Top tips to putting together a quality awards submission
This guide includes hints and tips on how to put together a quality awards submission that will be truly competitive in the awards program and category you wish to enter. These tips are sourced from various locations, including our own experiences. If you are opting to prepare your own submission, refer to it regularly as you go through the submission process, and check that you are providing all the information required and in the right format. If you have any questions that are not covered in this guide, or would like our professional assistance to ensure all of these considerations are being met without having to worry about it yourself contact us.
1. Have you got the most up to date low down?
Awards criteria are reviewed and often changed annually. This may result in revised wording or entry eligibility to ensure categories and questions remain current. It is important that you download the current criteria from the awards program you are interested in entering into each year. Don’t cut and paste from previous entries unless the answer is most definitely on the mark.
2. Read the category criteria thoroughly and make sure you qualify
Sometimes the age range for the young entrepreneur changes, or some other weird criteria creeps in i.e. you can’t be a franchisee. Even if you think you are familiar with an awards program from entering in previous years, double check and triple check that you are eligible and entering the right category for you. Also consider the points awarded to each question and the number of words permitted. Plan your answer before writing it.
3. Spelling and grammatical errors cost valuable points!
Online awards submissions are common these days, but given many of these do not include a spelling or grammar check, it is advisable to prepare a draft entry in Word or Google Docs, and have it proofread by at least two other people before you upload it if you are submitting to an online system. If spelling and grammar is not your forte (or English is not your first language) it is a good idea to seek professional assistance (like us!)
4. Answer the question
Sounds simple, but many awards submissions prepared by the hopeful business person contain waffle! Keep your answers concise and on point. Read the question you are answering a number of times and underline or highlight key phrases to emphasise what is really being asked as a quick skim and answer may not suffice. Also answer all parts of the question.
5. Get your submission proofed
Even if you’re confident you have the story, spelling and grammar down, get one person who knows you and your business really well (perhaps a staff member, business coach, accountant or family member), to read your almost final draft and ask them to make sure you have:
a) answered all the questions properly and
b) provided the information with passion to make it stand out from the rest.
Is there anything you should have included which you haven’t? They may just remind you of something outstanding you have done which you just plain forgot about.
Also ask another person who does not know you or your business to act like a judge and ensure that what you are saying makes sense, even if they have no familiarity with you and your business.
6. Be consistent and focused
Judges can tell when your awards entry started with gusto and ends like a lead balloon. Don’t cut corners on the entry as you get towards the end. Take a break and go back to it later if necessary, or outsource it to us! 😉
7. You must be able to back up all claims made in your submission
Inflated results are obvious and transparent. Don’t exaggerate. Just state the facts and evidence them well. Also put your entry into context. When did you start? What sort of market was it then? How did the landscape change?Most of the judges are not familiar with your market, so answers and results need context. Don’t assume judges (especially national judges) will know your area, your industry or your business. You might be world famous in your suburb or the biggest thing since sliced bread in your niche industry, but the judges don’t necessarily know that and you shouldn’t expect them to go Googling you.
Timeline answers where appropriate and ensure answers relate to the qualifying period i.e. no point telling the judges how good your 2011/12 year in business was if the entry is for 2014/15!
8. Don’t leave your submission to the last minute.
Ahh if we had a penny for everyone who rings us up asking for help in the eleventh hour! Don’t do it to yourself, or us! Schedule time well in advance of the deadline to ensure you are able to research, edit and proofread adequately. Block time out in your diary and stick to it. And don’t under-estimate how long it might take.
9. In most cases, DON’T WRITE YOUR SUBMISSION IN THE THIRD PERSON
Unless this is asked for. The awards submission should be written as if you have written it (even if we have actually done the heavy lifting).
10. Be clear on your unique proposition & consider that there are some things that you just can’t call yourself
Don’t fill the submission with ‘award entry’ clichés such as claims of having ‘good customer service’ and being ‘reliable’ and ‘committed’. Isn’t everyone? The judges will be looking for freshness and originality as well as substantial supporting evidence.
So make statements that no one can argue with. That are fact & which are original. Don’t use statements or generalise without evidence. E.G. ‘we sell more than anyone in the area’. Sell what? Where? Why? Definition of area? ‘People keep coming back to us because we’re better’. Better than what? Against whom? Coming back for what? Who are the ‘people’?
11. Don’t be boring
The judges have many entries to read. Make your story stand out. Let your innovation and passion for the industry shine through. Show some humour. Tell stories. Be real and authentic.
12. Don’t bag the opposition – it will only make you look bad
Everyone has competitors, but if you’re that good there is no need to take anyone else down in the process.
13. If you are not 100% sure on something, say so, but be definitive where it counts
Use words such as ‘estimate’, ‘I believe’, ‘around’, ‘approximately’ or ‘they say’ but be definite with numbers that you should know. For example, do not use a phrase such as ‘I would estimate 20% of my sales are from repeat business’. You should know your financials intimately.
14. Mix up stories with bullets
It’s best not to use all text or all dot points in the majority of questions. Keep the reader interested by using a mixture of both bullet points and stories. For example, use dot points to summarise your answer at the beginning of the question, then expand in following text.
15. Think nationally & globally
Many awards programs start local and go national. Think big right from the start and prepare a submission that could help you win not just locally but nationally should it go on to the next stage. In most cases you don’t get a chance to submit another entry for future stages so get it right in the early ones.
16. Hyperlink & attachments or not?
Some awards programs allow hyperlinks and attachments for further evidence, some do not. Where they are required, make sure you indicate in your answer that additional material is attached, as Judges may not automatically check.
17. Keep to the word count
Do not exceed the attachment limit to each question or penalty points will apply. If you’re struggling to keep to a word count get a second pair of eyes (maybe we can help!) from someone who can be ruthless yet keep the essence of what you are trying to say.
18. If you get invited to an interview
Interviews will generally be based on the submission material provided, but not always. Investigate how the interview staged will be judged and go prepared.
A good awards program will brief finalists on what they will need to be prepared for. Do be on time. Have your support material ready and a copy of the awards for the judge, just in case, and these are also good to read while you wait to ensure you have your submission fresh in your mind.
Do not subject the judge to a 30-minute Power Point presentation!
If applicable, do prepare a ‘take-away’ folder with copies of relevant information and marketing material that you have supplied as attachments with your online submission. It may help the judge in scoring and assist with feedback.
Was this blog post helpful? What other tips do you have from being involved in business awards yourself? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below…