By David H. Martin

Many people in the water improvement industry will remember Eric Webb for his unusual creativity and energy, having served, over the last decade, in separate stints as RainSoft’s director of marketing communications. Others know him for his contributions to the Water Quality Association’s Public Relations Committee.

Last fall, at a customer relationship management trade show, I ran into Webb in his new marketing capacity with a leading web-based (no pun intended) motivation firm. The following material has been excerpted and adapted from Eric’s company Internet publication, called Motivator’s Newsletter, which I’m pleased to now receive on a regular basis.

The idea goes back to the adage that happy workers are productive workers. While a pat on the back is nice, treating outstanding performers like “big stars” at least once a year is a better idea.

And the winner is…
Webb offers the following tips on how to turn your recognition program into an Academy Awards event and make your people feel like stars.

We all know how important recognition and reward are, but how you show that is just as important. Music, lights, cameras! It’s become a lost art. Putting together a first class production doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can put one together for a lot less than you think.
Below are some ideas for creating a memorable event:

Provide some background.
Get the names and some information about each person being recognized—what they achieved, their title and some accomplishments in the past. Create a three to five sentence paragraph in a PowerPoint slide presentation. Scan in their picture so that on each slide is a person’s picture along with their biography.

  • If you don’t have a laptop, rent one with PowerPoint capability. You can rent a system for less than $200 for the day.
  • A projection system can be rented for less than $300 per day.
  • More low-budget efforts can opt for slide projectors. Oftentimes, the location where you hold the event may have an audio-visual department that can provide such aides at minimal cost.

The right atmosphere.
Find a place to do the presentation that offers space, with no distractions (phone ringing or work in progress) and a respectable climate. A properly decorated space in the office could suffice, but it’s recommended you go to a local hotel and rent a seminar room. Decorate the area with a stage of some sort… and a podium… and a center aisle so people can easily walk to the stage.

  • A tabletop podium can be purchased for around $100 and can be reused. Decorations, including a projection screen, can be had for less than $200.
  • Don’t forget music. Use something upbeat. You’ll want walk-in music as everyone gathers to take his or her seat. Play music with a strong beat and have it make some noise. A hotel can hook a player into the house system to get the effect you’re after. If you’re holding it at the office get a stereo player. Remember, upbeat music creates excitement and gets the feet tapping.
  • Set up the projector in a rear-screen format if you can. This way no one sees the projector because it’s behind the screen. The person running the slide show can also run the music. Make sure you coordinate when to have the music on and off and practice working with the person running the slides. Have an opening slide for the event with some sort of title.

Preparing for the big event.

  • Send out an agenda with a listing of the awards that will be given. Make sure the people receiving awards will be there.
  • Don’t forget to hire a photographer. You can usually find professional quality photographers at a reduced rate by going to high school or college newspapers. Have the photographer take crowd shots, casual shots and stage shots as well.

The big day.

  • Go through your set up, slides and any rehearsals an hour before the event.
  • Five minutes before the event, begin playing the music, loud!
  • Don’t let people in the room until you see a crowd start to develop. This generates excitement and the feeling they’re going somewhere special.
  • Open the doors and get people to fill in the seats up front.
  • The presenter should come up after everyone is seated. They should say a few words and then begin the presentation. As a name is called, the person’s slide with picture and biography should come on the screen, and you could also play some music that fits the award (i.e. “Taking Care of Business” or “We are the Champions”). Don’t play the same song over and over. Mix it up. You may want to ask for suggestions from a younger employee for current relevant songs for even more of a sense of inclusion.
  • Make sure the photographer gets a good picture.

Post event.

  • Create a flyer or newsletter with the photos on it of the people on stage as well as photos of the crowd and any interesting shots. Make sure you put captions in place and title the flyer or newsletter. Give one as a keepsake to all the attendees, and probably a few to the people being recognized.

Just a little planning and a few added details like music, a professional photographer and a slide show can turn a so-so recognition event into the Academy Awards for your people. This little extra effort will drive others and make those being rewarded feel even more special.

What happened to cash?
Study after study has shown that cash is simply not a memorable motivation. That’s why elaborate desk trophies and fancy wall plaques are the centerpieces of most sales award and employee recognition ceremonies. But there’s an exception to every rule.
Now, thanks to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, cash is taking center stage in more and more award ceremonies. But it’s not exacting the same old folding money. The Bureau is offering genuine U.S. currency in a new format for awards and incentives. The cash is being sold in uncut sheets—in collectible sets and other special series, worthy of framing and saving. And, strangely enough, “collectible cash” is worth more than its face value!

Recognition of outstanding employees is a powerful motivation. Why not consider a “big splash” event to salute your best?

About the author
David H. Martin is president of Lenzi Marketing of Oak Park, Ill., a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, email: [email protected] or website:

Resources for incentives is the website of a leading trade publication, called Potentials.
Eric Webb, of Motivation Online, can be reached at His firm offers electronic motivation programs for medium- and large-size companies. Or call him at (847) 882-6569.


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