Awards entries: top tips to impress the judges

Highland Marketing is sponsoring the #HealthTechToShoutAbout category of the Health Tech Awards 2019. And that got us thinking: what makes a good entry? Lyn Whitfield, who has sat on many judging panels, gives her top tips. 

If you have run a great tech project – one that has had a big impact on your organisation, your colleagues, and the people they serve – then naturally you want to see it given some recognition. And here’s the thing: awards judges want to give it some recognition as well.

As a journalist and editor, I helped to set up awards for the Health Service Journal and I’ve also sat on awards panels for many other publications and organisations. Having done that, I can safely say there is nothing more frustrating than looking at an entry and thinking: ‘this might be great, but I can’t quite work out what’s happened’; or ‘I can see what they did, but not what difference it made’.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for putting together an awards entry that will catch a judge’s attention and make them keen to find out more: 

One: pick the right awards, and the right category

The people who run awards are looking to recognise different things. A management magazine might want to recognise projects that make a difference at an organisational level, while a medical magazine will be looking for projects that make a difference to doctors, for example. So, it’s important to pick the right awards or, if you are entering multiple awards, to tailor your entries to meet the interests of their sponsors.

Similarly, most awards have multiple categories, and its worth looking through them to find the one that’s the best fit for your project. If you’ve built a new monitoring tool, but the safety impact isn’t through yet, see if there’s a category that will recognise the work you put in on the data, for instance. 

Two: tell the judges what you have done

The judges for a set of major awards will have dozens and dozens of entries to review to review and shortlist, so make sure they ‘get’ what your entry is about quickly and easily. Most entry forms have a summary or introductory section; don’t just copy your last slide into it – create a short, clear account of what your project has done, what difference it has made, and why it meets the winning criteria.

A good way of doing this is to imagine what you would say about your project to a friend or a former colleague if you bumped into them at a conference. You’d naturally focus on telling them what you’d been up to, and why that had been a great thing to be involved with.

Three: answer the question

Having said that, awards also have criteria that they want entries to meet, so make sure your entry shows that your project meets them. I sometimes say that writing a good awards entry is a bit like answering an exam. You need to read the paper and then do what it asks you to do.

Specifically, if an award asks for three reasons you should win or four documents that back up your submission, then list them out and put them in. If it asks for quantitative evidence of an improvement to patient safety, make sure that you provide quantitative evidence that your project has improved patient safety. If it asks for qualitative evidence of staff engagement, then find some fans and ask them for some quotes; or, if you can attach one, a short video endorsement.

If your project isn’t far enough along to have this kind of evidence, then think about whether it might be better suited to a category that doesn’t ask for it; the data example, above, or a reward for innovation or pilot work, perhaps.

Four: provide award hooks

Judges are not just looking to commend good work; they are looking to showcase projects that they think other organisations should adopt or emulate. That should be relatively easy if you have developed a new product or gone through a ‘first of type’ deployment.

It will be harder if you are the second, third or twenty third trust to do something because, eventually, running a smooth deployment and achieving the expected benefits becomes ‘the day job’. You’ll need to think of something that makes your work ‘award worthy’.

Perhaps you rejigged a module or tore up the old deployment methodology. Whatever it is, your entry needs to explain not just what you did, and what difference it made, but why the judges should regard it as ‘awardable’ on the night.

Five: sock it to them

I said earlier that judges may have an awful lot of entries to read, so make sure your entry is clear and engages their attention. While it’s necessary to ‘answer the question’ or address your criteria, your text shouldn’t read like the first draft of an academic article or your slide presentation.

Think of talking to that colleague at the conference; how would you engage them? If you had your laptop with you, what pictures or quotes would you pull up to bring things to life? Or, if your winning work was going to appear in the local paper or a health tech journal, what ‘story’ would you want the article to tell? Because it’s that story you want to tell the judges.  

Highland Marketing is sponsoring the #HealthTechToShoutAbout category of the Health Tech Awards 2019, run by the Health Tech Newspaper. The awards, which are now in their third year, have a wide range of categories to recognise many different aspects of good work in healthcare IT.

To find out more, visit the awards website. To find out more about Highland Marketing’s involvement and what our panel of independent advisory board judges will be looking for, read our press release. Entries close on 17 June 2019. Good luck!

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Lyn Whitfield

Content Director
Lyn is a journalist by background. After completing her training in local papers, she specialised in coverage of the public sector in England, the NHS, and healthcare IT. This has enabled her to follow closely the many twists and turns of recent health policy; and to report on them for specialist audiences. It has also given her an exceptional ability to advise clients on the reality of working with the NHS, and on communications that work for them. Lyn’s skills include strategic thinking, managing projects with a communications and publication element, editing, research, interviewing and writing.
A little about Lyn:
  • Lyn has an impressive educational record, with a first degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, and a Masters degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Before taking up her current post, her journalism employers included the Health Service Journal and (formerly EHealth Insider). Over her career, she has also worked with think-tanks, including the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, and major companies, such as Microsoft.
  • Lyn is a proud Yorkshire lass, but lives in Winchester with her partner, a political cartoonist with his own live-drawing business. Her ‘downtime’ activities include Pilates and running; she has completed a number of marathons.

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