I’m not talking about the fact that Xmas is rapidly approaching or the impending parties that inevitably await. No, I am talking about there being an awards function just about every week from September to November and the dilemma we all face: to enter or not to enter. Having launched, run, sponsored and entered numerous awards over a number of years, I feel somewhat qualified to make some observations.
Be aware of what you enter – becoming the Ekatahuna Tiddlywinks champion is unlikely to progress your business in the same way as taking out a Product Innovation category in a national technology industry award. There is a rapidly growing view that there are too many awards, yet, when you analyse it, there are very few specific awards for technology companies. Even less are focused on what the technology is as opposed to how it is used. Depending on where your company is in its growth cycle, your options can be limited even further. Make sure that what you choose to enter is appropriate to your company or product’s stage of development, that you fit all of the criteria and would make a credible winner.
The obvious reason for entering is to gain some positive PR exposure. Awards that give exposure to finalists and do things like allowing you to use an “entrant” or “finalist” logo and have some form of media sponsorship are likely to be a better bet. You also want to check out the coverage winners have received in previous years and how the overall awards programme engages with the media.
Getting your product and company in front of a quality judging panel can also be worth the effort in itself. Not just for the feedback they may give you but also for the future leads that can be generated. Judges generally aren’t totally altruistic in freely giving up their time to adjudicate these things and having the opportunity to gain insight into up and coming companies or products – even if they can’t act on it – is inherently valuable.
Recruitment is another big factor. You look at companies like Endace, Tait and Rakon for whom the local market hardly features in their sales. The value for them in entering for an award is not so much gaining sales but gaining staff and potentially, investors. It is also a hugely beneficial team building exercise for all your staff to be able to share the experience of entering for an award. Getting to the finals, going to the event and hopefully, being able to get up on stage and hold a trophy is a very cost-effective way of boosting everyone’s morale. Keeping the trophy on view also keeps the good feeling going.
Entering these things has to be viewed as an investment. You do need to read through the entry requirements carefully and make sure that you are not going to have to write the equivalent of War and Peace to complete your entry. It can be worth getting a professional in to write it. Often they can see the value and benefits of what you do more clearly than you can – but it also gives you the opportunity of using the text in other applications such as on your website and in other promotional material.
If you get to pitch to a panel of judges – view this as a valuable opportunity to hone your pitch and to get to respond to some probing questions about your products and how you operate.
If you have made an investment in entering for goodness sake go to the event itself. There are very few occasions these days where you get the industry assembled together – a national awards night is probably the best opportunity you’ve got of catching up with your peers and making some new connections. These are generally excellent networking opportunities and it pays to be cheeky and sit at a table that is going to give you some valuable contacts. If nothing else, you can take a closer look at the opposition and plot your revenge for next year.
If you are a finalist, don’t blow the opportunity. Have your acceptance speech prepared as there is no dress rehearsal. You need to stand up there – cover all the bases and do it in a short, memorable and entertaining way. For the time you are on stage, you are the company so you need to act the part and don’t waste the moment.
My final piece of advice is to steal Nike’s line and say, “Just do it”. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Start writing the entry the minute you think about entering. Get it in ahead of time and be proud of what you have submitted. Half-hearted, last minute, cobbled together entries seldom make the cut. Back yourself and get that entry in.
Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org