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Do you know how to be award-winning? John Patch

Doing a great job is not enough to ensure it is award-winning, you need to ensure you present it in an award-winning way too

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John Patch is technical consultant to the Association of Specialist Underpinning Contractors

Earlier this year I was the archetypal “poacher-turned-gamekeeper” when I was invited to be a judge at both the 2017 Ground Engineering Awards and the NCE100 Awards.

For the last 30 years, as a director of Roger Bullivant with responsibilities for marketing, it was my job to manage and prepare submissions for entries for all manner of awards. This, we did, with military precision, award-winning words, and truly fantastic products, projects and processes…or so we thought!

And what was amazing was that we actually won a significant number but, on balance, could probably have won a whole lot more.

Having jumped the fence, this particular “poacher” became acutely aware of what good award submissions look like.

The keystone of any good award entry is actually having a project, process or product that is world-beating; however it does have to be said that those that are not quite world-beating but which are sold well and appear to be highly regarded stand a chance of winning as well.

So, here’s some basic gamekeepers’ advice…ignore it at your peril.

The submission

This should succinctly and clearly define the project, innovation, or other qualifying criteria to enable judges to immediately identify the proposers’ item for award.

It should define the nature of the item and why it should be shortlisted. It could be a project, process or product; ensure that it is clearly defined.

Using most, but not all, of the word allowance the detail should be written in easy to read format, ie bullet points or numerated points. Cost and price, and other financial information, is crucial and should appear early in the submission.

Under no circumstances exceed the word allocation; if you haven’t got your point across – rewrite it using simpler language (bullet points help reduce word-count).

Ensure that the unique selling points (USPs) are adequately identified. Make sure that they are easily understood and justified. Categorise them to feature the most important and award-winning points first.

Make it exciting!

Make it sizzle!

Technical information is crucial but it should be remembered that some of the judges may need certain technical issues explained.

The most important thing to remember is that the submission will get you shortlisted; it won’t win.

The presentation

Judges will have read the text and will know what your submission is all about. Therefore do not repeat what is in the submission, but do re-emphasise salient points.

What they want to appreciate from presenters is the detail on why it should win.

Consider carefully who should go to the presentation to the judges. This is a show, not a lecture. Presenters need to be professional and comfortable in this arena. Searching questions will be asked; but so will simple ones, so be prepared!

Involve the customer (or the customers’ representative) – this can be very powerful particularly if safety has been enhanced, time has been saved or costs have been reduced. Positive customer endorsement works well.

Be clear on your USPs. What are the unique elements of your particular project, product or innovation and what effect does it have on the industry. By all means detail what the benefits are to your company or organisation but judges will want to know what benefit it will be to the construction industry at large. How many lives will be saved; how many accidents will be eliminated; how many hours, days, weeks will be saved on the job duration; how much money will be saved. Ensure claims are accurately justified. Be prepared for additional scrutiny on this issue.

Ensure the innovation is clearly presented. What innovation methods, systems or processes have been employed to make your submission a cut above the rest. Is this the first time this innovation has been used? Is it a development of an existing process? How does it justify its badge as an innovation? Is it cost-effective? How do you know and how is its cost-effectiveness measured against other processes?

What are the financial benefits? This is mentioned above but worth repeating. If significant savings have been the result then say so with adequate justification. Ensure that information is capable of standing up to review. Benefits categorised as savings on programme are justified but need to be real. How has time been saved?

Training and development initiatives could be a key differentiator. How many graduates and apprentices were employed? Has a training and development legacy emerged from your project, process or innovation? The development of young people is crucial to the UK’s construction industry and benefits associated with your submission will be well received.

What was learnt from this project, process or innovation? Expand upon the way the submission subject developed and who did it; team development is looked upon favourably.

What are the opportunities for knowledge transfer? Will your methodology be used elsewhere and what methods will be employed to transfer that knowledge? Are there any protected information issues? Copyright? Patent? What has been done to deal with these issues successfully?

What kind of legacy have you created? Will your method have lasting effects on the construction industry and, if so, what will the legacy be and can it be quantified?

Why should your submission win? Be bold; be truthful; be honest; be enthusiastic; demonstrate to the judges that this, and only this, is the winning entry!

  • John Patch is managing director of Team Patch


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