And the Award Goes to... The Return to In-Person Awards Events
Jun 7th 2022
Awards ceremonies are an age-old way of recognizing success and celebrating outstanding achievements in one’s field. In fact, historically speaking, that’s a pretty literal truth.
The presenting of awards dates back to ancient Greece, from dedicating commemorative trophies on battlefields, to bestowing laurel wreaths to winning athletes in the earliest Olympic games. The symbolic objects were intended to provide a lasting reminder of a victory worth celebrating, while also rousing a bit of motivation for all present to keep up the hard work.
The ancient Greeks understood the innate value of marking achievements in a way that was both communal and lasting. The same holds true today. It always feels good to be acknowledged for a job well done, but to receive a formal award for our accomplishments is a distinctive honor – one worth celebrating and worth holding on to. The physical award, be it a traditional trophy or carved crystal statue, is an important keepsake that will remain a source of pride and inspiration for years to come. For many, the award is more sentimental than ornamental, not only for the accolades it represents, but for the memories it holds.
Awards ceremonies are about much more than simply distributing prizes. They offer a special opportunity to step away from the daily grind and come together with peers, mentors, and members of the community to appreciate each other’s talent and contributions. They give us a rare moment to focus on the best of the best and reflect on what we love most about our work.
Awards ceremonies have evolved a bit from their classical origins – from ancient battlefields and athletic arenas to polished corporate luncheons and formal banquets in modern hotel ballrooms – to the most recent evolution few saw coming: an abrupt transition to attending events from our living rooms.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the way the world operated in an instant. Suddenly, staying safe meant staying apart. Several organizations understandably opted to press the pause button on events altogether; others, whether determined to keep a long-running annual tradition going strong, or motivated by a greater-than-ever need for something positive and morale-boosting, sought creative new ways to continue forward.
Though they looked and felt a little different, many awards events, were able to successfully take place virtually, with nominees, honorees, and an extended audience participating safely from afar. From the start of the pandemic, Awarding You worked closely with a number of our event partners to help facilitate a quick shift to a new socially distant, digital venue. Our shared goal: not only to ensure these special events carry on, but that despite the change in format, none of the awardees miss out on the experience of holding their well-deserved award in-hand.
Over the last two years, the Awarding You team shipped thousands of custom awards directly to individual winners’ homes across the country. The 'unboxing experience' replaced the traditional stage hand-off. Each award was specially wrapped and packaged, complete with a set of white gloves, to ensure safe arrival and the most elegant presentation possible. In some instances, the engraved awards were packaged with personalized notes or additional gift items for a little bonus surprise. In a time of monotonous isolation, for many recipients, the simple act of opening their award package was a small, but appreciated moment of magic in itself.
Moving events to a virtual venue was a great way to keep traditions alive and have a little bit of fun in the process. Sure, attending a typically formal awards ceremony from your couch may not have fully mirrored the usual experience, but there is something to be said for swapping a restrictive evening gown for your favorite comfy sweats. And the rare chance to accept that hard-earned award with your four-legged best friend in the audience? Priceless. But for as many reasons as we have to be grateful for these online opportunities, sometimes, the benefits of logging on will never outnumber those of actually being present.
With much of the world now back to business as (mostly) usual, more and more organizations are again inviting guests to in-person events. And after a long stretch with limited interaction, the transition back from the sofa to the stage is a welcome one.
Affiliated Distributors (AD), a longtime Awarding You customer, is among the organizations who shifted back to an in-person meeting format in the Fall of 2021. Their suite of industry-specific and cross-divisional meetings that bring together their independent distributor members and manufacturer supplier partners for relationship building, networking and best practice sharing also include Spirit of Independence awards dinners. The awards shows are designed to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of their members and suppliers and the return to in-person awards dinners made the celebrations even more plentiful.
In opening remarks, Division Vice President Darin Davenport spoke of the significance of the event's return following the uniquely challenging time away:
"Our community of AD members and suppliers is truly best-in-class," Davenport said. "While there will be individual winners recognized, this awards show celebrates the unique strength, resilience and comradery of our entire division."
There's an energy to a crowd that simply can't be duplicated in an online space. We can't help but feel the collective emotion of the group. We're moved by the sounds of cheers and applause, and energized by the infectious nature of laughter. We feel the camaraderie and encouragement of our peers. We become more connected to the experience as a whole.
When it comes to the mood-boosting effects of awards ceremonies, no doubt, we gain more from being in the room than we do from being on the screen, but the feel-good moments and the catered dinner aren't the only reasons awards events are worth celebrating.
Awards events are great for relationship building. In person, we can socialize. We can wander the room, catch up with friends and colleagues, and network. We can engage in small group conversation with guests over dinner, and make key introductions with industry leaders, clients and prospects, and other important members of our professional communities. Awards ceremonies also tend to be heavily promoted, not only by the hosting organizations, but by those named among the honorees, event sponsors, and beyond. Between the networking and all of the marketing and press, participating is an excellent opportunity for exposure and brand building for all involved.
While the benefits to award show participants are many, often, those who benefit most from these special events have few, if any, direct ties to any of the businesses or individuals in the program. Some awards events, like The Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards, are also major fundraisers for important nonprofit organizations.
Now in its 34th year, The Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards returned to its traditional in-person format on May 19th after taking the show virtual since 2020. This event has become the largest annual fundraiser for The Greater Chicago Food Depository, the primary food bank serving the Chicago area. The Greater Chicago Food Depository provides critical services for individuals and families in need, including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, school lunch programs, assistance for older adults living on fixed incomes, special programs for veterans, nutrition education, job training, and more.
Prior to the pandemic, The Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards raised an average of $1.5 million for the Food Depository annually, providing over 4.5 million meals to members of the community. Funds raised through the virtual event, while still significant, were down by over half each year. With this year's return to an in-person awards dinner, fundraising from the event climbed closer to pre-pandemic levels. Over $1.1 million was raised for hunger-relief, once again making The Greater Chicago Food Depository the biggest winner of the evening.
Live, Virtual, or Hybrid… We've Got You Covered
Of course, as great as it is to be celebrating our big wins together again, we all recognize this isn't a full return to life as we knew it before Covid-19. We're still easing back in and learning to navigate a "new normal." Technology and the necessities of the pandemic have evolved the way we do business. Virtual meetings are here to stay and many workers have made the move to their home office a long-term or even permanent arrangement.
Whether for health or practical reasons, reconvening in group settings may not be the best option for everyone. Several organizations are continuing to host their awards ceremonies virtually, while some others are moving to a hybrid option, offering guests near and far the choice of attending in person or participating online.
Whatever format you choose for your awards ceremony, live, virtual, or hybrid, Awarding You is here to help make your award presentation as seamless and special as possible for every recipient on your list. Whether you prefer engraved plaque awards, crystal awards, or one-of-a-kind art glass awards, any style you choose can be customized, packaged, and shipped according to your specifications.
Contact us today to see how we can help create the perfect awards package for your next big event.