How to create a virtual awards ceremony

Five weeks ago, Bounce was asked to produce a virtual awards ceremony. Like so many other awards organisers, the clients were faced with the dilemma of whether to cancel, postpone… or step into the unknown world of a virtual ceremony. With such a tight turnaround, we knew it was a big project to take on but were excited about the opportunity.

Producing a live virtual awards ceremony

Seemingly few virtual award ceremonies had been streamed genuinely live up to that point. The approach that had been taken was to produce an ‘as live’ show, with all the content pre-recorded, and then stream the award ceremony on YouTube or a similar platform. In this case the winners were informed before broadcast and the full drama of the live announcement was lost. Not only that but there were potentials for leaks on social media. Our clients were also keen to stream the winners in for their acceptance speeches.

Our virtual set

How to stream our winners in

The idea of ​​streaming out live to YouTube and streaming in winners (on the same bandwidth) was new territory for us. Could streaming in the winners jeopardise the quality of our show stream? The other issue was that, no matter how good the internet connection It wasn’t possible to control what was happening at the winner’s internet connection end. How often have you been on a zoom, or seen TV interviews and the zoom call loses sound or fails? It could be a family member gobbling up the bandwidth by streaming a film on Netflix or a local surge, and you have absolutely no control over it.

Our team came up with a plan of action. We found a venue with the strongest possible internet connection (nearly a gigabyte). We worked out the best streaming software to use (one much better than Zoom or Skype). Also we undertook line tests with the finalists and recorded back-up videos from the judge about each winner, in case we lost anyone on the night.

Our virtual awards ceremony promo went viral

We set about planning other elements for the virtual awards show, including a launch promo video and video inserts to feature in the show. Inspired by the ‘pass the loo roll’ or ‘pass the football’ lockdown videos, we created a viral style video, featuring members of our awards community passing a poster. The video was a hit with the audience, to date getting nearly 20 thousand views on Twitter.

Before we knew it, people were sending us their own clips, which were edited into a longer version of the video to feature in the ceremony.

Social distanced filming

One thing we had to bear in mind on the filming day was health and safety for Covid-19. We were filming in a large Warehouse with plenty of room for social distancing, but we needed a fairly large crew. There was a strict mask policy for crew members. This was our first shoot wearing masks for a long working day and it’s something we’re all going to have to get used to in the new Covid-19 working era.

Our team during the set up

The virtual awards ceremony itself

When it came to the live stream itself, as the first winner’s name was announced we were all edgy. Would the stream work? As we saw the first winner pop up onto the live stream monitor behind our presenter, we glanced at each other as if to say, ‘phew, this seems to be working’. And as more and more winners were successfully streamed in there was a sense of relief, but also jubilation at the amazing content we were seeing.

A winner who was also celebrating his birthday

Our client had asked everyone to wear evening dress. Finalists were all sent goody bags including posters and balloons to put up behind their shot. This really helped create a sense of occasion. Winner streams included a spontaneous chat with someone’s child and a winner who happened to be celebrating his birthday, who put on a silly hat. We also heard a moving story from a man who recovered after 16 days in a Covid coma, cheers from family members out of shot and party poppers being let off.

When our back up plan kicked in

Half-way through the awards and we had our first winner-stream technical hitch. The audience could see the winner but couldn’t hear him. Our presenter (vastly talented Sky News broadcaster, Anna Jones) handled the situation smoothly. She asked him to give us a thumbs up before linking us into the back up judge testimonial video. It was moving account that gave the winner the recognition he deserved. This happened once more on our penultimate award so the back-up video solution was used again. Sound issues were caused at their end and there was nothing we could have done to fix them. Social media comments noted the professionalism of our back up videos and the client was delighted with how the streaming had gone.

Our streaming ‘wizard’ Steve with his 4 laptops

Making the show interactive

Audience tweets with photos were featured during the live show in order to involve the audience. This included pets wearing crowns, a celebration award cake, kids watching with their families and finalists in branded t-shirts and bow ties. This was an engaging and lively. element of the show. We also encouraged the audience to comment in the YouTube chat box which proved popular.

Group video call with the finalists to make the show feel interactive

At the end of the virtual awards ceremony, as the credits rolled, the whole team felt a great sense of achievement. We’d created a ceremony featuring live winner interviews and including the audience. Feedback indicated that the show had captured the spirit of our client’s awards which was both moving and entertaining. Our client commented that if it wasn’t for the pandemic, they would never have had the opportunity to create the memories that were captured on film. As a team it was an exciting project and we’ re already planning on how we can build on this formula on the next one.

About Bounce Video

Bounce Video is run by award-winning former BBC Producer, Grace Gibbons. We specialise in helping businesses and public sector organizations create compelling video campaigns and live events. To talk to us about your taking your awards show virtual, visit our website or get in touch.

Highlights of the virtual awards ceremony are available to view here: