Debate
An Award Worth Winning?
March 30, 2017
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How do you create an Award that organisations want to win?

In most Associations and Membership organisations there is an annual event each year that looks to celebrate the success and professionalism of their industry.

Most organisations will plump for an Awards process followed by an Awards Dinner, however getting a large number of entries for the awards is a common issue to most Associations.

The question you have to ask yourself, if you are in charge of the process, is why would anyone want to win the award? Now this may seem simple as we reel off the 3 usual reasons:

  • Reward your team/staff
  • Raise awareness of your success
  • Market your Organisation to your peers

I was reading an article last week on the events industry whereby a company was trying to show how it was unique and different, when one of the readers left a comment asking the question :

"I'm pleased that xxxxxxx were set up to be ethical, bold and creative. Did you hear about the agency that was set up to unethical, shy and boring? No, me neither". 

This is a great point and reminds us that what we may consider unique to our processes is actually common phrases that everyone uses. For example have you ever seen an award ceremony listed as anything other than fair and transparent? So if we all use the same language then how can we build confidence and trust in our events and in particular awards ceremonies?

Its important to remember that pre-conceptions exist around events and you have to ensure your messages and processes counter whatever concerns exist. In short there are 3 big pre-conceptions that exist around Business Awards:

  • The Award Winners are chosen even before the process starts
  • Its a boys club, whereby if you are not in the "inner circle" then you won't get shortlisted
  • The Transparent process consists of Panel Members who do not fairly judge the awards

Whether you like this or not, you have to try and ensure your processes counter this and address these concerns.

So what can you do?

Firstly accept these pre-conceptions exists, and also that the reason they exist is that there are plenty of Awards out there that are ran poorly and unfairly.

Secondly make real changes to your processes that allow you to clearly communicate how you have addressed these issues and what you will do to ensure that your awards are:

  1. Shortlisted and Awarded by a system that is clearly transparent and prevents the Judges from just selecting their mates
  2. Preventing sponsors from influencing the awards outcome
  3. Ensuring that every company or organisation that enters believes they have a genuine chance of winning

If you are using a Panel Method for judging the awards, firstly ensure your have equal representation from all the industries of size and scale on your panel, you can then implement a method known as "The Olympic Diving" scoring scheme:

The judges' scores are written in order on each sheet. The highest and lowest scores are eliminated and the remaining middle scores are then added together and then divided by the number of remaining panel members. This score is then used to form an average score.

This removes any panel members who may unduly highly or lowly score a particular award entry, but it's not enough to just implement a method such as this, you also then need to let your entrants know that you will be implementing this scheme into your scoring.

Partners and Sponsors

Whilst sponsors are a vital part of the financial success of most Awards, any sponsors who ask to have an influence on the Awards Winner or representation on a Panel should be rebuffed. Go back to thinking about the pre-conceptions that exist around Awards events and whether the perception is that you appear to be supporting these pre-conceptions.

Whether we agree with it or not, our attendees will make a judgement on the fairness of our events by what they see. If they see Sponsors involved in the judging process they will make their own decisions on whether you are truly fair and transparent.

Your sponsors, once they understand the methodology will most likely support a system which prevents their brand from being perceived with an unfair process, from their side they will want to promote their brand and organisation alongside such values. If your "Brand" for your event is seen as unfair and fixed, then sponsors will most likely not wished to be associated with a toxic brand.

Remove all outside influence - including you

A few months ago we met with an organisation that really liked what we had created with one of our internal events - The Greater Manchester Business Awards and approached us to take over their Annual Awards which they had to cancel the year prior due to poor number of entries.

We were aware of the Annual Awards, the issue was that the brand had become toxic and that entrants believed the companies winning the awards were based on an unfair criteria. 

Following a few planning meetings we agreed to scope out the project, but we had one stipulation, that the client would remove their team from the Awards Shortlisting and Winners system. We explained clearly why this was important and that the importance of creating an industry panel that was as free from outside influence was a priority that needed addressing.

Whilst the client agreed that the perception of the event was an issue, they still wanted to command a "Veto" on any entry to the shortlist in case it was an individual who had ever criticised their organisation in the past or an organisation was shortlisted that the Executive Board did not agree with.

At that point we declined the project on the basis that we could not get involved in a project where the process was not completely fair and transparent. 


For the Greater Manchester Business Awards - our internal event I mentioned earlier, the panel consists of Ten individuals who score and judge the eventual winners. Whilst the event is an "innov8" event, we hold no influence or vote on the shortlisted and eventual winners for the event.

How do we know this worked?

One of the companies shortlisted for an Award is a major event organiser within our area, you could easily say that they are competitor to ourselves. However they felt confident in entering themselves for the award and were indeed shortlisted on their merit and will be part of a shortlist that the Judges will shortly decide whether they deserve to win.


If you are organising an Award Event, ask yourself the question is your Award Worth Winning?

If it is awarded fairly, transparently and genuinely without outside influence (with you being able to demonstrate this) then you will find that getting entries to your awards becomes a lot easier.