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Award season is upon us again. It is an opportunity to put off our typical British reticence and shout about what we’ve actually achieved!
Not everyone can be a winner but for most people just taking part in the awards process is a great way to learn and grow. Preparing the award provides a great opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and the journey so far. Great preparation increases the chances of being shortlisted, which in turn offers a unique chance to get feedback from both peers and industry experts. When it comes to awards, the journey actually is very important, winning is the icing on the cake!
I have probably judged over 50 different awards (and read literally hundreds of submissions) in the last 10 years and in the interest of your success and the sanity of me and my fellow judge’s sanity, I thought it would be useful to provide some do’s and don’t's to help you make the most of your experience.
The Do's - Creating the submission & getting shortlisted
The first step of the journey is preparing the award submission, a bit of effort at this stage can really pay dividends, especially when you are shortlisted.
1. Recognise your own achievements – You don’t need to be a multinational superstar business with a budget to match to be an award winner. Let's face it, in this day and age – all of us have had to be more resourceful and more innovative with what is available. If you haven’t considered entering an award before, why not sit down with your team and reflect on one of your projects that you’ve been most proud about, what’s worked, what you've overcome and what's been achieved? Taking part in the Towards Maturity Benchmark will help you focus on your strengths and weaknesses!
2. Do some external research – Why not take some inspiration from past award winners. You can hear them present on the elearning age award winners webinars or read the stories of past winners.
3. Chose the right award for you – Read the categories carefully, there are probably several that you could enter but the trick is to enter the category that will really draw on your project’s strengths. If the elearning that you have created is outstanding and really different from anything else you have seen, consider one of the e-learning product awards. However, if what you have created is quite standard but has had incredible take up or forms part of a really innovative programme, then consider something like widespread adoption or best online programme.
4. Read the award submission guidelines – Keep to them, enough said!
5. Make sure you clearly map your entry to the criteria – Tell a good story but keep to the award criteria. You can increase your chances of being shortlisted by using the award criteria as the framework for telling your story. This approach acts as a check list for you that you are in the right category, but it also makes it easier for us as judges to compare your submission with others.
6. Use great evidence to stand out from the crowd – Evidence of take up, cost savings and learner satisfaction are great but commonplace. To stand out from the crowd you really need to think about how you can evidence real business change – what is the impact on the job, reduction in time to competency, changes in productivity are all very powerful. Annecdotal evidence from staff and key sponsors works but good stats are even better. If you don’t have them, why not send out a short survey to those who have taken part and their managers, asking some simple questions: ‘What have you done differently as a result? How much time have you saved? How confident are you now? You may be surprised at what you get back!
The Do's once you are shortlisted :
7. Keep to time - Question time is built into the presentation process for a reason. In my experience this is the time where we dig in deeper and the Q&A time is often the moment where the winner stands out. So, give yourself a fighting chance and save plenty of time for questions.
8. Have an authentic voice – Judges want to hear from those who have directly benefitted from your solution, in person if possible, by phone if not, or even by video if they are not able to attend.
9. Have fun – Whilst it seems a bit nerve wracking, all the judges I know are there because they are genuinely interested to learn about what you are doing. Our job is to make heros not to harangue you – this isn’t Dragons Den!
10. Tell others – Being shortlisted also helps you to raise awareness internally within your own organisation. Also, external recognition is always good for building internal credibility, so let the world know!
And finally the Don't's, here are 4 things to avoid
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel - Don’t make up your own rules about your submission, it may make perfect sense to you but if you don’t follow the competition rules you probably won’t get the recognition you deserve!
2. Don’t add irrelevant detail – That includes obvious sales pitches about your product or organisation.
3. Don’t make silly mistakes – Spell checker is available to everyone for free, so use it.
4. Don’t think negatively – Take an honest look at the project you’re most proud of, chose your category and give it a go!
Now is the time to be proud and to shout about what you have done. Be clear about your unique strengths and why you deserve to win, and go for it!
Don't just take my word for it - here are some hints and tips from fellow judges!
Tony Frascina, Chair of Judges of the ELearning awards 'A rigorous approach stands out a mile - know your design onions and demonstrate your understanding about the psychology of learning. Don't forget that simplicity can be great - we'd rather see learning effectiveness than learning gimmics!'
- The elearning awards are now open - you need to register your interest by 30th June.
Debbie Carter, Head of Research at Training Journal 'Entering awards is a great way of taking time out to reflect on your best work and then to benchmark it externally with others. If I was to offer any advice to those entering the TJ Awards 2012 it would be to tell a compelling story while ensuring you answer all the questions that make up the application form. Make sure someone outside your department reads it before submission as it’s easy to write something that makes perfect sense to you but might not be so clear to someone outside your organisation.'
- You can find out more about entering the TJ awards here and don’t forget the closing date is Monday 16th July
Alan Bellinger, Judge at LPI Awards 'Really focus on the question ''why this year?" - a strong case is a real differentiator. Also remember that your initial objective is to get on the short list, so focus on that first. Any copy you write that does not help you achieve this is a waste of your time (and the judges time as well).'
- Find out about the Learning Performance Institute's awards here.