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The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a Virtual Awards Ceremony

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you've undoubtedly held or participated in numerous virtual events via Google, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, each involving your fellow co-workers. While most lockdowns across the country have lifted, social distancing measures remain in place, necessitating the continuation of virtual meetings rather than the traditional, face-to-face variety in conference rooms and common areas.

What you likely haven't done is participate in a virtual awards ceremony. These past several months have been extraordinarily difficult for just about everyone. Families, businesses and workers' daily affairs were upended almost literally overnight. Yet despite these incredibly unusual circumstances, your employees have persisted and withstood all the adversities thrown in their direction from every which way.

There truly is no better way to say "thanks for all you do" than with a token of your organization's appreciation. As a result of video conferencing software and tools, just about everything you can do at a physical event you can replicate through a virtual awards ceremony or similar online events.

If you're still not convinced or aren't sure how to run a virtual awards ceremony, then this is the guide for you:

Why should you hold a virtual awards ceremony?

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 staff members 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 award ceremonies are conducted 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.

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.

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 2020 survey from Gallup — 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? It all starts and ends with planning, planning and more planning.

How to do a Virtual Awards Ceremony

  1. Decide on award categories
  2. Select the judges
  3. Pick the award item(s)
  4. Determine how the awards should be distributed
  5. Select a video conferencing tool and streaming service
  6. Do some dress rehearsals first
  7. Promote Your Virtual Awards Ceremony
  8. Include your sponsors
  9. Suggest that guests dress up
  10. Show up early

Decide on award categories

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 ones 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 who the award goes to.

Select the 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 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 recipients what they would prefer and what would be best for them.

Select a video conferencing tool and streaming service

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.

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.

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. Generally speaking, video conferencing platforms require the host to admit those who want to join. 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.