From a simple (though unfortunate) typo to boring the judges to sleep, businesses and their leaders are inadvertently thwarting their own chances of taking glory at business awards programs. Here’s a countdown of the most common things to avoid.
Speaking on an episode of the My Business Podcast timed to coincide with the launch of the My Business Awards 2019, senior events producer Bronwyn Cooksley revealed that the easiest mistakes to avoid in an awards submission are, sadly, the most common.
Of the thousands upon thousands of award entries that Ms Cooksley has overseen over her decade in the industry, some mistakes are surprisingly frequent.
Others can be somewhat more extreme. My Business has even heard separately of a judge admitted to nodding off while wading through an award entry, such was its boring nature.
Here is a countdown of six of the most common mistakes that Ms Cooksley said businesses and individuals are making within their award entries:
Mistake #6: Not making spellcheck your friend
It is pretty embarrassing to be nominating yourself and your business as a pillar of excellence, and incorrectly spelling your own title. But it wouldn’t be the first time.
Ms Cooksley recalled seeing one submission in which the applicant described themselves as a “manging director” — when, clearly, it should have been “managing director”.
It may be a little oversight, but it does work against an awards entry, she suggested — and not just if it appears within the application itself.
“Judges often go to check websites or LinkedIn profiles, doing a bit of research or getting some background information on a submission,” Ms Cooksley said.
“And to find typos in either your submission, your website or your LinkedIn profile is unprofessional. Really, this is the face you’re putting forward; it doesn’t go down very well.”
The same goes for writing in all capital letters, which, in these digital times, comes across as “yelling”.
“That’s a real no-no.”
Mistake #5: Inconsistencies
As previously mentioned, many judges will look beyond the actual submission to assess an awards applicant. And, Ms Cooksley said, a lack of consistency — particularly when it comes to job titles — can be less than favourable.
“If you’re calling yourself a ‘manging director’ or a managing director on your submission, make sure that’s also the same thing that’s on your LinkedIn profile,” she said.
“The fact that the LinkedIn profile is being looked at, someone’s wanting some more information. So, that only raises questions [if there are inconsistencies] as opposed to confirming authenticity.”
Mistake #4: Failing to stand out
Admittedly, this one is perhaps the most difficult to avoid. But when the aim of the game is to be crowned the winner, it is important to consider how your application can be made to stand out from the pack.
“The judges get a lot of submissions to read, [so] your submission has to stand out,” Ms Cooksley said.
“They want to be entertained by your submission [as well as informed].”
She added: “They will usually go through and do one set of scoring, and then come back and revisit it, because their scoring could very much change from when they started going through the submissions.
“So, if your submission is entertaining, and it’s got good, clear, succinct information, then it’s sure to stand out.”
Which brings us nicely to the next common thing to avoid ...
Mistake #3: The waffle (and not the tasty edible kind)
Judges have to analyse a large number of submissions, and not being succinct and to the point will hurt your chances, the event producer said.
“Be succinct. Be clear,” Ms Cooksley advised.
Bullet points can help to achieve this, she said, but be careful that using them doesn’t encroach on your ability to make your points personable.
Mistake #2: Ignoring the word count
Word counts are in place for a reason, and not adhering to them is almost guaranteed to see a nomination fail to get legs. There are two sides to this, Ms Cooksley explained: running over the word count, and not making the most of it.
“You need to take real advantage of the word count that you’re allowed and make sure that you use all of those words,” she explained.
That can include providing examples to demonstrate a point, adding weight to the information presented therein.
Running over the word count, though, can create its own set of problems.
“If you’re doing a draft on another piece of paper or a word document or something, and you cut and paste it into the portal where your submission is taken, if that word count ... is over, you might actually find that the final sentence is cut in the middle,” Ms Cooksley warned.
“It actually makes the final sentence absolutely irrelevant; it doesn’t make sense.”
Mistake #1: Not answering the question
Ms Cooksley agreed that the most common mistake is also the simplest: failing to directly answer each question.
“Look, it happens all the time,” she said.
“The judges are there to score each question, so the ultimate score is based upon the answers, obviously.”
One aspect of this is cutting and pasting the same answer into each question.
“Cutting and pasting the same answer, within either different categories or within the same category ... shows that you haven’t put enough work and time into it,” Ms Cooksley said.
But the other point comes down to relevance. She suggested that relevance is everything, and so if something is not relevant to the question, then it’s simply not worth mentioning.
“You might have lots of wonderful things that you can say about your business. However, if that’s not part of the question being asked, it’s not relevant.”
More insights from Ms Cooksley on creating that winning awards submission — as well as feedback from judges themselves — can be found on the My Business Podcast.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.