ILEA Quick Tips for Event Planners: February 2018

Follow these steps when submitting an entry into industry awards programs.

Industry awards can be a great way to set your work apart from your competitors and to showcase the great work that you and your team are doing to tell the story for your business, your clients or your organization. Whether you’re submitting for a local award, like the ILEA Minnesota Star Awards, or an international award, like The Gala Awards, there are a few tried and true tips that will help improve your entry and increase the odds of taking home the prize.
Before submitting, plan for your entry before and during the actual event. Don’t wait until the event is over to think about submitting it for an award because you’ll wish that you’d taken photos of the event’s key elements. You’ll want to keep copies of items you might not have otherwise. This can take hours off of your application process. Similarly, don’t wait until the last minute to begin your entry. Take your time, write it out and then walk away. When you come back, read the entry over again and make adjustments as necessary.
Follow the rules. Read the rules. Then, read them again. And follow them explicitly. The fastest way to get disqualified or lose major points is by not following the rules. If you don’t understand a rule or need clarification, then ask. Most importantly, meet the deadline. If it’s due at 11:59 p.m., have it done and submitted by 11:58 p.m. at the absolute latest. They won’t take it at midnight. 
Compiling your entry materials. Don’t write your entry directly into the online submission program. Write it out in a word processing program that allows you to spell check, easily proofread and manage your word count. (Please note:  Word counts matter!) Word processing programs will also allow you to easily save your text, so you can submit your entry when you’re ready and finished. 
Pictures will make or break your entry. Photograph everything and, if possible, have it done by a professional. The photos can and will decide the fate of your entry. If you’re going to point to a certain event element in your application as being significant, have a photo of it for the judge to refer to. Similarly, don’t include photos of items you never talk about in the entry unless they are general room shots.
Include collateral pieces. Like photos, collateral pieces help to showcase your event and allow judges to see specifically how you implemented pieces of the event. Take the time to explain what the elements you’re including are and how they were integrated into the event. Don’t make the judge guess what they are and what purpose they played in the event.
In order to write a winning entry:

  1. Answer the question. This is the biggest mistake in entries. Be descriptive and clear, but, most of all, be concise. Don’t make the judge search for the answer. Moreover, don’t skirt the question. Remember, you know everything about your event, whereas they don’t know a thing about your event. Ask yourself: Can the judges get a feel for what was done and why by reading through the entry? 


  1. Be creative. But to a point. Entries are not a scrapbook and shouldn’t look like one. However, keep in mind that you’re selling the event to the judges, so write and design accordingly.


  1. Use headings, subheadings and lists. Allow a judge to easily scan the section and find the answer to the questions, especially if there are multiple questions/topics per section.  Do you need to list items or highlight certain items? Use bullet points. Make it as easy as possible for the judge to read your entry.


  1. List the budget. If your category calls for a budget, list everything. Don’t skip anything, including your management or design fee if there is one. The judges will likely notice if there are items in your photos that are not included in your budget. In most cases, all items must be listed at retail value, even if they were discounted or donated in-kind. Your budget should reflect what it would take to exactly replicate your event.


  1. Grammar and typos matter. While this doesn’t equate to your event being bad or any less worthy, it does speak to your professionalism and the time you put into the entry. A lot of grammatical errors and typos do affect your final score. Take the time to proofread it and get it right. If writing isn’t your thing, ask for help from someone who has that skillset. Sometimes you can get so involved with something that everything you write makes sense to you. The question is: Can someone else understand it? If someone who knows nothing about your event can follow your entry, then so will a judge.

Last of all, don’t be scared. It can be intimidating to enter. There are a lot of details to manage and it can be a little overwhelming to pull it all together. However, there are many ways to get help if you’re stuck or feeling a little confused. If there are opportunities to judge awards for other organizations or your chapter, volunteer to do so. It will give you insight into what works and what doesn’t. Many organizations also have award entry help sessions or volunteers who are willing to assist in the creation of your entry. If you know someone who has entered before—especially someone who has won—ask to look at a copy of a prior entry. And, no matter what, if you don’t win the first time, get some feedback and keep on trying. You will not win if you don’t try!

Jodi Collen, CSEP is the senior director of university events for Augsburg University, where she and her team plan and manage over 400 annual events and major university initiatives. Jodi is a former president of the ILEA Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter (2005-2006), served on the local Star Awards committee and International Esprit Awards committee and was a member on the ILEA International Board of Governors from 2008-2017, serving as International President in 2015-2016.

International Live Events Association (ILEA) is the new name for the International Special Events Society (ISES). ILEA represents and supports more than 5,000 members globally — industry professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact