This year, you’ve decided to take your virtual awards ceremony digital. Maybe something big has disrupted your event. Perhaps you were enticed by some of the benefits that going virtual can provide — like the improved accessibility, minimal travel costs or broader range of guests you can invite.
No matter what reason, hosting a virtual awards ceremony can present some pretty significant challenges. Even if you have years of event planning experience under your belt, the shift to digital can be rough.
Fortunately, with the right planning — and knowledge of the usual pitfalls that first-time virtual event managers run into — you can ensure that your first virtual awards ceremony goes off without a hitch.
Why It’s Worth Going Digital, Even if You Can’t Host Your Event in Person
Going digital allows the event to go forward, even if you can’t hold it in person. You may still need to refund or rebook travel, housing and event space, but you may be able to recoup some of these costs with digital event tickets or an online merch store.
There are some significant advantages to going digital beyond just keeping things running. Digital ceremonies are often more accessible than their in-person counterparts. You won’t have to worry nearly as much about event space accessibility, catering or long-distance travel for international guests.
It’s also much easier to convince your event team to try out a digital event if you can’t host the ceremony in person. In other years, where the event is good to go ahead, you may have a hard time convincing your event planners and guests to upset the usual and run with a digital function. When the other option is no ceremony at all, however, digital starts to seem like a compelling option.
You may not get another good chance for experimentation. If you’ve ever been interested in going digital, and you can’t host in person, it’s worth the effort.
If you decide to go digital, these eight tips will help you keep the event running as smoothly as possible.
1. Start With Your Tech
Most advice for an in-person awards ceremony will also be good for a virtual one. You will, however, probably need to make a few tweaks to how you host the event to keep it running smoothly.
Just as the event center is vital for an in-person event, the technology you use to bring the event online will be most important for a virtual event. Early in the planning process, you should be thinking about which technology company you want to partner with. For smaller-scale events, videoconferencing tech like Zoom or Google Hangouts may be effective tools. More advanced options are also available. If you can find the right virtual event platform for your event, it will probably be the most user-friendly option for recording, coordinating and streaming the ceremony.
2. Adapt Your Presentation for Streaming
You can also prepare for how you’ll translate the presentation aspect of your ceremony online.
For example, most of the “rules” about how to give recipients their awards ill still apply, even when you go digital. You still need to know how to pronounce the recipient’s name, and you should be able to give a compelling introduction that communicates why their work deserves recognition. Some tweaks, of course, may be necessary. You’ll need to think more than usual about how the presenter will be framed on video and how the award will be “handed” off to the recipient.
You’ll also need to consider how you’ll pass off the mic if you want to give recipients the chance to speak after receiving their award. This process can be a little more complicated than normal, but it’s definitely doable with most available enterprise videoconferencing and event streaming tech.
3. Get Your Site Ready
A website is essential for any event. Because many of your guests and attendees may be regularly checking your site for stream links and updates, however, site quality will be even more critical.
You should ensure that your event site design is high-quality and takes advantage of the latest trends and tech. It’s also a good idea to monitor your site during the event. Higher-than-usual traffic may cause slowdowns that you can fix or manage — but only if you or someone on your team is looking out for them.
4. Assemble a Tech Support Team
Technology is your best friend for a digital event like this. It’s also probably going to be your biggest adversary before, during and after the event. Tech doesn’t always work with us, and you’re likely to run into technical difficulties at some point in the event.
It’s best to assemble a tech support and A/V team that has experience with streamed or digitally-hosted events. These professionals can provide invaluable expertise.
5. Consider Asking Your Streaming Tech Company for Advice
If you’re working with a major event streaming platform, you can also consider reaching out to a company representative.
They may be able to provide resources, advice, customer support or even consultants who can help you set up the tech and troubleshoot any problems you may run into.
6. Practice Your Event
Just like with an in-person event, you want to practice, practice, practice your online awards ceremony. Before the event, run through the whole ceremony schedule at least once with your full team. For problem areas, consider additional practice with smaller groups.
7. Involve Guests and Speakers in Your Practice
If possible, you should involve your guests in this practice, too. This practice will help them know when they’re good to speak. It will also give you a chance to make sure that everyone has a good recording set-up so that you don’t run into any audio or video issues on the day of the ceremony.
8. Test Out Your Visuals
If you have graphics or presentations that go along with your steam, you should also test these out in advance. Running through the graphics you plan to use and checking if they come through correctly will help you avoid any technical glitches during the event itself.
Bringing Your Awards Ceremony Online
With the right planning and prep, going digital with your awards ceremony can be as simple as hosting the event in person. It may even net you a few benefits that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
When planning a virtual awards ceremony, getting familiar with the event tech will be most important. If possible, you should dedicate some time to practicing the recording and streaming of the event in the weeks before. This will help ensure you don’t run into any snags during the live event — and if you do, you and your team will have a better idea of how to handle them.