It’s award season, not just for the stars but for industry professionals too. We might not get a red carpet and designer gowns but, if we’re lucky, we do get free drinks and a fancy trophy to put in the office. The ADDY awards night at Union Trust was my first time attending an industry award presentation and I was excited to go (it’s like a field trip for adults), but also a little apprehensive because I had no idea what to expect. I’ve seen what they do at the Oscars, Grammy’s, Emmy’s etc. but I could not tell you what to expect from a regular person award ceremony. Was I supposed to bring business cards? Would there be a mani cam? Could my tattoos show? Should I wear a dress? Luckily for me I was able to turn to some coworkers for answers but for those of you also facing unfamiliar territory, here is what to expect at an industry awards night.
What to wear: what the invite says,* for the ADDYs it was business casual. *There can be a wide interpretation of “business” and “casual” or “formal” depending on your industry and how big the awards are. At the ADDYs I saw attire ranging from jeans and a button-up to suits or cocktail dresses. So, what is a first timer to do? Dress like you for the job that you want. In Log #4 I wrote about balancing smartness and camaraderie in your attire and that definitely stands here but your peers in this case are not necessarily your direct co-workers but the coworkers for the job you want. Want your boss’s job? Emulate their office attire but make sure you don’t duplicate them; you want their job, not their identity.
What to bring: you’re going to be walking around and holding drinks/food or shaking hands for most of the night so try and keep things in your pockets or a hands-free purse (no clutches). If you’re coming straight from the office, try and stash your work bag in the car and keep it to only the essentials (phone, keys, wallet etc.). Having business cards on you is never a bad plan and don’t forget some cash for tips at the coat check and/or bar (even if it’s an open bar). Pro tip: make sure your phone is charged, you’ll probably want to take a few pictures or call an Uber at the end of the night.
Who to talk to: anyone you want to but keep in mind this may not be the best time to focus on promoting yourself. Unlike a networking event, an award night is less about making a lot of new connections and more about letting loose and celebrating the work and accomplishments of others. There’s no harm in meeting new people or exchanging information but be sure to read the room and make sure you’re not forcing a conversation. Most importantly, make sure you’re enjoying yourself too!
The food, the drinks: also what the invite says. If it’s around dinner time it’s safe to say they planned for hungry, thirsty attendees. Expect hors d’oeuvres and/or finger food you can easily consume and carry, unless it says otherwise. You can get your fill but it might take a couple trips through the food line. The ADDYs had hors d’oeuvres, a Sushi bar and a make-your-own-slider bar because they know how to treat a girl.
The actual awards presentation: will probably not contain performances by A-list celebrities. Sorry. In fact, it may not even contain speeches or an actual presentation of the awards. At the ADDYs, winners were announced via a video projected on a large screen with the actual awards claimed after the event. No dramatic announcement pauses, no your-acceptance-speech-is-too-long music. But again, that is not the case for all award ceremonies (super helpful) so check your event invite to see what’s in store for your ceremony.
After(party): whether put on by the awards or by your coworkers, there will be an after party somewhere. This is a great way to get some additional face time with your coworkers but it’s also a great time to bow out if your bed is calling your name. It’s a much more relaxed part of the night but remember, you’re with the people you work around and anything you say (or do) can and will be used against you in the kitchen the next morning.
If you’re still lacking some information, coverage of last year’s event in the news or on Facebook can be super helpful. It can show you how people dressed, what kind of food was offered and how the presentation went. If that doesn’t help, there’s only one other way to find out: do the thing, go to the awards and have some fun.