It’s not very often that event organizers get nominated for well-executed awards ceremonies. That’s because award galas tend to be fairly traditional in their approach, difficult to make entertaining, and seemingly endless when there are lots of winners.

But they can also be good revenue streams, especially if awards are going to contest entry recipients, as well as for ticket sales and sponsorships. And they make excellent networking events. Plus, it’s a way to make your volunteers or your company’s stars, feel really good about themselves.

So instead of killing the sacred cow, and short of finding the kind of budget to make a ceremony Oscar-like in its production value—or filled with real celebrities—here are a few tips from a recent industry awards ceremony I attended (and I’ve been to plenty), which I thought was creative and more interesting than most.

The Event. The annual Adrian Awards Reception and Gala is organized by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International to celebrate innovation and creativity in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations. The Adrian Awards are the hospitality industry’s version of the CLIOs, the annual awards that honor creative advertising in package design, print, and radio and television commercials.

The Venue. HSMAI has been holding its awards gala at the New York Marriott Marquis for more than ten years, in late January or early February. New York is the perfect spot: it’s the home of advertising and marketing agencies, and even though winners come from destinations and hotels worldwide, the creative types don’t have to travel. And that means a built-in audience. Nearly 900 attended this year’s ceremony.


The Timing. It’s not critical to hold your awards event at the same time each year (although there is much to be said for it being on potential attendees’ annual calendars and in their budgets). But it is important to hold it in conjunction with another event if you are reaching beyond a local audience. So if you’re not holding the awards ceremony during your annual meeting or convention, plan a training or educational event that the awards participants also want to attend. HSMAI holds an invitation-only Chief Marketing Officer Executive Roundtable forum the day of the event and its Digital Marketing Strategy Conference the day after the awards evening. Many attendees have more than one reason to make the trip.<p>