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How to plan an awards event like a pro

Anyone who has to plan an awards event knows it’s never a simple task: you need to allocate extensive time, resources and skills. I learnt all of this and more when I sat down with Camilla Foy, Head of Events at Caspian Media. She and her team are the masterminds behind the successful Amazon Growing Business Awards. This 20-year-old, 500-attendee event has become the most recognised and respected awards ceremony for SMEs and entrepreneurs in the UK.

Here are Camilla’s top tips on how to plan an awards event like a pro:

1. Ensure attention to detail is everything

And when she says everything, she means everything. From monitoring initial nominations, to overseeing the graphics on the night, your attention to detail needs to be top notch. All it takes is one small typo in the wrong place to undermine your team’s hard work and credibility. So, get those reading glasses on and make sure everything you do has been seen by two, or better still three, sets of eyes.

2. Make timelines and deadlines key

To successfully plan an awards event, it’s critical to have a day-by-day written description of everything you need to do leading up to the event. This is your timeline. Make sure all team members can access it, include strict deadlines and then stick to them.

Pro tip: make lots of checklists to ensure you deliver on time. This will take the stress off your shoulders in the long run.

3. Work as a team, work as a team, work as a team 

I think you get the point. Without a good support team, even the most seasoned events manager will find themselves struggling. Truth of the matter is, you can’t do it all yourself. Trust the manpower you have and don’t be afraid to delegate tasks, especially if you know you’re controlling.

Caspian Media events agency organises the most respected awards for SME's in the UK

Guests enjoying dinner at the Growing Business Awards ceremony in 2017

4. Communicate clearly

Whether this is with your team, your venue manager or your suppliers, it’s imperative. There’s nothing worse than a small misunderstanding leading to a big problem on the night. Weekly meetings with your team will clear up any confusion and are a great way to make sure everyone is on target.

Pro tip: sometimes it pays for different suppliers to talk to each other, so put them in touch. And stay on top of their interactions too.

5. Be open-minded and realistic

At some point, you’ll need to manage expectations from both C-level executives and clients. Try to accommodate their ideas whenever possible and be flexible. But remember that as creative as some ideas might be, you’re the one who’ll need to implement them. While fire-breathing dragons at the awards ceremony may sound fantastic, it’s important to remain realistic. After all, you aren’t Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones reference, anyone?)

6. Know your target audience inside-out

To plan an awards event successfully, you don’t only need to understand your target audience, you need to think like them too. Do they have a long commute every day? Avoid Friday evenings as they’ll want to go home. Do they enjoy a ski-trip in the French Alps over winter? You might need to change the timing of your awards ceremony to spring instead. The better you know your audience, the more success you’ll have.

Caspian Media won Best Awards Event by a publisher under 700 Attendees at an event in 2017

When you win an award for Best Awards Event

Pro tip: school and bank holidays are a no-go for event planners – even more so if your audience has children.

7. Build (and maintain) relationships

If you want to succeed as an events executive, you need to be a social butterfly. Be friendly to everyone you meet in the event-planning process, and develop good relationships with key site managers and suppliers. Strong relationships built up over time can pay dividends. If you play your cards right, you might get additional room hire as a freebie in your venue package.

8. Stay within your budget

One of the trickier aspects of event planning is making sure you manage to stick to the budgets given to you by management, especially if they are tight. Having to justify higher expenses is never a fun conversation to have, so let’s try avoid it at all costs.

Pro tip: do your research really well in advance, and remember to make good use of those supplier relationships that you’ve built up over time.

9. Compile an emergency contact list

It’s the night of the awards event and the sound system fails. What do you do? Don’t panic. While it’s impossible to foresee the future, you can be prepared. Draw up a contact list of all relevant suppliers and support personnel beforehand. This will allow you to call the emergency repair service you’ll have briefed – just in case – who will then resolve the issue in no time.

And there you have it – top tips on how to plan an awards event from Caspian’s in-house expert. Follow Camilla’s advice and you’ll find it helpful, not just for an awards event but any event.

Do you have an event that you’d like to refresh? Or are you thinking of running a new event? If so, we can help.

Caspian Media has 20 years’ events experience running awards, conferences, roundtables, networking events and launches. We offer an end-to-end service, from developing the content and recruiting high-profile speakers, to handling sponsorship and media coverage.

Find out more about Caspian’s event services.

By Estelle Schnyder, Digital Marketing and Social Media Executive