In a curious statistic that probably soaked up significant funds from a government department in a research grant, it was recently revealed that 100 per cent of people who had never bought a ticket in a lottery had never won a prize in a lottery. I know – when you think about it, the statistic seems quite obvious. If you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win a prize. As ridiculous as it sounds, I have actually heard business people complain at award ceremonies about the winners of various prizes. They tell me that their business is superior to the winning business or they deserve a prize more than business X. Upon further quizzing, it is revealed that they never actually entered a submission! “I knew I was never going to win because these events are always rigged” or similar comments are made. Rule number 1. If you want to win a prize, submit an entry. It seems obvious but it is amazing how many times businesses don’t take the first step. You have to be in it to win it.
Some months ago I delivered a talk to a group of business bankers who work for a multinational bank. I was helping them connect better with their business clients. At the end of the talk, I charged them all with one simple job. Talk to their clients and find out one piece of information. Find out the passion of each client. What got them started in business? What makes them tick?What gets them excited enough to jump out of bed each morning? Within a few short weeks, I had e-mails flowing in from many of the 400+ in the audience telling me about the passion they had discovered in their clients – and it made them excited and proud to be associated with those clients.
Every business person has a passion. Sometimes it is forgotten with the pile of bills that need to be paid or the latest drama with a staff member but hidden deep down in the dark recesses of the mind is that passion that got you started in business in the first place.
An award-winning submission needs to bring out that passion you feel for your business. It is often difficult to convert passion via a bunch of words written on paper but award-winning submissions make the passion jump off the page and excite the reader. When you have finished your award submission, ring a friend who is unfamiliar with your business. Pay them an incredibly large amount of money (like a free lunch) and ask them to read your submission and rate the passion in the submission. Any score below 9 out of 10 requires you to re-think your award submission. Passion is tough but it makes your submission stand out above all others.
When giving advice to my young children, one of the most important pieces of advice I deliver to them leading up to exams is to read the question – and then answer the question. Again, it seems incredibly simple but I have spoken to many judges who have been initially impressed by a particular business but, as they read through the submission, they didn’t answer a question or gave an answer unrelated to the actual question. Put yourself in the shoes of the judge. You have a number of submissions to read with the same question. Make sure your submission is one of the few who answer each question accurately and succinctly. You are not a politician – you don’t have to answer a question in an obtuse and divagate way. It is OK to be honest and answer the question.
Lastly, think about a study performed in 2008 by Nicolas Guéguen. Through an exhaustive process, he concluded that women wearing makeup fared better with men at bars. His numbers were comprehensive. The average time elapsed before a man first approached a woman was 35.0 per cent slower with the women not wearing makeup and women wearing makeup had men approach them 31.8 per cent more often than with women not wearing makeup. So forget all the clichés about not judging a book by its cover and beauty is only skin deep. Make your award look great. Use colours, use glossy paper and binding (if it is a physical rather than electronic entry) and use your graphics team. In short, do everything you can to make your award look stunning. The first impression you make with the judges counts for something. It won’t win you an award alone, but it will certainly make sure you at least make it past the initial mental cull.
There you have it – my comprehensive tips for writing an award-winning submission. First – put the entry in. Second – make sure your passion comes through. Third – answer the questions and lastly make it look beautiful. It is not rocket science but it is amazing how often people don’t follow those few simple rules.
Good luck with your awards and I look forward to hearing about lots of readers winning great awards.
Tell me your most important award writing tip at firstname.lastname@example.org.