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Judges are people, too.

When you submit an entry for an awards program, your submission most likely is evaluated by a handful of judges.

That is, if it’s an awards program worth its salt.

Those programs that email you out of the blue, informing you that you’ve won: well, it’s obvious, we know that those programs don’t really have judges. Those companies simply want to take your money.

Let’s have a look at how judges are selected and involved in some of the better, more rigorous awards programs.

Selection process and criteria

Judging an awards program might be considered thankless.

This is because judges aren’t paid to judge—and this is a good thing.

This keeps things fairer and more honest, as third-party feedback from volunteers not paid by the awards organization increases the value of the award.

Usually, an awards organization invites industry experts and leaders to apply to become a judge.

(That’s right: people have to apply and not everyone is selected.)

Larger awards programs, such as The Stevies, have online application processes and portals just for judges.

Below is a rather straightforward application to judge one of the awards produced by Business Intelligence Group, an awards program producer for several industries:

Filling out a simple embedded form, of course, does not mean that you will be automatically selected. There may be additional interviews and such.

What’s in it for a judge, especially if you aren’t paid?

Judges can add this to their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, use this in social media posts, and the like. Later on, after the program is over, judges can network with other judges and even with companies who have entered.

Oftentimes, simply getting approved to judge is itself a mark of achievement—which many use to their professional advantage.

Do you have an awards strategy?

Have you applied for awards before? Did you win? We’d love to hear how you used it in your marketing strategy to increase sales or customer engagement.

The workload

Judging an awards program does require a significant amount of time out of a busy professional’s schedule.

Awards organizations claim that judges must spend time not only ranking and scoring entries but also providing valuable feedback.

Indeed, this professional feedback can be useful way after the awards program is over—a takeaway, if you will. Sort of light consulting.

Thanks to web-based apps, judging is all online. The American Business Awards (“The Stevies”) has a special portal through which judges can access, evaluate, and score entries.

The Stevies does force the judge to leave written feedback if the score is below a certain level. The applicant receives this  feedback in some way, shape, or form.

I served as a judge for The Stevies for several years. In full disclosure, some of my feedback was, um, harsh. Blame the anonymity of the Internet, or the fact that I had to score/evaluate 50 entries in one week (which, by the way, was a lower number than what other judges had to score).

Advice for applicants

K.I.S.S.: get right to the point.

With dozens of submissions, the judge doesn’t have time to dig through all of the grandstanding to get to your company’s true accomplishments.

Write with the judges in mind. Put it in bullet form and bold/highlight the main points. Follow this with deeper explanation and descriptions.

And as with college applications, no one has time to watch that 20 minute video or review that 40-slide PowerPoint deck.

Over time, you’ll get better at submissions, as you win (or lose) and incorporate the advice from judges.

Have you served as a judge of an awards program?

Was it worth your time? (Or not really?) We’d love to hear what it was like.

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