Your Guide to Successful Award Submissions

In the special events industry, we are blessed with a number of impactful award opportunities — from NACE One to BizBash to Catersource ACE awards, there is a spot for every industry professional to shine. But, submitting yourself or your brand for an award isn’t as simple as tossing your name in a hat. Many of them involve robust submission processes that require an investment of time, energy, and—oftentimes—money.

If you’re going through the effort to submit for an award, of course you’ll want to maximize your chances at winning! Follow these best practices to curate a great submission that will put you on the top of the heap.

Know your why.

What do you hope to get out of an award? After all, you are investing a lot of time—and, in some cases, money—into your submission. You need to be certain that the potential gain is worth the effort. Are you looking to build your reputation in the B2B space? Are you seeking more social proof to gain an advantage in a competitive market? Get clear on your definition of success so you can determine which awards to prioritize and which can be passed over.

Be the first to know.

Once you’ve narrowed down the awards you want to go after, you’ll need to position yourself to find out about the call for submissions right way. If you find out weeks later, you’re already behind the curve. Start by subscribing to their email list and following them on social media. You may also find historical information in their archives — what time of year has their call for submissions typically been announced in the past? Mark your calendar to keep an eye out around that time and start preparing your schedule to build in time for the submission.

Use a proactive approach.

Having talked to a number of people on the other side of award submissions, there’s a common thread I hear: People always wait until the last minute. If you’re waiting until the final hours to submit, you’re going to feel rushed and miss the mark. Or worse, the portal goes down in the last few hours because everyone who waited is trying to submit in time. Do yourself a favor and start early!

This is especially vital if you need others to participate in your submission, like gathering third-party testimonials or collecting images from the photographer. Other industry professionals are not obligated to your timeline, so you need to give them ample time. If there’s an award coming up that you know you’ll need reviews for, go ahead and ask for them before the call for submissions is even live! There’s no such thing as too early when requesting support from others.

Tell a story.

Award submissions are always about the theme, which means you need to tell your story to align with the expectations. As storytelling goes, every story has a beginning, middle, and an end — this goes for weddings, corporate events, association memberships, speaking experience, business development, tech advancements, you name it. Every award submission has a story if you know where to look and how to tell it.

Bolster it with facts and figures.

Statistics are sexy, and award judges love data. Yes, storytelling is vital to your submission — but facts and figures are what make it believable and compelling. If you’re submitting for a speaker award, note how many times you’ve spoke, how many people attended, the average of your reviews, and so on. If you’re submitting a wedding, speak to the guest count, how you stretched the budget, and your client’s testimonials. The facts and data are there, so pick out the stats that are impressive and add to your story.

Don’t be afraid to reuse content.

You’ve done the work once, and there’s no reason to recreate the wheel if you’re submitting the same event or concept. In fact, reusing content allows you to do more with your time and potentially submit additional awards with minimal effort. Be mindful, though, that most awards will ask for a brief synopsis to be used publicly if you’re a finalist. This section should be written fresh for each submission so you’re not tossing out a copy-and-paste job to the public.

Follow the rules.

No two award submissions are alike, so don’t think of it as a “rinse and repeat” situation. Ignoring the guidelines is a quick way to get disqualified, so you must follow the rules to a T. Read and reread the award’s requirements to ensure you know exactly what you need. It can help to have a team member or trusted colleague review your finalized submission alongside the guidelines to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Two sets of eyes are better than one!

Outsource as needed.

Unless you are an incredibly strong writer, consider hiring a professional writer to craft your submission for you. Even if you do enjoy writing, you may find that an outside writer brings a unique perspective to the mix that adds to your story. If you’re DIYing the writing, it still helps to have someone come in and read it afterwards to check for flow, tone, and grammar. We also love using Grammarly for a final scan.

Promote your successes.

Just like other forms of press, awards only live as long as you allow them to. Think about how you will get the word about your big wins. You may add them to the About page on your website, or perhaps you create a page just for showcasing awards and notable press. When you are officially “award-winning,” put that everywhere – from your Instagram profile to your LinkedIn bio. Then, promote it through your usual channels: social media posts, Stories, email blasts, association news, and so on. Make it known!

While submitting to an award is exciting, understand that you won’t win them all. That’s just not how it works (trust me!). Take each “no” as a learning lesson and keep up the momentum, improving your chances as you grow with each submission. The thrill of a win is worth all the no’s it took to get there, so take each one in stride.

Awards are a wonderful, effective way to boost your reputation and attract more qualified leads, but as with most things, you need a strategy to see the results. Commit to it and you’ll find the process become easier as you craft stronger submissions every time.

Meghan Ely

Regarded as one of the leading wedding publicists in the US, Meghan Ely combines in-the-trenches event experience with a love of wedding PR. She has earned coverage for her clients with the New York Times, People, Brides, Bridal Guide, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, CNN Money, and more. She is a WeddingPro Expert and long-time contributor to Catersource.com and SpecialEvents.com.