March 25, 2011

I planned my first corporate awards ceremony in 1971 as part of an incentive program to Rome, Italy.  Between then and now, I have been involved with 400-500 of them around the world – either as the planner, the producer, the recipient of the recognition, or to support someone who was a recipient.  So far, there are not too many that stand out from the crowd.

On a personal level, there are three.  I immediately recall receiving the President’s Award from Skip Gage at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.  I had the most fun at one held in Florida someplace where I missed my name being called to receive recognition for becoming a Goalmaker.  And I am most proud of one I received from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for my volunteer work on the riverfront.

On a professional level, most are a blur, or worse, are occasions I would prefer to forget.  Because the truth is, this tradition of public acknowledgement and celebration generally does not meet expectations.

I admit – I am a purist about this.  I believe that some how, some way, we have to keep trying to find a meaningful way to celebrate the featured work- not an individual’s popularity or efforts to campaign for votes .  And I continue to believe that some how, some way, we will discover how to do that if we just keep trying.

 Meanwhile, I have a hard time connecting to the trend of making the recognition event all about the party.  I would blame my attitude on “age” but the truth is, I felt this same way 30 years ago.  We strive for a bigger and better party; we sometimes elevate the recipients to some god-like level; we emphasize noise, dance and drink; and usually forget about not only food, but respect for simple attendee and recipient creature comforts.  It’s “all about the work” has morphed into  it’s “all about the quest for a bigger and better party.”

And for some, that is success. I recognize that for the extrovert, being the center of attention is the  be all to end all.  I just wish there were some figures to support HOW MANY of the rest of us are tortured because we prefer to be backstage and not in the limelight.  And I also recognize that the planning of those events provides a great opportunity for the sponsoring organization as it serves as a base to build community.  Committees of volunteers give great energy, time and effort as they work together to conceive, design and execute their vision; and in so doing, they become a community that helps strengthen that organization-not just at the event, but on-going.

As usual, as this week approached, I have been filled with trepidation – not about whether we will “win” because that has already happened last August when we delivered the work; and we have certainly been recognized via local and national press as well as a place on the agenda at RETHINK.  However, I knew by today I would be in a funk about this whole practice of Award and Recognition. 

And last night the MME Best of Awards did nothing to help me stave off that funk.  A surge in popularity brought attendance to over 450 people – far too large a crowd for the “W” but it’s hard to switch venues at the end…and there is not much one can do about bigger crowds than planned in that venue.  I can criticize, though, the food and beverage service.  It should be good, shouldn’t it? – it’s Manny’s after all.  And therein lays the problem.  A great restaurant does NOT a great caterer make.  Even good restaurant food does not easily translate to good banquet food nor the knowledge of how to deliver it to a large audience.  And one bar -Yikes what a disaster.  Suffice it to say, the experience was good for connecting with a few; not too good for networking, and I have no idea who won in any category except those pre-announced! 

That certainly did not help my trepidation about this evening at the Star Awards!  So, I am afraid I won’t get much work done today – I need to focus on managing an attitude adjustment and talking myself into appreciating the evening for whatever it turns out to be.  A “been there; done that” attitude just won’t do.  I need to rise to the occasion. I owe it to the team and to the CRV client…and to the ISES volunteers that are producing the experience.

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