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University of London Venues

How to plan an awards ceremony


Awards ceremonies are a celebration of talent, success and achievement, so when planning this kind of event, it’s important that it’s upbeat, exciting and well attended! We've pulled together some of the things you need to consider when organising an awards ceremony. Get in touch with our experienced and resourceful events and conferencing team to find out how they can help you organise the perfect awards ceremony.

Event trophy

Who can organise an awards ceremony?

Awards ceremonies are employed by all sorts of sectors as a way to celebrate the success of an individual, a team, or an entire firm or company. From educational awards right the way through to the Oscars, awards are a way of endorsing people’s abilities and rewarding their achievements. 

Why are awards ceremonies important?

Receiving an award boosts a person or company’s worth in their field. The title ‘Award winning’ carries connotations of reputation and expertise – something that’s priceless in any line of work! It also celebrates hard work, in turn making people feel appreciated and well-respected. This recognition does wonders for business; those who feel appreciated for the work they do are likely to continue working with enthusiasm.

How to plan an awards ceremony:

Planning an awards ceremony can be quite an undertaking. By nature, this kind of event is lavish and celebratory, so ensuring this tone resonates through the entire event can be a challenge. But remember, lavish and extravagant doesn’t necessarily mean huge scale – awards ceremonies can vary in size, as long as they are well executed.

What’s the purpose of the event?

Clarify why you’re holding the awards event; it might be that you’re holding a recurring event to celebrate annual success within a particular industry, or just a one off to celebrate something particularly spectacular. Perhaps the event is to celebrate a single individual, or many celebrated persons.

Defining the purpose of the awards ceremony will fine-tune the content and tone needed throughout, and in turn, who should then attend it.

What’s your budget?

Like any other event, it’s vitally important to plan within your budget. Work out how much you can spend on the event, and how much profit you wish to make, if any. This will allow you to price the tickets accordingly, as well as set aside funds to spend on entertainment.

What you will have to pay for:

Typically, your budget will need to cover:

  • Food
  • Drink
  • Entertainment
  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Marketing
  • Decoration
  • Logistics
  • Special guests
  • Speakers *

* If you want high profile judges, speakers or special guests, it’s likely you’ll have to pay for their time. Be wary of this when considering your budget.

Based on this, plan how much you will sell tickets for, as well as what each ticket will include. Find out more about our Awards Ceremony event service at University of London Venues.

Who Will Judge The Awards?

If you’re hosting an annual awards ceremony, you’ll need to recruit some worthy judges to decide who will win particular awards. You’ll also need to implement a voting system if the judges cannot come to an unanimous decision.

Judges at award ceremony

It’s worth spending money and time on this area; if the awards are not seen to be regulated fairly, the worth of the award diminishes and you’ll struggle to find good quality candidates and event attendees.

Who Should You Invite To An Awards Ceremony?

After you have selected the panel of judges, think about who you want to attend the awards ceremony. Ensuring the event is well attended by respected peers and industry experts will add weight and authority to your event, making it a more sought after event in general.

  • Industry/educational awards
  • If it’s an award to celebrate talent within an industry / educational circle, consider inviting:
  • Industry/education experts
  • Industry influencers
  • Authoritative people within the industry
  • Contributors/external agencies who have worked on the project

Talent awards within your firm/company

If it’s an award to celebrate talent within a single firm, consider inviting:

  • People working at the firm
  • Shareholders in the company
  • Family members

Regional/geographical awards

If it’s a regional award for local businesses, consider inviting:

  • Key companies/firms in the area
  • Local council members
  • Local educational institutes
  • Start up organisations
  • Business investors
  • Local freelancers

Having a varied but relevant audience is essential for the atmosphere of the event, so choose your guest-list carefully.

Why do people attend award ceremonies?

Once you have an idea of who you want to invite, it’s essential that the event is enticing enough for them to want to attend! Awards ceremonies need to appeal to the wider audience, which includes those who aren’t there to receive an award, or those who aren’t closely connected to potential award winners.

Guests will typically expect the following:

Networking opportunities

Networking opportunities are highly sought after in educational and business sectors, and guests will seize the opportunity to mingle in a pool of relevant peers. Aside from table-planning, encourage networking throughout the event. Plan breaks where guests can use the time to meet each other.

Find out how to organise the networking at your awards ceremony with these tips.

People networking at event

You can also incorporate an after-ceremony networking drinks/dessert. This takes place after the awards presentation as an additional aspect of the event. In doing this, you create a much more purposeful networking event.


This is a celebratory event, so ensure there is entertainment included. Consider hiring local bands, celebrities, dance groups, musicians, magicians; anything that will entertain your guests whilst awards are not being presented. Professional entertainers help create a buzz at your event and also facilitate networking by creating a relaxed atmosphere.

Food & drink

Most award ceremonies work well as a sit down dinner, with guests eating before the awards are presented. Drinks are often provided throughout the evening to reinforce the celebratory nature of the event, but depending on your budget, you may decide to offer wine throughout the meal, but have guests pay for their own drinks for the rest of the event.

Industry speakers

Include a relevant inspiring speaker at the event. This could be someone who has won the award previously, or who is closely linked to the content of the awards. 

Speakers at award ceremony

A master of the ceremony

Recruit someone, either internally or externally, who is likeable, charismatic and knowledgeable to co-ordinate the event. This will provide narrative and structure, as well as on-going entertainment throughout the evening.

Judge & panels Q&A

Once the awards have been presented, host a short Questions & Answers on stage with the panel of judges for each category. This will give the audience insight into what the judges were looking for and why they think the winners deserve their award.

Judge and panel question and answers

A demonstration of event technology

As larger events are becoming more reliant on technology, guests are becoming more expectant of it. You could consider:

Using TV screens to remind your guests of those shortlisted for awards by playing a short video featuring those nominated around the event venue. This brings an extra dimension into the event, and these videos can also be used as part of the marketing efforts. It will also give guests more of an insight into each nominee. They can also include messages from your sponsors.

Develop a phone or tablet app with details of table plans, nominees, running order and sponsors as opposed to/as well as a paper version.

Raffles & competitions

Raffles are a simple and easy way to engage guests. They can also be used to incorporate a separate charitable agenda.

Notable sponsors

Having award ceremony sponsors can transform a basic planning budget into something more liberating, in turn, allowing you to create something far more lavish. Choose sponsors that are relevant to the awards, as these can also act as endorsements.

Event lanyards

Table planning at award ceremonies

Depending on how you decide to sell tickets, you can either let your guests select their own tables, or you can plan the tables on their behalf.

Selling whole tables

This allows guests to purchase an entire table for their group. This leaves the networking in their hands, and is a good option for those who are accompanying a nominated individual/company. It allows them to invite external agencies or contributors to the event as their guests.

Selling tickets

This is a good option to fill spaces on tables. Individuals or small groups can chose where they’d like to sit for networking purposes.

Once you have the table-planning finalised, ensure that the final guest list knows exactly who’s sitting where. It’s a good idea to include a short bio about each attendee within the programme/table plan. This presents networking opportunities for the attendee and helps people connect with the most relevant people possible.

Award ceremonies at Senate House

If you’re looking for an awards ceremony venue in central London, Senate House offers the ideal event space. Our selection of event rooms allow us to cater for groups big and small, our central location means we’re easy to find, and we also have in-house catering services and audiovisual expertise.

Find out more about hosting your awards ceremony at Senate House by getting in touch today.