30th November 2006

And the award goes to…

John Spain welcomes a new award ceremony but hopes the right people will get the prizes

I see my old friends at Mash Media are launching an exhibition awards ceremony next year. I’m sure they’ve thought carefully about the idea and have got some interesting things up their sleeve to make it a different event.
This is especially important when you think of all the awards ceremonies that we have in the events industry, there seems to be one every couple of weeks and, fun though it is to dust down the dinner jacket and bow tie and have an night ‘up west’, or ‘up east’ as the Mash do is going to be, there are plenty in the industry who question the need for so many.
I think that, given the hard time the exhibition industry has had in the last few years, anything that celebrates excellence has to be applauded. As we know, there are a lot of people doing excellent work in the industry and we should salute their endeavours by signalling them to a wider audience.
The only problem I have is who do you actually give awards to? It is a minefield and very often the people who really deserve praise are those who will unfortunately never get it, they probably don’t even get invited to any of the ceremonies.
This is because they’re probably too busy working on whatever thankless project they’ve been given by the boss. I remember talking to a well-known organiser a few years ago who said that the people in his team who he’d like to give an award to are those who kept a show alive in an industry that was experiencing hard times. He wanted to reward the sales team that managed to add square metres to an event that was apparently on its last legs. They, he said, are the people who went the extra mile and who stayed late in the office and sweated blood. Anyone can sell in a buoyant market, he reckoned.

Then there is the knotty problem of how you measure the various judging criteria. The organisers of these ceremonies all insist that the judging criteria and procedure is watertight and we can only take them at their word but I don’t know how representative they can ever really be.

How do they know? I’ve been to events in tiny, out-of-the-way venues where the service was exemplary but because these places aren’t ‘on the circuit’ they have little or no chance of making an impact. Similarly, just because an event has a massive indoor firework display complete with the band of the Grenadier Guards and a personal appearance by a Premiership footballer, does it automatically become a textbook example of how to run all events of that nature?

While we’re at it, another thing that always amuses me is the way in which people always claim that awards are not that important, it’s only one night and it’s then soon forgotten

It’s amazing, though, that I don’t think I’ve ever been to an office, and I’ve been to plenty, where there hasn’t been at least one award proudly on display in reception.

They love it!