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Entering, Judging and Winning, a beginner's guide
In this week’s episode, I’m going to talk a bit about Awards.
I think the audio industry, radio and podcast, get a little bit deranged sometimes when it comes to awards, we go all out to enter, get heartbroken when we’re not nominated and whip ourselves up into a frenzy of excitement at the sight of a shortlist…
Last week saw the British Podcast Awards, under new owner Haymarket announce the nominations for this year’s awards. LinkedIn was full of jubilation and delight, Twitter was full of angst and misery.
Daft Doris, the publishers of The Smart 7 did enter the BPA’s and as is traditional, didn’t receive a nomination, something we’ve managed to do consistently now for three years.
But we’re not bitter, well, I’m not bitter, but I think Jamie East might be a little bitter.
Anyway, the thing that is difficult to remember when you’re clicking refresh on a web page and waiting for announcements to drop, is that a hell of a lot of people have entered and it’s actually quite hard to win one… Unless, you’re Jon Holmes, who has some kind of supernatural award gift, or maybe he’s just an insanely talented creator.
Becoming a Judge
So, I wanted to talk a bit about judging awards.
Over the years, I’ve judged Radio awards in Ireland and the UK, podcast awards, digital awards, social media awards, marketing awards, I’ve judged them all and entered most of them.
And each judging process is different, but there are some things that are universal and that might be worth bearing in mind, next time you’re inclined to enter an awards process.
All judges start out with hope in their hearts and the wish to do good, in this case, specifically, to give up their free time to help identify the best in their particular industry and be part of the process of rewarding greatness.
Generally, judges don’t get paid, you might get a free ticket to the event, but you might not want to go to the event after slogging through a million entries however…
Nowadays, most judging is done online, there are various sophisticated scoring systems, which allow you to play audio, read through the entry notes and add your scores in as you go.
I don’t put my scores in as I go, in fact, I remain stubbornly analogue in my scoring system.
I buy a brand new notebook, and I give each entry its own page, writing notes and thoughts as I listen to the content and then assigning rough scores across the various criteria as I go.
One of the things we need to talk about is the things that awards programmes set as criteria... It’s something that can really irritate you as a judge, but most awards will select about three or four different criteria and then divide the points between them…
So, for instance, the IMRO radio awards base the criteria on Presentation, Creativity and Value to the Listener…
That probably seems fair enough for an awards that primarily rewards presenters for their performance, but even within those three simple criteria, it can be difficult to asses what exactly we’re looking for…
How do I assign Value to the Listener? Is that a show or an entry that is full of facts and figures? Does it only reward entries that are heavily researched and full of information? What about fun? What about the fit of the show with the station’s brand and target audience?
It’s a delicate art, and you need to figure out how the entries have approached the category before you can score it.
So, the first entry you listen to becomes quite important, it sort of sets a tone, gives you a high or low watermark and a sense of what might lie ahead. But, it’s also the hardest one to mark, because there’s no context as yet… That’s why I pencil my scores and only finalise once I’ve listened to everything.
The Golden Days of Judging
Back in the old days, my summer used to involve me dragging a giant brown envelope, no, not stuffed with cash from hopeful entrants, but rather, full of CDR’s with entries… Now, it’s a virtual stack of MP3’s with pdf versions of the notes.
It’s not quite the same, there was a physicality to the old style CD entry, you could tell a lot by how the entrant had prepared the CD, did it have a custom cover? How were the notes presented? Were there notes?
Now, everything is more consistent, but that also removes an element which gives you a clue as a judge and helps to set a tone.
No two awards are the same, whether it’s podcast awards, radio awards, social media awards, there’s always something different, either in the set up, or the other judges…
That’s the thing, you work away diligently, scoring your entries, in my case, collating all of the notes and working out the sequence of scoring so that the best entries are the ones at the top of the pile, but all of that can go out the window when you actually get into the judging room.
Inside the Room / Zoom
That’s where things really shift – do I know the other judges? Do I like the other judges? Do they have an agenda?
It’s a delicate game of fencing as you try to work out if there’s a reason that Maureen is so keen on a particular entry, or why on earth Roderick can’t hear the genius in your favourite entry.
Nowadays, most of the judging rooms are judging zooms and you lose a little of the tension, which I sort of miss..
The most important thing to remember, is that behind each entry, there are real hopes and dreams, people who passionately believe this is their best work and that they desperately want to be recognised for it. So, I try to judge with a bit of compassion and kindness, even if something doesn’t quite land, there’s still effort and aspiration that went into it, so that should be worth a mark or two.
Go out there and Win!
Winning is a whole other topic I think, I’ve won enough over the years to become slightly more relaxed about it, but I’ll never forget the moment in 2006 when Spin 1038 won Station of the Year.
Hearing the announcement, I remember just going blank, can’t remember what people said to me, don’t really recall going on stage, just that feeling of stunned delight.
Station of the Year is one of those categories that you never really have any expectation of, so winning is genuinely a bolt of happy lightning…
So, with all of that said, here’s some hopefully useful advice for whatever awards you’re intending to enter next…
1) Read the rules of entry
2) Read them again – make sure you know the criteria, the duration, the requirements
3) Make sure the audio is pristine and matches what the notes say
4) Write really good notes, judges do read them and they help to set a tone
5) Get someone you trust to listen with a critical ear before you hit submit
This has been the 6th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam