You learn a lot by judging.
Strange things can happen once you have been asked to judge something.
As a learning opportunity it cannot be matched.
Today I spotted the tweet looking for judges for the SME awards run by Damien Mulley. From previous experience I know I am writing off at least a days work, which in the land of self-employment means no revenue for that time.
Want to help us find the best SMEs in Ireland? We need LOTS of judges. Nominees can’t judge, sorry. https://t.co/Aw08EvMpSA
— Irish Blog Awards (@IrishBlogAwards) February 23, 2015
Before you jump right into it or press delete think about some of the reasons why you would make the investment.
In general judges are asked to review a large short list and some follow up rounds. In reviewing you are given criteria guidance and the best awards have pretty frictionless online recording systems (drop down boxes 1-10 type). Of course you need to review each site – check out the content, gauge the interaction, evaluate the look and feel, measure the consistency amongst other criteria. All of this takes time, patience, a good deal of attention to detail and can be pretty tiring work.
Why would you put yourself through it?
Personally I have found that I benefit a lot from the being forced to broaden my reading horizon and expand out of my comfort zone. We are creature of comfort and lots of really good content just never reaches me despite being on social and search quite a bit. The range of writing styles is also fascinating and I always pick up some nice tips from the observation. Look and feel of websites change extremely quickly partially as technology changes (think mobile and swiping) and the ease of changing themes in wordpress. Being exposed to a wide variety in a condensed period really sparks off ideas.
View the world differently
We process so much content on a daily basis that we rarely evaluate or critique it properly. In the world of 140 characters we might follow a link to long form content but speed-read and jump off elsewhere, never to return.
When you are judging a site or service you see things that can otherwise be invisible and you also notice things that should be there. The process really sharpens up your ability to critique something and to truly consume it – a handy skill outside of awards.
Feeling good about yourself.
Awards take a huge amount of organisation and commitment to pull off well. Most awards start off with an admirable ethos to inform, educate, acknowledge (great work) and connect (award ceremony itself). They also offer an opportunity to generate large sums of money, which can rapidly become the main rationale for organising them and really sour the ethos. When organisers strike a balance between the commercial and educational basis they can really create something that genuinely enhances the community. It does feel good to be involved with something that rewards great work, raises the standard and acts as a beacon and roadmap for future work.
We all have a ego.
Being able to say you were a judge of an awards ceremony does offer some blagging rights and also confers a reasonable amount of perceived expertise/wisdom. Nothing wrong this once you use in moderation. Its easy enough to subtly drop in some observations on web design, content marketing etc into client conversations that you picked up as a judge. In a world of vanilla sometimes small differentiations can help. Some award organisers will promote your role as a judge which helps spread the word (link also helps).
Its good to be involved.
One of the things I have picked up from attending numerous awards ceremonies, networking meetings and conferences is that those who just pay the ticket price and show up on the day get much less from the experience from those that plan their attendance. Judging naturally forces this upon you but it means that when you arrive you have a list of those whom you have good reason to meet and some really good conversation starters.
The decision to gift your time as a judge should not be made lightly – don’t do it if you cannot do it right – and don’t expect immediate commercial return. However if you enter with the right spirit you can learn a lot in very short period and create some genuine goodwill by helping to improve the business environment. Karma and Serendipity are alive and well.
To date I have helped judge the Irish Internet Association Net Visionary Awards, the Blog Awards, Blog Awards Ireland and helped with numerous others from PRCA awards to the Repak Recycling Awards. Today I signed up for the SME Awards and the Online Marketing in Galway awards. Interestingly the OMiG award detail ‘What’s in it for you?’.