ONE OF THE best parts of my job is watching the Gala Awards ceremony at The Special Event (see the winners on pages 22-36). It's wonderful to be in the audience as winners — the perennial pros and the newbies, the first-time entrants and the repeat nominees who finally get their trophy — come up on stage.
The tough part, though, is hearing from entrants who have done great work that doesn't net a Gala trophy. Their reactions range from sorrow to bewilderment to anger.
I don't pick Gala nominees or winners — our Advisory Board does — but I watch the judges go through the process. In turn, my company expects me to enter Special Events Magazine in various publishing contests.
Having been part of contests as both an entrant and an administrator, I look at them differently now. I've come to the conclusion that there are Four Cosmic Rules for contests:
The first rule is getting the basics right — pick your best work, follow all the directions, meet the deadline and so on. Even some very talented people don't do this. Second rule: Chat up the people who always seem to win and steal any of their secrets you can. The Special Event show makes this easy for you — each year, Gala Award winners teach a seminar on entering and winning the Gala Awards. I'm always surprised at how quick they are to give out tips on how they make their entries stand out in the crowd.
The third rule is: Accept contest karma. Sometimes everything goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. It doesn't feel fair or right, but it's what happens. But that leads us to rule four: Keep entering contests. As the saying goes, you've got to be in it to win it.
There's a big publishing contest I enter every year, virtually always getting nominated but never winning. Two years ago, after getting ready once again to put on my “good sport” face at the ceremony as other magazines gushed through their victory speeches, I was so surprised to hear “and the winner is Special Events Magazine!” that I completely forgot the oh-so-gracious acceptance speech I'd rehearsed.
Which brings us to last year, when I proudly entered an issue that I thought was far stronger than the prior winner we'd had … and … no win. As the emcee read another name as the winner, it was all I could do to stop myself from shouting, “What — are you sure?”
But I made myself that old promise: Wait till next year. I'm writing up those entries now — carefully — and crossing my fingers.
The 2005 Gala Award entry process begins June 1. I can't wait to see your work.