This year I’m scheduled to judge awards entries in Dubai, London, Amsterdam, and Wiesbaden (Germany).
I think the benefits for an industry practitioner to judge an awards event, such as the Gulf Customer Experience Awards are immense.
This is because even if you work with a number of clients in different industries and locations – and even have some of your clients enter and win awards – your “exposure lens” can still be narrower than it should be.
Judging awards allows you to see what’s happening out there amongst organisations you may never work for, or in locations that you may not serve.
Of course, it’s not always the ‘big names’ that put forward the best initiatives – there’s a lot of gold standard practice out there in smaller and ‘local’ organisations too, that judging allows you to get first hand experience of.
A few suggestions for industry awards entrants
I tend to judge categories involving Customer Experience, Contact Centres, Digital Experience, and Employee Experience, so my suggestions here are drawn from those disciplines. However, I imagine the suggestions here can be extrapolated to other disciplines also.
Of course, with suggestions in general, it’s not just what to do – it’s also what not to do.
Is it a group award category or an individual award category?
Recently I judged a face-to-face presentation for a ‘group award’, but unfortunately the presenter used the word “I‘” a lot.
“I did this…I did that…because of me”, etc.
I looked down at the judge’s timetable to make sure that yes, this was a group award category. So why so much “I“?
My suggestion is this: if you’re involved in a group or team award, then the word “we” goes a long way.
On the other hand, if you’ve entered an individual award of some kind then it’s appropriate to talk about you. What you did, what you accomplished, and how what you’ve done has made your organisation a better place.
It’s great that you’ve won other awards but…
In another judging experience, the entrants began their awards presentation by telling the judges how many other awards they had won.
It just felt awkward to have the presentation start off that way. I sensed entitlement, as if they were trying to say: “We’ve won so many other awards that surely we’re entitled to this one too.”
I would suggest that if your other awards or achievements are specifically relevant to the award you have entered, then it’s worth mentioning at the right time and in the right context.
For example, in an individual award the entrant might say: “I was inspired when I won the Team Manager of the Year award back in…and that motivated me to enter this year’s Manager of the Year Award.”
In this example, the entrant’s sharing of their earlier awards success was relevant to their current entry.
Superlative deeds matter more than superlative words
One thing nearly any judge will tell you is that entrants sometimes go overboard with superlative words.
“Our unparalleled, dynamic, dream team of inspired, culturally motivated self-starters with entrepreneurial mindsets…”
This is barely an exaggeration, by the way.
When everything is “wonderful”, “fabulous”, “motivated”, “value-driven” and so on, none of it feels real, and overly puffed-up language can actually take away from the great accomplishment being put forward.
You usually see the use of superlative words in written entries, but I’ve also experienced it in face-to-face presentations where it comes off as a bit pompous, or at the very least, unnatural.
What should be superlative is what got accomplished – the deeds.
So focus on these deeds, and choose your descriptive words wisely.
Rehearse (rehearse, rehearse) your face-to-face presentation
Judges can always tell if you haven’t rehearsed your face-to-face presentation. We’re not expecting a performance worthy of Shakespeare, but entrants who have rehearsed know that they have to communicate their key points and narrative within a fixed timeframe.
I’m a huge fan of Awards International events, such as the Gulf Customer Experience Awards, where the timeframe is clearly set – 20 minutes for the presentation (uninterrupted) and 10 minutes for judges’ questions.
Look also at Ted Talks – there’s an art involved in sharing your compelling story in a 20 minutes. Elevator pitch, getting to the point, grabbing attention – sometimes less is indeed more.
Presentations that have been rehearsed tend to stick to the stipulated timeframe and rarely run over time.
Unrehearsed presentations on the other hand, tend to be cut off before the material is done – and during Q & A there are usually awkward attempts to share slides or material from the content that didn’t get covered in time.
Don’t wing a face-to-face presentation.
One of the best face-to-face presentations I witnessed was modelled as a talk show panel.
The team presenting the entry had put together a fun and engaging narrative where the head of the initiative was a guest on a talk show and the host and other guests got to ask questions about their initiative.
It was fun and funny, but most importantly they got their message across and you could sense the camaraderie amongst the entrants.
There’s not a single model of presentation that ‘wins’ over others.
So don’t be afraid to engage the judges – as long as you have your talking points and narrative well thought-out, then try something different!
Follow the directions
Now and then you get an entrant who doesn’t follow the directions for the structure of their presentation and what needs to be conveyed.
You can be a world-class speaking guru, but if your presentation doesn’t allow the judges to readily score you across the requested categories or competencies, then you’re unlikely to make it to the winner’s circle.
I think that you learn as much through the process of completing your awards entry – and preparing your presentation – as you do by delivering it, and even winning.
So take the process seriously – you’ll benefit in the long run.