How long does it take to plan an award ceremony?

An awards ceremony is an exciting opportunity to showcase talent, success and achievements. Giving an award is a great way to recognise the hard work of an individual or team and illustrates the exceptional value the person or team has contributed to their field of expertise.

When planning and hosting an award ceremony, it’s important to know what type of awards are being given and whom you are giving them to. For example, hosting a graduation ceremony has different requirements to a ‘best in industry’ event.

Understanding the purpose of the event will help determine these elements, along with determining a timeline for planning. Here are our timeline tips to help you plan and host your awards ceremony:

6 months out

Set a budget

Setting a budget will help you to assess the feasibility of hosting an awards ceremony and can inform your organisation’s timeline as it impacts how much marketing you complete, and helps you understand ticket pricing and how many attendees you can invite and expect to attend.

You may need to set aside funds for catering, entertainment, an MC, marketing, venue hire, audiovisual hire, decorations and judges.

Choose a date and venue

Once you know what you can afford and how many people you hope to attend the event, you can choose a venue that suits you size and location requirements.

5 months out

Set an application form

Even potential graduates need to apply to receive their testamur. Decide on the categories for your award winners and what they need to showcase to win. How will they share that information with you? You may need to create a downloadable form for them to fill out and submit. Upload this form, and the criteria applicants will need to address, to your website or a dedicated event website and share it through your marketing channels. Getting the word out about the event will encourage people to submit an application and register to attend.

Make sure you include an application deadline that will give you enough time to decide on the winners. Usually 2-3 months before the event is recommended so you can receive and carefully review each application.

4 months out

Choose a judging panel

Choose a small number of well-known industry experts to judge the award applications. You can advertise their involvement in your event as a way to encourage award applications and event registrations.

3 months out

Select your audiovisual provider and catering menu

Now is the time to book in your audiovisual provider and any technological tools you will need on the day. Will you be choosing a theme? How would you like the room to be set up? The requirements for a sit down dinner vary greatly to a stand-up networking event with canapés.

Understanding the design of your event may determine what foods you serve. If you are hosting a sit-down awards dinner, then larger main meal dishes will be required. This will also determine the timing and flow of the event, for example, the number of awards announced between courses.

2 months out

Application deadline, reviewing of applications

This is where your judges get to work. It is important to consider if you will inform the winners ahead of time so they attend the event or leave this a surprise.

Invite key industry professionals

People use events to network and meet important industry professionals. You can boost the calibre of your event by inviting experts, important people like council members, education institutes, business investors, startups and key companies in the area.

1 month out

Confirm your venue and all your suppliers

Place your final orders for materials and staff you require.

Set your on-the-day runsheet.

Consider if you’d like your award winners to have time to give a speech? Will there be guest presenters? An on-the-day runsheet outlines what will happen and when, and is crucial for each of your staff, AV vendors, and venue staff to ensure a smooth running of the event. A runsheet typically includes a list of tasks and what time they are required to be completed by. It serves as a checklist and also keeps everyone on track.

Be aware that things may change over the next four weeks, so it’s important to keep this sheet up to date. Sharing the runsheet before the day of the event ensures all staff have time to familiarise themselves with what is required and gives them time to ask questions.

2 weeks out

Use your marketing channels to engage attendees and drive excitement leading up to the event. Consider sharing who has been shortlisted, notable event sponsors and who or what the entertainment for the night is. It may also help to share a biography of the MC and any key speakers to set the tone.

On the day

Start early and stick to your runsheet. Know the relevant staff to contact if you have any problems, but most of all, have fun!


An awards night is always full of anticipation and exciting memories; to make your next award ceremony truly memorable, contact AVPartners today.