BizBash Chairman David Adler: What We Can Learn About Painless Recognition Events

The New Public Library’s Literary Lions gala was an event that catered to both the honorees and the audience.

The event was held in the library's reading room, where projection mapping from Frost Productions added to the decor.
The event was held in the library's reading room, where projection mapping from Frost Productions added to the decor.
Photo: Angela Pham/BFA.com

David Adler (@DavidAdler) is founder and chairman of BizBash.

NEW YORK—Recently, I attended the New York Public Library annual Literary Lions Gala, which has been recognizing five giants of the art world for the past 38 years. This year’s recipients were poet Elizabeth Alexander, composer Philip Glass, writer Jamaica Kincaid, historian Jill Lepore, and filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. BizBash includes this glittery event in our list of the top 100 annual events in New York.

This year, organizers designed an event that catered to both the honorees and the audience. For anyone who struggles with the honoree recognition dilemma, the gala provided a solid blueprint for future events of the same vein.

The event was held in the reading room of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue. The audiovisual elements—screens on stage as well as back-facing screens—allowed people to view the proceedings even if not facing the stage.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis performed for the crowd.Jazz great Wynton Marsalis performed for the crowd.Photo: Zach Hilty/BFA.comMany events struggle with ceremonies that go on and on. Anthony Marx, the president of the library, led the program with all the proper greetings from the board and gala chairs. After a brief performance by Wynton Marsalis, the recognition program commenced and completed in 20 minutes.

Here is how they did it:

All honorees were featured in one video instead of spotlighting them individually. Each story focused on the impact libraries have had on the honorees, connecting the presentation to the evening’s cause.

The president announced the recipients of this year’s medals. Rather than make the honorees trek to the stage, they received the medals at their seats by a prominent person in their life. The scene was captured live on the floor.

The format of the ceremony created an added intimacy. By not placing an expectation on the honorees to give a speech, the burden of having to perform was removed, allowing them to enjoy the event without having to prepare. And yet, the honorees were still individually recognized; all current and past honorees were asked to stand and wore their medals to the event.

If this were a traditional award and recognition program it would have included an hour of walk-ons, walk-offs, introductions, and speeches. Instead, everyone was able to get home by 10:30 p.m. and left looking forward to next year’s event. Honorees received their medals at their seats, not on stage, which kept the ceremony moving along.Honorees received their medals at their seats, not on stage, which kept the ceremony moving along.Photo: Zach Hilty/BFA.com

At BizBash we host recognition events in five cities and have eliminated speeches in favor of lively interviews on the stage. We have found that the conversational style relates more to the audience and is a speedier way to celebrate the individual. 

We are curious about how you handle recognition events. Join our discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

VENDORS
Audiovisual Production: L&M Sound & Light
Catering: Sonnier & Castle by Rhubarb
Entertainment:
Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
Event Design, Floral:
Concept Event Group
Furniture Rentals, Linens, Tabletop: Party Rental Ltd.
Lighting, Projection Mapping: Frost Productions
PR: Magrino
Registration System: Zkipster

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