June 15, 2008
The presenters for the awards are an important part of the program. Some chapters use VIPs, including members of Congress/Parliament, governors, mayors, and/or local celebrities, such as sports heroes and community leaders. Some chapters have previous winners present the awards.
Many chapters report good results when a local TV personality (talk show host, anchor person, reporter, etc.) serves as Master of Ceremonies (MC). Their poise, comfort in front of a microphone and the audience, the quality of their speaking voice and high profile can add a lot of intangible benefits to the event. Plus, using a TV personality is often helpful in getting local media coverage from the station that the individual works for.
Whomever your chapter decides to use as a presenter, remember that your chapter president and other board members should also be involved in the actual presentation of each award. Keep all award presentations relatively brief and meaningful. Too much information causes the listener to lose concentration.
If you choose to work with an MC who is not very familiar with AFP and your chapter, consider these points:
- Be prepared to offer an honorarium.
- Provide the MC with a fact sheet on your group, information about the awardees, perhaps a script for the actual presentations, and a time schedule of the entire event.
- A formal agreement as to required duties and payment (if any) should be signed by a representative of your organization and the MC.
- If your MC is coming from out of town, there are other details to consider: hotel accommodations, local transportation, and dinner arrangements.
An awards event usually doesn't require a speaker. Brief remarks by your president, an MC, or a "celebrity" presenter are sufficient. But the awardees should be given the opportunity to speak. You should decide in advance on an appropriate length for acceptance remarks (3-5 minutes) and advise the awardees in writing of the suggested amount of time. However, it is inevitable that someone will speak longer than suggested, so you should work overruns into the event schedule.
Some chapters give each honoree a question to answer about philanthropy instead of making an acceptance speech. The honoree sees the question well-ahead of time and weaves in his or her own personal experiences into the answer.
A short videotape on NPD and/or philanthropy can be a meaningful part of your event. To cut down on costs, a Powerpoint presentation can also be very powerful and effective. Using student photographers can also reduce expenses. A few chapters have asked local colleges with communications or media departments to videotape the event. In one case, the videotape was actually shown on a local “Sunday Focus” program.
As you plan the length of your ceremony, remember your guests' limitations. An overly long ceremony will NOT be well received! It is often best to script the program from start to finish with fairly strict times (but of course, give yourself ample extra time as situations beyond your control will always occur!). In the end, it’s better to keep most of the script short and leave more time for your honorees to speak, as one or two of them will inevitably steal the show.
Because every event is different, AFP cannot offer a comprehensive blueprint for making your event a success. However, the following is a brief checklist to consider as you plan:
- All guest names should be registered in advance and nametags (if used) should be distributed in an orderly fashion.
- Have the awards attractively displayed in a central area for all to see.
- Consider whether there should be music before the event, such as a string quartet or local band.
- A reception before the presentation luncheon or dinner gives the guests a chance to mingle and offer their congratulations to the award winners. In some cases, only certain people might be invited to the reception, perhaps chapter leadership, honorees and others. In this manner, the reception can be used to ensure that all of the important participants have arrived and are ready. Chapters can also use such a reception to recognize previous award winners.
- Certain members should be assigned to watch for the arrival of the awardees. The awardees (and any celebrity award presenters) should be greeted with the highest level of hospitality.
- The graceful and dramatic entry of head table guests into the room can be a special moment in the program. Here's how to use an entrance to the best advantage:Arrange a room near the entrance of the ballroom with enough chairs for the entire head table. Tape names to each chair in the same order as place cards at the head table. Just as the reception ends, someone (usually not the banquet chairperson or the president) ushers all the head table guests to the room and asks them to sit in the appropriate spot. (This should happen as all other guests are finding their seats in the ballroom.) As soon as all are seated and you have the cue that other guests are almost all seated, the leader asks the head table guests to rise and proceed in order to the ballroom and up to their places at the head table. You may wish to have music at this point. When done this way, other guests will usually rise and applaud when the head table proceeds into the ballroom. (You can suggest to your members that they be prepared to initiate this response.) This is a dramatic start. The MC then asks all to be seated.
- Ask chapter board members to escort each honoree for the event.
- Offer to drive them to the event.
- Show concern about their special guests and where they will sit.
- Give each honoree flowers.
- Show each honoree the set-up and where they will sit.
- Have a program to give them before they get to the table.