I used to belong to the Institute of Management (now the Chartered Management Institute) and one of our branch meetings took place in a brewery. That may seem a stretch for a management group, but actually the brewery in question had recently won a business award and we were there to listen to their story about how they’d done that.
They had only been operating for a couple of years and it was impressive that they’d won an award, not for the beer, but for the business. I was intrigued as to what they thought the secret of their success was and asked one of the partners that question.
She replied, “I did what my teacher told me – I answered the questions that were asked.”
At first, that seemed obvious, until I realised that people often DON’T answer the question that was asked, but the one they would have liked to have been asked!
The brewery has gone on to become bigger, very successful and has now won many other awards for their beers (find out more at www.mightyoakbrewing.co.uk). It was at least 20 years ago that I visited – and yet that comment has stuck in my mind.
I’ve written many awards presentations for clients since then and edited rough drafts – and that comment is always front and centre in my mind. It’s surprising how easy it is to go off at a tangent, especially if it’s your baby you’re writing about. Of course, you want to tell the judges all the great things about your business – but, the narrative needs to be relevant to the question.
Judges like statistics rather than stories so the operating figures, staff increases, number of products and services must be provided, but the ethos and values of your business are just as important, so make sure that these are clear from everything you write.
Whether you are answering a question or providing a narrative (e.g. give a brief outline of the company history) keep reminding yourself of what the instruction was and ensure that every word counts.
TIP: Most awards forms have a maximum number of words, often for each question – don’t exceed this. My advice would be to write your answer in Word and then paste it into the online form.