A key factor for a startup is to be noticed. Being noticed is how not only will a potential investor see your business but customers will be made aware of your app, service or product. If you are not into Richard-Branson style stunt to grab the attention of the media, entering a competition is a great method to get publicity.
Competitions, especially those with big name-sponsors, need to make sure that their sponsors get their money’s worth by providing immense attention across TV, Radio, Print and of course Online. Being selected even as a finalist gets your name onto the same press-release which provides your business with exposure which is what your after.
Having been a judge on several of these competitions, I am horrified at the poor quality of the application. Not how bad the businesses are but how bad the applications are.
WTF Indiana Jones !?!
Some applications are so bad that WTF becomes a common phrase as judges deploy Indiana-Jones type of skills to decipher a Hieroglyphic Application – at times we were sure the applicant entered the wrong competition !\
so here are some insiders tips and some absolutely DO NOTs tip for entering competitions:
1. You are not a Serial Killer
Not sure why some people have a need to use so many fonts in one application ?
Bold, Underline, Italics used at specific spots are great, but the entire application looks like a ransom note from a serial killer! So unless you are auditioning for CSI, this is just a no-no.
2. NO CAPS
The only time CAPS are permitted is if you are a 10 year old boy WhatsApping your teenage sister to get out of the bathroom. Only then using ALL CAPS is allowed.
WRITING YOUR ENTIRE APPLICATION IN CAPS IS JUST RIDICULOUS
Seriously. Stop it.
Writing your application in CAPS does get the judged attention but for the wrong reasons and reflects poorly on your business and frankly questions your mental capacity too that you think this is fine.
3. Pictures Rule
If I say “it is strong, has a rope and can yank heavy objects” I could be referring to a winch on a 4×4 vehicle or Jack the Ripper.
Pictures paints a thousand word. I have been though entire applications for what I thought was a specific product but when I saw it, it was something else completely.
Unless you are well verses at descriptive poetry – add a friggin picture.
Competitions usually have a word-limit. Don’t waste words by describing something that a simple picture can just do for you. It is also welcomed by the judges who have been through hundreds of word-only applications.
4. You really should just say it and get to the point and not go on and on – like this heading
We know the business is your baby and since you were three you always wanted to run your own fire-engine-ice-cream-truck and that your mama told you that when you grow up you will blah blah blah blah.
Sorry I lost you.
We read so many applications and has many more to go so whilst this might be fascinating maybe you can tell us about it over a beer. Until then – get to the POINT.
At the start of the application you have one job and one job only – grab my attention. Tell me what you do, not the fluffy stuff. Make me want to read more and more and more
5. OMG its exciting !
You know your business inside and out. You eat, live and sleep it and so its unfathomable that someone else doesn’t understand it.
Well – we don’t.
Using phrase like “its so complicated, even my wife doesn’t understand it” wont win you any favours with the judges (or frankly with your wife either)
Explain, in an exciting way, WHAT your business does so its make an impression and it stands out.
6. Know the Judges
When you apply for a competition check if they have disclosed who the judges are. Not so you can bribe them ahead of time, but so that you can ascertain if all the judges are in the same industry or a mixture.
If all judged are Tech World, then you can use phrases that are common to that industry. However, if judged are across all industries, then you have to assume that judges don’t know anything about you, your business or even your industry.
To be safe, assume the judges reading your application have no cooking-clue about Denial of Service or what a DMZ is or what <insert some terminology only you know here>. If using acronyms is critical to your application, explain the term in a way anyone can understand.
I once sat in a presentation which was translated from Chinese to English and for the first 30 minutes they spoke about “keeping data in the Precipitation” which eventually I managed to decipher as meaning “Cloud”.
7. Doe the Support Document Support?
Sometimes you need to have additional documents to support your application. If you do add these documents, make sure they are readable.
I have had supporting documents that were clearly faxed and then scanned and then faxed again and by the time I got it, the font was illegible and fuzzy.
Open the document and see if it is readable before submitting it, if the pictures and diagrams are facing the right way and if all the pages are in chronological order. (yip had applications which had pages 3,4,1,5,2)
Supporting documents are there to support your case. If they are not adding any value, don’t use them as they just put an extra burden on the judging process. Don’t send your corporate marketing gumf unless it can help.
8. The second game-changing-world-first
You might think you have an incredible business, app, idea, concept but don’t use phrases like “never before” or “game changer” or “world first”
It becomes laughable when the previous three applications were virtually the same as your business which hardly makes your business a “world first”.
Phrases like these just puts your application on the back-foot before you even start.
There is nothing wrong with being confident – but claiming to be “the next Facebook” or “the next Uber” are some seriously big shoes to fill. You better deliver or the let down for the judges is so immense it will be reflected in your score too.
9. Select Wisely
Competitions that have categories are usually judged one category at a time where all entrants are grouped together and then we start.
If your application is in the wrong category, there are some seriously unhappy judges and your application is thrown to the bottom of the correct category.
If you are not sure which category your applications belongs in, ask the organisers. If they gave you the wrong information and you entered into the wrong category, they are surprisingly defensive over your application. This is good for you !
10. We don’t care
After hundreds of applications, here are some things are just don’t care about:
- The amount of sleepless nights you had – judging these applications we also haven’t slept
- How hard running a business is – boohoo
- Which of your mates agreed that its a good business – hope they buy lots from you
- Which celeb you snapped a selfie with at a New Years eve party back in 2004 – like farting in a lift, that is just wrong on so many levels.
So in summary:
Whatever you write in your application ask yourself a simple question: Does it help or hinder ?
If you read that bit of info about a random business, would that fact be interesting? would it help? or would it just be a time waster ?- if its the latter, leave it out.
Check your application to make sure it has a nice flow and makes it simple for someone to read it and say “wow that was impressive”. Its those applications that stand out and ultimately win. More importantly, those businesses who can articulate their product/ service in a memorable way are much more likely to succeed.
good luck !
*headline image from Shutterstock.com