee. Other options are free to use, but may be more geared toward certain uses, such as video gaming (Twitch). Certain providers may charge for usage contingent upon how many people are on any single virtual meeting and for how long. A cool feature to use would be setting up fun virtual backgrounds.

Whichever one you ultimately select, be sure to do your research to see if one makes more sense than others. You may want to speak to staff to see if they have any recommendations or input on which ones to avoid. Consumer Reports, PC World, PC Mag and other magazines or websites may have reviews that can provide added context so you're fully informed.

Have a back-up plan

Anyone who has participated in an online event has, at some point, experienced technical issues related to the meeting, whether it be bandwidth issues, internet connections, sound, or video issues. Before putting on a virtual online award show, the event organizer should test the meeting link, ensure the platforms that have been chosen for the event can support the number of attendees, and create a back-up plan in case there is an error with the platform or streaming service.

Do some "dress rehearsals" first

It may be that you're very familiar with one particular platform; in other instances, a chosen video conferencing tool may be an entirely new experience and user interface. Before actually holding the live event itself, you may want to perform one or two trial runs to ensure each invited guest is able to access the shared link that you send out. If there are problems, whether with bandwidth, volume or other aspects of interaction, you can isolate the issue(s) by contacting support or reviewing any troubleshooting literature at the relevant forum's website.

Leverage all available resources to promote your virtual awards ceremony

Nothing is worse than a virtual awards ceremony where no one is in attendance. It pretty much defeats the purpose. Therefore, it's critical to blast out invitations to all relevant stakeholders and participants early and often. Whether it's through email, mailers sent the traditional way, group texts or phone calls, spread the word well before the actual ceremony. Ask for a response as well to get a sense of everyone's interest and schedule a time and day that works for everyone. The key here is in the follow-up in terms of ongoing reminders.

Include your sponsors

Just as you intend to promote your virtual awards ceremony to your invited guests, don't forget to include your sponsors as well, assuming you have them. Letting them know about it is another way you can finance the affair. This also affords them an opportunity to promote themselves, whether it's to your employees specifically, their family members or anyone else who gets wind of the event through word of mouth.

Suggest that guests dress up

In a Hollywood award ceremony, it isn't just about who gets awarded but what they're wearing. Given the logistical complications of COVID-19, staff likely won't be getting the red carpet treatment, but you can at the very least have everyone play the part by dressing up formally. From tuxedos to designer gowns, urging attendees to dress up can add a sense of enjoyment and anticipation to the live event — even if you'll only be seeing the top half of them on screen. More than anything else, having guests dress for success generates engagement, which will be a core component to the virtual award ceremony being a positive experience.

Show up early

Things happen that prevent anyone from arriving in a timely manner, but since you're hosting the virtual meeting, it's critical that you be the first who is there in real-time to ensure you keep your audience engaged. Generally speaking, the right virtual platform is one that allows the host to control who can join and admit only those who should be there. If you're late, guests may remain locked out or log out completely out of frustration. If something comes up, be sure to let everyone know about it and when you'll arrive so there is no confusion.

When it comes to showing your staff respect and appreciation for all their contributions over the past year, turn to Successories for all your recognition awards needs. From lapel pins to trophies, glass goblets to plaques, Successories offers the finest quality products for your top-tier employees. Contact us today to learn more about all that we have in store.