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An evening of fun, a year of hard work

2000 robin latchem nra 2016 speech

For me, the evening goes by in a flash – but it’s the culmination of 365 days of solid effort from colleagues. Because of their work, the National Recycling Awards 2016 happened. Here’s how.

Believe me, things can go very wrong. One year – on another magazine’s awards night – the wrong winner was announced. How we resolved it could be an article in itself, but I was involved in a stream of conciliatory phone calls the day after. I’m sure the team that stages our events – and those for sister titles – have had horror stories a-plenty over the years.

This column looks back at the annual cycle for the NRAs as I’m presuming few outside MRW know how it all comes together.

The process begins in the days immediately after the awards evening: assessing feedback, our own observations and, of course, what worked best financially (we’re not a charity, after all).

The judges’ insight is invaluable

We have a small window at this time to review the categories and their effectiveness. This is one organic aspects of the NRAs because they have changed over the years as the industry has changed.

A few years back (before my time), the categories were largely directed at local authorities and their waste manager partners. These days, the adoption of sustainability and awareness of resources in the wider economy has prompted a broader range of categories. I’ve been particularly pleased at the best practice reflected in the retail category, showing the extent that early adopters can win new business and market share.

Once we agree the likely categories for the next year, we confirm the event date and prepare the ground for the launch when we invite entries. Our commercial team also leaps into action, searching for businesses that will gain from being associated with the event or a particular category in the coming months.

The marketing people also get into gear and we do all we can to encourage organisations of all sorts to enter. These milestones offer us a new opportunity to look back on the previous winners and those who made the shortlist to celebrate the best practice they have exhibited.

Then we have the judging panels. Some judges are welcome regulars, friends of MRW who offer real experience and sector knowledge. Some are drawn from sponsors, while others come from the previous year’s winners. Their insight having entering our awards is invaluable.

When entries close in the new year, the judges pore through the pages of paperwork online and whittle down the shortlists. In the spring, we publish the finalists with great fanfare and attention is focused on inviting people to the Hilton in Park Lane on what traditionally seems destined to be one of the hottest days of the year – and making sure everything works on the night.

After seven or so minutes it’s all over, and I can retreat to the safety of the MRW table

My colleagues design the set, room layout, who-sits-where, incidental music, video elements and many other aspects that I’m not even aware of (thankfully).

For me, the killer part is my speech. On the one hand, it has to recognise the state of the industry and – as with this Brexit year – the key political issues. But I am conscious that when you are having a night on the town, ‘serious’ themes can seem less important. So the challenge is to deal with them without overplaying it. On the other hand, it’s meant to be a bit of fun. The challenge here is to come up with something that is (at least) mildly amusing. Oh, and it can’t be too long because the guests want to tuck in before finding out who has won.

Against that background, you won’t be surprised to learn that I spend a good few hours on my speech. This year, I started by talking to my iPhone using the Siri voice recognition software. I find this makes the speech sound less ‘read’ because I’m dictating spoken phrases and mannerisms rather than written ones, as in this article. I also practice standing up because that is how the speech is delivered.

And I go through it over and over again. This means the words on the autocue on the night become a safety net (for example, when an ad lib has taken me well off the beaten track) rather than a regimented route from start to finish. It certainly helps that in my dim and distant past I was a broadcaster.

But after seven or so minutes it’s all over, and I can retreat to the safety of the MRW table and my first alcoholic drink. Then I can enjoy the evening with the best of you, while at the back of my mind I know it will all kick off again within days.

nra 2016 chocolate

nra 2016 chocolate

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