The City of Manchester Business Awards – and some general points on presenting awards

3 May

Insider's North West Young Professionals Awards 2011 at The Lowry Hotel.My last awards presentation job was in March hosting the City of Manchester Business Awards for Downtown, of whom I am chairman in Manchester. It seems a good opportunity today to remember seven golden rules I have which I implemented at this event and many others over the years, such as the Manchester Young Professionals Awards (pictured).

1. It’s not about you – the stars of the show are the people coming up to get an award. Be confident, have authority, but don’t hog the stage and project your personality all over the event. And don’t tell jokes.

2. On no account be sleazy or flirty with women on stage, swear or remove articles of clothing. This is the most toe-curling thing you can do. As these are business awards making comments and drawing attention to how someone looks is a massive show of disrespect for their abilities as a business person.

3. Let everyone know how the winners were chosen – so many awards lack credibility. Rightly or wrongly they are seen as a sop to sponsors. Making efforts to explain exactly how the awards were won is essential.

4. Make the winners and shortlisted feel special. This is an important occasion for them, it matters. Make sure you congratulate them, discourage triumphalism, encourage humility. Make eye contact and shake hands with them. And get their names and company names right. Check everything.

5. Keep a pace to the event. There’s a thin line between rattling through categories too fast and making everyone else there engaged. The important time to get this right is at the script stage. Edit and tune the script, check everything. If there’s time, encourage a winner to say a few words of thanks, but not if they seem intoxicated. The very best way is to do a short question and answer with a handheld microphone. You can always politely remove it if they’re rambling.

6. Never tell the audience to shush. I’ve made this mistake once and it just makes things worse. If people are talking then there are many more devices to get round this. You don’t have to demand they are quiet. It’s their night too – help them enjoy it.

7. Enjoy it. Be warm, be natural, but above all have fun. I’ve seen highly paid professional comedians and public figures treat the whole thing as a chore. This is so disrespectful to everyone there. Instead, show how much fun you are having by sharing in the joy of others. Remember it’s a celebration.

I say all of this because of some feedback I had from the Downtown Manchester event. I took it in good stead, it was basically comparing my role as an awards host that night with my interviewing style when I interviewed Fred Done on stage a couple of years ago. It’s chalk and cheese. That was about Fred and me having a chat and making him shine; just me and him. Awards are so very different. I actually don’t want anyone to remember too much of what I do at an awards. I want them to remember the winners, like the woman in the picture above, Joanne Dennis-Jones from Deloitte.

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