Over the coming months, many of the high-profile awards in our profession will open for entries.

    Entering awards brings huge benefits to your business and your team. However, writing the perfect entry takes time and effort from you and other members of your team.

    I’ve written and judged countless entries, so I know what annoys judges, what sets your entry apart and ultimately what gives you the best chance of winning.

    So, here are five simple things you can do to help your entry stand out from the pack.

    1. Read the criteria/question carefully and answer it

    Too many award entries look like they’ve been written by politicians, with the same tired answers trotted out irrespective of the question.

    In a set of awards I judged recently, one person entered two categories, each with different questions, by cutting and pasting their answers from one entry to the other. That meant they hadn’t directly answered the question.

    Instead, they’d told me what they thought I needed to know, not what the entry had asked.

    That’s an extreme case. It’s incredibly lazy and ultimately pointless as it reduces their chances of winning to somewhere close to zero.

    Not answering the questions or directly addressing the criteria has a similar effect.

    Read the question and then answer it.

    If you’re struggling to fill the word count and you’re tempted to pad your entry with things which don’t address the question, it’s perhaps a sign that this isn’t the right category for you.

    Better to stop and look elsewhere rather than waste your time submitting an entry which doesn’t address the award criteria.

    2. Talk about what you’ve already achieved, not future plans 

    I’ve sat on panels where I and the other judges have reviewed entries which were short on achievements and long on future promises. The usual reaction is that entrants should “come back next year” when they’ve delivered on their promises.

    So, stick to talking about what you’ve achieved, not what you might do.

    3. Show evidence of achievements

    Talking about your achievements is only half the job. The judges will be far more impressed if you can provide supporting evidence to show how these achievements have improved things for your business and your clients.

    Evidence could come in many forms, including:

    • Client testimonials
    • Survey results
    • The views of your co-workers
    • Comments by peers or professional connections

    The most powerful entries I have seen are those which demonstrate an achievement and then provide evidence to support the claim.  

    4. Make the judges’ life easier 

    It’s not unusual for a judge to have to review 20 or 30 entries, each often over 2,000 words long.

    That’s a lot of reading!

    They will thank you for making their life easier. Start by cutting the unnecessary waffle which characterises many entries. Make your point quickly and succinctly.

    Next, if it’s possible, break the entry up with bullet points and format words in bold or italics. If that’s not possible then you can probably still use subheadings, which could be added in CAPITALs to make them stand out.

    Finally, use those subheadings to make your killer points, that means if the judges are skim reading your entry they will stand out.

    5. Edit and proofread your entry

    You wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t!) publish a blog on your website which hadn’t been edited and proofread.

    The same goes for your award entry.

    Give yourself plenty of time to craft the perfect entry:

    • Write an initial draft
    • Revisit it every few days for a week or so
    • Then, when it’s as good as it possibly can be, get someone else to edit it. Ideally, this will be someone who knows you well enough to be able to add anything you’ve missed.

    Finally, when you’re happy with it, get a third person to proof the entry. You can’t proof your own work and an entry which is full of typos doesn’t leave a great impression.

    And my bonus tip...

    Don’t miss the deadline

    If you follow tip number four you will need to leave yourself plenty of time to get your entry in.

    Some awards allow you to submit your entry after the deadline. However, this isn’t advisable, as entries might (and probably should) be marked down for missing the deadline, while judges might also be told which entries were late.

    Give yourself the best possible chance

    If you’re going to enter awards you need to go ‘all in’ to be successful. It’s pretty easy for judges to spot entries which are rushed and haven’t been thought through.

    Follow these tips and you will stand a better chance.

    Next time we’ll explain the things you should do to capitalise on your success.

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