I have attended my fair share of awards banquets, sometimes as an award recipient. So believe me when I say that meeting planners and caterers need to find ways to take the boredom out of awards presentations without sacrificing the recognition that winners deserve.
The old normal was to reserve one night to present awards, often part of a grand banquet given on the last night of the meeting. However, this approach has several drawbacks. For one thing, attendees have just survived an intense few days of meetings and other business activities and are ready to party (or fall asleep). Also, many attendees leave the last day, not staying for the final banquet to save an extra night of hotel costs.
For the ones who do stay, most of them have probably been to one or more receptions earlier in the evening and have consumed a few alcoholic beverages. And if wine is served with the meal, the group may become loud.And, it is a shame when those who are "feeling good" continue the party while the awards are being presented.
But there is a new trend in the industry to present awards earlier in the meeting, such as on the first day. This ensures rapt attention from attendees. It also allows the recipients to bask in the limelight throughout the rest of the meeting.
Awards can also be given at breakfasts or luncheons. Attendees are a bit more alert during these times. Then they can have the last night free to have fun and unwind.
If there are several awards to be given, another tactic is to spread the presentations throughout the meeting. You could begin with the minor awards and save the most important, prestigious one for the last night.
If you still prefer the traditional final-night awards banquet, you should stagger the presentations between courses instead of scheduling them at the end of the meal. Dinner meals tend to run overtime; if all awards are presented at the end, chances are the program will have to begin before or during dessert. Some attendees may not be paying attention. Embarrassing conversation may continue throughout the program. And some attendees may even leave.
For more Food for Thought, read Space Needs for Sit-down Meals and Outdoor Events, Part IV: When Beverages Need a License to Chill.