give an award

How to Give an Award (The Right Way) in 4 Simple Steps

Have you been given the honor of presenting an award to someone? Maybe it's an award for work or outstanding achievement in an organization. Whatever it is, your job is an important one. If someone presents an award carelessly, with mispronounced or misspelled names, an air of insincerity or a rambling, lengthy speech, it can ruin the moment for both the audience and the recipient.

Giving an award in the right way can help you set the tone for the prize and truly honor its recipient. Making this experience meaningful can have a significant effect on them, especially in the workplace, where recognition can influence job satisfaction. Fortunately, award presenting isn't rocket science. By following four basic steps, you can ensure a smooth, heartfelt presentation that leaves your recipient feeling honored and pleased.

Why Preparing Matters

preparation for an award ceremony is important

Preparation is critical when you're working with awards. Everything from the way you stand on stage to how you hold the award can be addressed with appropriate preparation. If you have a longer speech to give, practice becomes even more important. You'll need to know what to say when presenting the award, how long your speech will be and how it sounds, along with how well you can pronounce the recipient's name. While practice is vital, so is your preparedness in other aspects, like the name on the award or event planning.

If you've ever been to a carelessly thrown-together awards ceremony, you know how some downfalls can make the night feel lackluster and insincere. If your name is mispronounced or the speech about you turns out to be all about your manager, you'll likely end up feeling unenthusiastic about the whole ordeal. It won't feel as special or exciting. The presentation of an award can make or break the recipient's feelings of pride in their work. That is why you should take the honor seriously and spend time beforehand to make it unique. Something as little as using the wrong hand to offer the award can make a big difference for the person receiving it.

How to Present an Award

An award presentation may seem pretty straightforward, but once you get down to business, you might realize that there's a lot more than meets the eye. You have to know the right information about your recipient and craft an excellent story to keep the audience interested and show your appreciation. Thankfully, it isn't too challenging to get it right. You'll need to prepare, practice and follow a few steps.

how to present an award

1. Do Your Research Beforehand

Again, we can't emphasize preparation enough. It can make the difference between a meaningful, heartfelt award and one that feels lazily put together and given by someone who doesn't care. Some of the things you'll need to know include:

  • The spelling of the name: Even if your name is frequently misspelled, there's nothing quite like receiving a distinguished award and realizing it was engraved incorrectly. While you might be able to get it corrected after the fact, it still doesn't bode well. It shows that whoever gives the award doesn't actually know you and minimizes the meaning behind it. Double- and triple-check the names on awards to ensure correct spelling.
  • The pronunciation of the name: You won't always find yourself introducing the Smiths and Johnsons of the world. Sometimes the names are more challenging to say. If the recipient knows about the award beforehand, ask them, and maybe have them write it out phonetically. Practice the pronunciation as well.
  • The purpose of the award: Know what the award is for and the history of it. Is it something your company has given out every year to a top performer? Is it a special award created just for outstanding work from the recipient? These pieces of information will help you talk about the award appropriately and explain its value to the audience. Doing so emphasizes the honor of it and helps to show the recipient how prized it is. 
  • Background information about the recipient: If you know them well, see if you can remember a small anecdote to talk about, like your first interaction with them or a customer testimonial that speaks to their skills. Know basic information like how long they've been with your organization, their role and what they did to earn the award. Having this information can help you connect to the audience and the recipient.
  • The plan for presentations: If you're going to be speaking alongside other people or presenting multiple awards, you'll need to know the order of events so you take the stage and leave at the right time and in the right way. Know the schedule and pay attention to the position you're supposed to be in. A smooth ceremony adds to the professionalism of the reception and can help make it more prestigious.

Being well-prepared is vital to putting on the best presentation you can. 

2. Be a Great Storyteller

Any good speaking engagement asks you to tell a story. You want to pull in your audience and get them invested. Stories can involve arcs, twists and humor, and your speech can too.

One popular approach to giving an award speech is to build suspense. Start by describing the award and the person in increasing levels of detail without naming them. You could start by discussing general qualifications that make them worthy of the award. Then, start talking about more specific aspects of their work or their character. Mention more and more specific details and end with something that should give away the winner. By the end of the story, the audience should ideally know who you're referring to before you say their name. This method makes your reveal a little puzzling and keeps the audience's focus as they try to guess who you're talking about.

A lead-in for this type of service award speech might look something like: "This person has shown immense skill in helping our clients find the right solutions during their time here. They've brought a new, bubbling personality to the sales department since they joined us three years ago. One of our clients raved about a time they went above and beyond to help them get a product on short notice before a special event. This employee drove three hours away to get it to them and help resolve an issue! They consistently put in this kind of work to make each customer experience an excellent one. I'd like to congratulate Jane Smith for her outstanding work in sales."

Another approach for presenting an award to an employee that works well for special awards is to name the recipient right off the bat. If the award is based on a specific accomplishment or behavior, there's not much point to playing the guessing game. You still get to discuss their hard work and character, which helps you make it memorable.

Things you may want to include in your award speech include:

  • The significance of the award: Make the audience know how important and prestigious it is.
  • How often it is awarded: Is this a yearly occurrence or does it only get given out during special occasions or work?
  • The recipient's qualifications: Talk about what makes this person worthy of the award and how they got it.
  • Testimonials: If you need material to describe the person, look to their coworkers or customer reviews.

Above all, remember to stay sincere. With all the things you have to remember in an award ceremony, or if you have stage fright, it can be easy to become stiff or speak generically. Speak from the heart and offer them a warm smile and sincere words.

3. Hold the Award With Dignity

Body language is a critical component of treating an award with respect and honor. If you're holding an award by its edge and swinging it around as you speak, you're not showing the audience that this is a treasured item. They will pick up on it if you treat it carelessly. Always hold the award as though it is the most valuable item in the room. Even if you've worked with 10 other awards just like it, to the recipient, it is a new, customized and exceptional item that represents their hard work. Make sure you understand the honor of giving it to someone.

Show your recipient and their award the respect they deserve. Carry the award with dignity and honor. For statues and plaques, cradle it between both hands. Certificates should be framed, held flat on an open palm or placed in a folder during handling. Make sure the award is all ready to go when you hand it off. That means you need to remove any plastic coverings or protective sheets beforehand and make sure certificates are filled out. Remember to check your spelling.

When you hand the award to the person, be sure to follow convention. Typically, you hold the award in your left hand and shake hands with the right. You'll also want to present the award with the hand that's closest to the recipient, so standing on the right side of them allows you to do both. Of course, this depends on the layout of your stage and how much control you have over the setup. When you hand the award over, make sure it is upright and visible to the audience.

Finally, treat the recipient with dignity. Give them a warm smile, eye contact and a good handshake. Dress formally and behave professionally, so the award has all the honor it deserves. Don't take away from the experience by making risque jokes in your speech or focusing on yourself. Humor is great to include, but it shouldn't be at the recipient's expense or involve anything unprofessional. Make sure the recipient feels appreciated and honored through the experience.

4. Be Short and Sweet

Anyone who's been in the audience for a long, rambling speech knows the agony of sitting through it. It takes away from the ceremony and makes it less enjoyable. Plus, it could cut into the time of the recipient's acceptance speech or that of other presenters. Keep your speech short and to-the-point. Don't ramble on and on without ever announcing the winner. This behavior can take away from the award and make it less impactful.

If you have a time limit, stick to it. Otherwise, don't speak for more than a few minutes. To ensure you stay within these limits, practice your speech beforehand and time yourself. Remember that many people end up speaking faster on stage due to nerves, so if you get nervous in front of a crowd, take that into consideration. While it's better to be under time than over, you still probably want your speech to be longer than 10 seconds.

Make sure the recipient is the focus of your speech. Some people might try to talk about "teaching them everything they know" or discuss themselves in their statement. If you're their supervisor or had a hand in hiring or training them, it might be tempting to pat yourself on the back for how far they've come, but don't do this. You may have supported them, but the award means much more when it focuses on them. Keep the recipient front and center. It is their award, after all.

Additional Tips and Advice for Presenters

A lot goes into presenting an award, and some aspects don't fit neatly into the above steps. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind.

additional advice for presenters
  • Appreciation: In a work environment, it may be a good idea to make sure all of your employees know they are appreciated, not just the one receiving an award. Consider mentioning something about how everyone's hard work contributed to the company's success that year. Of course, keep it clear that the recipient went above and beyond.
  • Timing: Standing on stage while someone showers praise on you is pretty awkward. Don't make your recipient do that. Wait until after you've discussed the award and the person before calling them up onto the stage.
  • Photography: If you have a photographer, keep them in mind as you hand off the award. Typically, you should stop as you shake hands, both of you holding onto the award. Look toward the camera and smile, standing tall with your shoulders back. Ensure that the award is at a good angle, and they can get a shot of the details.

Remember to stay genuine and show your appreciation to the recipient through the process.

Awards for Every Situation From DIY Awards

One crucial component that we haven't discussed yet is the award itself. A high-quality award adds something extra to the significance of the entire ceremony. Don't let your recipient down with a low-quality item. Show them how much they're worth by giving them a sturdy, high-quality award customized to match their unique contribution.

award ceremony

If you're looking for the best awards for employees, consider DIY Awards. Whether you want to recognize years of exceptional serviceshow appreciation for a job well done or reward someone for any other task, we have crystal plaques, awards and trophies in a wide variety of styles. We even have plenty of ideas to help you with the wording on your award. Make it meaningful and valuable with a little help from DIY Awards. Check out our line of awards today, and show your recipients how much they mean to you.