Great question, Barry, because I am finding that there are different aspects of receiving an award or recognition in front a large gathering that make people nervous.
First, some people just don’t like the “spotlight”; they don’t want people’s focus and attention to be solely on them. And they would prefer not to have to deal with it.
Others are afraid they are going to have to say something (in some settings, making a short acceptance speech is expected) and they are scared to death to do so.
One of the more common reasons given to me is that they are afraid of tripping going up and down the stairs, stumbling, or dropping the award when it is given to them.
Finally, when two individuals were asked if they were given an award privately, could the company make a public announcement about the award (for example, through an email, in the company newsletter or on the website), the two recipients responded differently. One said a written announcement would be fine, and another requested only that her immediate team be notified. So for some individuals, just the public nature of an award can be uncomfortable.
Remember, when a team member says they don’t want to be recognized publicly, please believe them. If your goal is to encourage and show appreciation to them, please honor their request. (An alternative solution one company reported to me was that they presented the individual with a personal letter signed by the CEO of the company, which the recipient was delighted to share with his family and friends privately.)