“And the award for hosting the awards goes to…”

Business author, Sunday Times cartoonist, brand consultant and seasoned host, Guy Browning offers some tips for awards night: 

If you’re a world-famous celebrity asked to hand out some awards, just being in the photos is enough.  That photo will be front and centre on the recipient’s desk long after the celebrity involved has disappeared into rehab.   On the other hand, if you’re a professional awards presenter then you have to be a little bit more, er, professional.  Here are the seven secrets of hosting that you learn the hard way.

Count the Awards

If there’s less than ten then it’s going to be a good night for everyone.  If there’s more than twenty then it’s going to be a long, possibly ugly night.   Sixteen awards is about optimum for everyone to get their unhurried moment in the limelight.  Many more than that and the chances of them actually finding the stage start to recede.

Work on the Script

The scripts hosts are given to work with vary between the non-existent and the Book of Jeremiah (long version).  It’s pretty much essential to spend a day reducing the script to the absolute bare minimum for each award.  Obviously people want to know a little bit about who has won but more than anything else they want to know if they’ve won.  If they haven’t, quite frankly they don’t want to listen to how bloody marvellous the winner is.  Put the information in the programme and leave it there.

Keep an eye on the videos

Big budget awards have budget for videos – normally little clips of environmentally friendly forklift trucks.  Obviously this means less presenting for the host but those little forklifts all add up to a lot of time.  This can be useful if you’ve got a thousand people in the room and it takes three minutes to get the winners on stage.  Otherwise probably not so good.  Spend the money on the food.

Love the ones you’re with

Every dog has its day and every sector has its conference.  If you don’t like sewage treatment, don’t host the awards ceremony.   Oil, nuclear, mining, arms, banks, cigarettes, the RSPCA – if you don’t like the way they do business, don’t join their party.  Awards events are celebrations and you can’t lead them with a po-face.

Make the photos snappy

Don’t underestimate just how important those photos are.  A huge amount of social media marketing will be driven off the back of them, so best get them right.   You need to do them on stage not afterwards – because that’s logistically difficult and loses energy.   Have a decent background and, most importantly, have a photographer who knows how to do awards.  It’s an art.


Know your audience

Think an audience of funeral directors will be quite sober?  Think again.  Think a sales audience will be remarkably jolly in the last half of the awards?  Don’t think again.   And then there’s the little question of how big is your audience?  100-200?  That’s an intimate family affair and you want a host who can bring the room together and warm them up.  500-2000?  That’s more of a rock concert and you need a host skilled in projection and riot control at the same time.

You’re having a laugh

Awards ceremonies need good staging, great lighting, excellent sound and good food served quickly.  But what’s the spark that lights the fire of a great evening together?  It’s when everybody is laughing together.  If you’ve got a host that can do that, then they’ll pretty much hold the event together.  It’s all about the timing.

There are actually another twenty points but that would be too long and too boring and if there’s one thing a good host isn’t…..

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