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Sep 7, 2021

How to create the perfect categories and entry forms for your awards

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You might have a clear concept of what your awards competition is all about, but it’s the entry categories and forms that define it. Coming up with the right entry categories and forms requires some serious planning and in this post we’re giving you the best tips on how to do it.

Start with some research

You want to welcome as many participants as possible, which comes with identifying and doing some research on your target audience, then providing the categories they’d be interested in winning and being recognized as the best in. If you already have a community of existing or potential entrants in your awards, you can do a survey to find out their preferences. If you don’t, research what awards categories your target audience usually apply for on their websites - everybody loves boasting with their recognitions, so it won’t be hard to find such info. The other research we would highly advise you to do is competitive research. Your competitors are the perfect source of fresh ideas for new categories. Even if you don't have direct competitors, you can research secondary competitors or even awards that are only related to your industry. Last but not least, follow the trends in your industry and incorporate them into your categories. That way, you’ll not only have exciting new categories but will prove you’re an authority in the industry.

In an ideal world, you want to have as many options as possible, so that everyone can participate. At the same time you don’t want to add too many categories that might throw off potential participants.

How to structure your categories

Let’s say you want to incite corporate venues to participate in your awards. This means you can have different categories for the various types of venues. Then there’s the fact different venues cater to different events, activities, audiences. Congress and convention centers are usually extremely large, while conference ones may be smaller, so you’ll probably want to consider venue sizes as well.

Breaking up the venue categories guarantees you higher interest and more entries for the awards. To continue with the example, you can have different categories depending on venue type, like so:

  • Conference centers
  • Congress and convention centers
  • Hotels with meeting facilities:
  • City hotels
  • Resort hotels
  • Airport hotels
  • Special venues
  • Cultural (museums, universities, galleries)
  • Recreational (country clubs, restaurants, parks, zoos, botanic gardens)
  • Unconventional venues

Next, if you want additional categories, you can break each type of venue into more categories for size:

  • Conference centersLarge / Medium / Small
  • Congress and convention centersLarge / Medium / Small
  • Hotels with meeting facilities:
  • City hotels - Large / Medium /Small
  • Resort hotels - Large / Medium / Small
  • Airport hotels - Large / Medium / Small
  • Special venues:
  • Cultural (museums, universities, galleries) - Large / Medium / Small
  • Recreational (country clubs, restaurants, parks, zoos, botanic gardens) - Large / Medium / Small
  • Unconventional venuesLarge / Medium / Small

You can further break down these into even more categories based on venue purpose like sports, concerts, restaurants, etc.

This simple example shows how you can approach your categories to provide many possibilities for participation. At the same time there’s a clear distinction between them, therefore there’s value in winning.

Names and descriptions

Unlike the name of your awards, the category names don’t have to be unique. In fact, better keep them simple so people can…

  1. Easily identify the category/ies they should enter
  2. Clearly see the value of winning an award in the category/ies

There should be a simple and crystal clear description for each entry category. In addition, you might want to put info on who is eligible to participate and/or any requirements for participation. For example, if you’re giving out an award for Best Cultural Venue, you need to explain what qualifies as a cultural venue, at least as far as your competition is concerned. Here’s a great example from the biggest global event industry awards Eventex Awards – a description for their New Event Technology category:

“A category devoted to the rising stars in the industry! Any new event tech, app or gadget, or new feature in an existing product that was developed in the last 3 years, is suitable for this category. Here’s your chance to be recognized and show off in front of the whole event world!”

It’s also a good idea to include the judging criteria, or at least some information on how entries are going to be evaluated, within the category’s description. That way participants would know exactly what the judges will be looking for in an entry and increase the overall quality of the submissions.

Make it simple for applicants to register

Evalato provides you with the tools to structure your categories just the way you want them. No matter how big or complicated your awards are, Evalato will help you arrange your categories in a neat and easy way.With Evalato you can create groups and subgroups (up to 2 levels inside a main group) to put the categories in. Groups and categories can be arranged with a simple drag-and-drop. Here’s an example with Eventex Awards registration form where they use two levels inside a main group of categories to make it all sleek and organized:

The fine art of creating your entry forms

With the categories all set, you’ll need to decide what information would each participant be required to enter as part of their application. Most of it, if not all, should be based on the criteria that judges will be using to distinguish the poor from the average and the exceptional entries. That’s where the entry forms come in – they’re filled out by entrants and allow you to collect everything you need.

Consider what would the judges need to make an accurate assessment of the entries. Try to ask the right questions. Maybe require visual data like pictures and/or videos to supplement the entries. Also, be very clear on the requirements and specifications, if any – for example, list the accepted file formats that you’ll be accepting, or indicate the maximum number of characters for a text field. Avoid using too many fields – in most cases the simpler the form, the better.

A simple example

To continue with the example used when creating the award categories, we’re evaluating venues, so here’s some ideas that fit the theme:

  • Allow entrants to provide a short history of the venue.
  • Require some visual information on the venue like photos, a 360-video, or short presentation.
  • Ask for the unique selling points of the venue.
  • Ask for any additional features like technological equipment, flexibility (modular space), security, accessibility, sustainable design, etc.

Useful options Evalato brings to the table

In any case, make sure you are using a solution that has a robust entry form builder. Anything less would just be considered old school today and frankly that’s not something you want for your program. Evalato offers the whole shebang along with a number of super useful extra features you can utilize.

Text fields with character limit – not just text fields, they’re obviously needed so people can provide any necessary information related to their application. The ability to limit the number of symbols allowed within a text field is important, if you have requirements about the length of the text or simply wish to avoid judges from having to read what is usually referred to as a “wall of text”.

Image, gallery placeholders – allow people to add images as part of their applications. While such visuals make an application more appealing, they can drastically complement the text and help make things more understandable when necessary.

Embeddable videos, images, etc – how about a place where applicants can simply drop a link to a web page, a video on YouTube or Vimeo, an image, or even a Google Maps location and it gets automatically embedded directly into the application? It’s not only super convenient, but also considerably faster than having to upload large files.

Questions – for when you want to ask questions and let people choose one or select multiple answers. You can even create a whole survey then analyse the data and export if for external use.

Limit data access – maybe some of the information you collect via the entry form is not for everyone to be able to access. Evalato even has you covered there as well by allowing you to separate which information can only be seen by you (the program administrator), by award judges, and the public of course.

Application thumbnails – a thumbnail option is great if you want to have an image next to the name of every application on the lists. That’s usually the case where public voting is involved, it also makes it easier for the applications to stand out.

File uploads – of course you’ll want to provide an option for file uploads as well, that’s most useful whenever the embed option just isn’t suitable. You probably don’t want embedded .zip files for example.

Ready to create the perfect categories and forms for your next awards program and skyrocket your numbers? It all starts with Evalato - learn how it can streamline everything for you - sign up for free and test it.

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