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Sep 21, 2021

How to nail the evaluation phase of your awards

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A vital part of any awards program is naturally its evaluation phase - coming up with the right judging criteria and scoring system and inviting the right judges to do the job. Whether this is the first time you’re setting up an evaluation phase, or have some experience in the field, this post should come in handy with some useful tips and examples.

Why the evaluation phase is vital for the success of your awards

Awards have an element of competition that absolutely requires you to carefully consider the judging phase and set some clear criteria for evaluating entries. First because participants need to understand how their entries will be judged and second because it’s what judges will use to score the contestants. There’s also the fact that as the awards organizer it’s how you get to spare yourself a lot of potential trouble and complaints.Right off the bat, your main objective here remains ensuring unbiased judges, then you need to set criteria that ensures objective evaluation and make it easy for the jury panel to do their job. Which means you also need a clear concept and to clearly explain everything so the jury panel has a clear understanding of it in order to determine what is considered poor, average, exceptional.

Set clear criteria for your awards

Properly formulated judging criteria minimizes the unconscious biases your jury members might have and focuses their attention on the qualities of each participant, on the merits of each entry. A simple example would be Eventex Awards where the entries are rated based on 3 key sets of criteria – creativity & innovation; objectives, planning & execution; and effectiveness & results. Each set contributes respectively 40%, 20%, and 40% of the total score.

So make it clear what the judging criteria is to all participants and judges from the off. It could be a simple sentence even – “Essays must be in English, be original work not exceeding 1000 characters in length, and comply with the terms of the awards as provided on the site.”

Pick a scoring system

With the criteria set, you’ve one last thing to decide – the scale or scoring system that entries will be rated upon. One of the most popular scoring systems in competitions is the 10 point scale, which is also used in many sports. With it it’s very easy to find average scores and weigh up different entries.

Apart from rating the entries, consider whether you wish judges to have the option to leave comments and feedback for each entry. This increases the transparency of the awards, which generally speaking, is great for the credibility of the awards program – especially once the final results are announced.

👉 Pro Tip:The scoring system for your awards is extremely important. Go for a robust evaluation solution that offers complete flexibility, where you can customize every element of the judging phase – like setting the total scale, adding multiple criteria, adjusting how much each criterion contributes to that total score, etc.

Or choose a simpler voting type

Apart from score voting, there are three more voting types that you might consider for your competition.

  • Popularity voting – for “Top Picks” judging phases where one or more submissions are picked as the best from a list.
  • Simple review – for or against type of voting where the judges can go through the shortlisted submissions quickly.
  • Points voting – judging via a points distribution system, which can be limited per submission, category, and round.

Select the right judges

If you want to organize a competition that matters, you have to pick judges that are well known in the field, professionals with years of experience, so that their expertise matters among both the participants and the public. Judges from your industry are more likely to participate for their very own recognition, publicity and prestige benefits. There’s one last thing you need to consider for your judges panel - make sure there’s no conflict of interest. This is absolutely vital as it can ruin the credibility of your competition, and once you lose this, it’s an uphill battle to gain it back.Here are some tips on where to start your research for the most appropriate judges to join your awards.

Influencers 🗣️

“Influencers”“Individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position, or relationship.”Source:

Like them or not, it’s 2021 so you shouldn’t ignore the ‘influencers’ and any kind of so-called trendsetters. You probably want to look for people that fit your awards, of course. There are free online tools to help you find such individuals.

Keyhole provides a great tool for finding influencers on Twitter and Instagram.

Followerwonk for finding influencers on Twitter.

Buzzsumo for finding the most shared articles and authors online in a given field.

LinkedIn is also great for finding individuals and companies that specialize in the sector you are targeting. In the top search bar of LinkedIn you can research for:

  • individuals with the skill-set of your target field, be it event planning, tourism, marketing, etc;
  • public and private groups for specialists in the field;
  • companies that operate in that field.

With LinkedIn you can also use your searches to find close connections and individuals or companies in a given geographic area.

👉 Pro Tip: Not everything we read online is true, right? This applies to your judges panel as well. Make sure the judges you invite know the field well and are the right people to evaluate the awards entries. If they are, they would have written books, spoken at events in their field, and would have been featured in media publications.

Which leads us to...

Media 📺

There are plenty of magazines for every professional sector. You are always likely to find an editor or prominent journalist in a panel of judges. They are well informed and because their profession usually demands it, they tend to be impartial and objective – key qualities for a member of your jury panel.Editors of industry-specific publications are influencers in the field. Authors of more general publications who cover your industry are also very knowledgeable and influential. With the right pitch, they can see the value of participating as judges in your awards.Even if you, yourself, are part of the media guild, don’t be afraid to partner with other, even competing media.

Companies 🏢

How about companies from the sector? If you’re organizing a Destination Awards, for example, you can target event planning companies, hotel chains, big travel agencies, or even more recent disruptors like Airbnb and Uber.Find the names of the company directors or owners, they will have the most clout as judges inthe awards competition. The first point of contact can be the PR or marketing team – they understand the value of their company directors participating.Keep in mind you don’t want to contact the same companies you’ll be approaching for entry registration or sponsorship packages. Carefully consider which company you’re to contact and for what purpose. The same company can’t be a registered participant and have someone from their team on the jury panel.

Associations 🏘️

Every industry and sector has an association or governing body of some sort. Research and find the ones relevant to your awards, browse through the members, find people that would have the most influence as judges in your awards. Again, no need to rule out competing associations.For the example with the Destination Awards that would be the M.I.C.E. industry – Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions or Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events. Some of the associations in the M.I.C.E. industry are ILEA, ABPCO, MPI. There are a lot more, and each one has different goals and target members, while some cater to particular geographic regions.

Celebrity judges 🤩

Another option is to look for celebrity judges, but unless it’s for a charitable cause, they probably won’t jump at the chance to do it pro bono. Of course, it’s important to consider who’d make more sense to examine a thesis on “Black Holes and Dark Matter” – renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson or Taylor Swift?No matter where you decide to look for members of your jury panel, the judges should be held in high regard by your target audience.

Getting judges on board

Now that you have a list of potential judges, it’s time to get them to agree to become part of your awards. It helps if you understand all the potential benefits they stand to gain from this, so you can communicate it better. These can include their name and company:

  • on the awards competition website;
  • shared across your social media channels;
  • featured in press releases;
  • featured in media publications;

And that’s on top of the opportunity to further establish that person as a leader, influencer, prominent figure in the industry. You can also entice their participation with additional offerings of:

  • sponsorship packages;
  • product or service positioning;
  • interviews and media publications.

Streamline it all

Judging with Evalato is a sleek and smooth experience for your program judges. You can invite and assign categories to judges by simply inserting their emails and selecting the respective category. Then they can evaluate entries from any device, even on the go via smartphones! As the program admin, you have full access to the analytics including sales data, judging results, and voting, allowing you to coordinate with the program judges at all times. Hope this article has provided valuable insights and sparked new ideas on how to nail your judging phase. If you are curious to find out what Evalato can do for your awards competition and take all the tedious tasks off your shoulders, just sign up and test it.

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