Getting an award, whether locally, regionally or nationally, is a great boost for your business. Sometimes you are nominated by other people, but often companies can simply enter themselves. This means that the written application is a document that you really need to get right.

One of the most successful award winners I’ve met put the secret into a simple formula for success “Just answer the questions!” This may seem obvious, but, having helped a few people with their award presentations it’s surprising how many people ramble way off the topic of the question when writing the responses to the qualifying questions.

This is not a time to go ‘political’ and answer the question you’d like to have been asked, you really need to focus on what the judges are looking for. If they don’t see it in your responses, you won’t even make the short list.

The easy way to retain focus is to start with a list. Look at the question and write a list of all the things that relate to the question. When you’ve included everything you can think of organise the list into a logical order. This might be chronological or it might be in order of achievement or link things together that are related in some way.

Now you have a structure start with an introductory statement, write around each group of subheadings and then finish with a closing statement.

Don’t be afraid to use subheadings or bullet points as they both help the judges to get your message easily. When you’ve finished, put it aside for a day or two and then go back and read it objectively. Does it ramble? Is it easy to understand? Is it focused and full of relevant information? Are there words, sentences, even paragraphs that could be cut out or cut down? Be ruthless!

If you use this approach to every question you’ll be much more focused and your application will be sharp and polished. The judges will get the information they want without having to make a lot of effort – and you have a fighting chance of getting through to the next stage.
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