Answer the Question
When I was in school and getting ready for my GCSEs my teachers seemed to have one phrase that they would say over and over again – “Make sure you answer the question being asked NOT the question you were hoping they’d ask!”
This is now a piece of sage advice that I find myself rolling out regularly as I speak to clients, prospects and attendees at the various talks I give across the year. As a former awards judge I can’t think how many times I’ve been reading an award entry only to find myself saying, “Hang on… what was the question again? This doesn’t answer it at all!”
Whilst I fully appreciate, believe me, the temptation to tell the judges everything you want them to know about you/your business/your product and/or service it really isn’t a good strategy. Judges are usually tasked with scoring answers to each question and if you’re response doesn’t answer each question asked you’re going to get a very low mark if any mark at all. With awards as competitive as they are you really can’t afford to drop marks at any point across your award entry so please, answer the question.
My quick tips on answering the question!
- Read the question and any guidance notes carefully underlining/highlighting any key points that you need to bear in mind when answering
- Make notes on your potential response to each question before drafting them out in full. Sometimes we’ll use the guidance notes as sub-headings ensuring the judges know that we’ve 100% answered the question! This can be a useful little trick to keep the writer on track too
- Re-read the question and any guidance notes, check back on your drafted answer and adjust if/as necessary
- Ensure you are within any word count given (if given)
- Review the whole document when completed ensuring it supports the category you’re entering and fully answers the category guidelines
- Be tough on yourself (the judges will be). If you’ve meandered off topic and given irrelevant information take it out! It will not serve you
- If you are offered the opportunity to submit supporting evidence again follow the guidelines given. This is, potentially, your place to share your full story and add into your entry all the bits and pieces that the actual award nomination form didn’t call for or allow. However, do follow the supporting evidence guidelines first and foremost. They are there for a reason!