How to write a winning awards submission
Winning or being shortlisted for an award can have business benefits, but it can be hard to market yourself in a submission. Here are some tips on catching the eye of a judging panel.
As a judge at the recent ifa Excellence Awards for financial planners, I thought I would share my thoughts on what makes a compelling award submission. There are universal lessons in my experience for accountants also.
There were several judges in each category. Some of us were experts in the category and purposely, some of us weren’t, to help give diversity of thought.
I have been a judge several times before – once even at a Miss Coyote’s competition, although it was some time ago. Each time I have learned a lot – from the applicants, about the applicants and also from the judging process.
Entering awards is not for the faint-hearted. They are tough work. And I have been fortunate to have read many great, thorough and well considered submissions. Often several hours of preparation go into the collation of facts, figures, testimonials and supporting material.
And then there’s writing the submission, which is a craft in itself.
There are many advantages to entering awards. Firstly, you’ve got to be in it to win it. In fact, this is why in financial services there are now award programs dedicated to females. If they didn’t exist, females just wouldn’t enter them.
Secondly, it helps for you to honestly review your business and offering against your peers. It might help you to see any gaps in what you’re doing. It also gives you an opportunity to swap ideas with your industry colleagues and build your profile.
Being recognised, whether by shortlisting or a win, can provide a number of benefits – comfort and satisfaction to you, and recognition among your peers, the industry and from clients.
Based on my experiences, here are five tips to help deserving nominees become winners.
1. Be humble and thorough
Assume no one knows you or your business and who you are. Starting at this level, clearly explain why you are worthy, even if you do have a profile. Remember, your submission could be judged by someone who doesn’t know anything about you.
2. Answer each question carefully
Answer each question fully. There is usually a shortlisting process that is undertaken before you progress to judging. Don’t leave anything out in your answer that could be the difference between making the shortlist and being left off. And, when you finish your answers, read them and re-read them to make sure you are satisfying the question.
3. Provide additional material when you’ve been asked
If you’ve been asked for testimonials (and sometimes even if you haven’t) or proof of your skills, provide them. Make sure that the testimonial provides what’s needed to support your submission and claims. If you say that you are a thought leader in the industry, reference or include contributions you’ve made to articles, columns or even keynote addresses and presentations.
Assume that judges don’t have time to search for your published work, interviews or public addresses. If you think it will support your application – include it! Make it easy for the judges to see how good you are.
4. Star quality
Awards are very competitive and you may be surprised to know how close some of the nominees are. If you can provide the ‘X Factor’, that something extra, that will set you apart, you might give yourself that edge into the winner’s circle. This might be a pro bono case, or speaking to school students to encourage them to be advisers or many other cases.
5. Proof and sense check
Finally, ask a friend or colleague to review your application and ask them to give honest feedback about whether it covers everything it should. When we are all so busy and doing so much it’s easy to forget even important achievements that might have occurred. Sometimes another pair of eyes can help to see if something is missing.
And if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. Each year build on the skills and achievements of the previous year. Take heart. Many award winners don’t win first time around.
Julia Newbould, content and Stella Network lead, BT Financial Group