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How to Turn Your Next Event into an Award-Winner

Tips for creating an award-winning event

Editor’s note: Liese Gardner wrote the submission for AOO Events’ Best Fundraising or Nonprofit Event entry. They were announced a Gala winner for that category in Anaheim, Calif. in May 2022.

You know your event was good, even great. It has award-winner written all over it: gorgeous décor, a definite purpose, and innovations galore. Now it’s time to get the recognition you deserve; you are ready to enter the Gala or ACE Awards! But are you? Here are 14 things you will want to know.

Four things to know when writing the entry:

  1. Write to one person—the judge. Judges are looking at hundreds of entries. Like any of us reading a lot of material, they want to get to the bottom line fast. Why should this event win an award? What makes it unique? Put this information upfront.
  2. Start with the biggest challenge of the event and highlight it often. Challenges are the most significant reason events win awards, but they don’t always have to be epic. Look at the event with fresh eyes, and you will be amazed at the heroic daily efforts you have overcome!
  3. Remember, the judge could be tired of all this reading. Wake them up with a conversational tone and a question. Why a question? Because it activates the brain and engages it again in the entry.
  4. Take time to rewrite your information for the questions thoughtfully. I know this might feel repetitive, but sometimes the judge could miss things. Having essential information in several places throughout the entry ensures they will see it.

Five top secrets no one will tell you, except me!

As one of the team members who created the Gala Awards and judged them for a decade, as well as someone who has written many winning entries, here are some essential things to know.

  1. Being nominated is just as great as winning, really! So, make sure you promote it as much as you would a win.
  2. If you have the time and budget, build specific elements into your event for the awards. For instance, if you know the event is perfect for the new sustainability category, consider how to add details to the event to make it that much stronger. Again, a little forethought could make all the difference.
  3. The maximum word count is just a suggestion. Use just what you need to create a tighter, brighter entry.
  4. Write a rough draft of your award entry following the event so you don’t forget all the juicy details.
  5. Photos! So important. Be sure to hire an excellent photographer if you think you have a potential award winner.

Five reasons why being nominated for (and winning) awards matter:

  1. The excitement. After all that hard work, it’s nice to know that they love you. They really love you!
  2. Third-party testimonial. An award from a prestigious publication is a big plus for new clients and the media.
  3. Bragging rights. It’s a legit reason to brag on social media and to your family (who always wonder just a little about what you really do)!
  4. Team morale. Nothing feels better than being recognized for great work.
  5. Vendor love. Awards enable you to give back on many levels.

Good luck!

Gala & ACE Submissions Now Being Accepted Until Wed. Nov 30

It’s once again time to celebrate the best of the best! Nominations are now being accepted for the 2023 Special Events Gala and Catersource ACE Awards. We invite you to submit your best work from the past year. Join in the excitement and the spirit of our industry as we celebrate the hard work and exceptional accomplishments of our peers. Eligible events must have occurred between January 01, 2022 and November 30, 2022.

To submit an entry to this year’s Awards, please visit our awards portal.


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