By Janice Caluda
Multi-year Beacon Awards Judge and Vice President, Operations for the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association
I’ve been a finals Beacon judge forever – and I’ve always looked forward to doing it, but last year was the first time I judged the first round.
Although it’s tough for anyone in our lean and mean environment to find the time to volunteer, I actually found that when I declared myself “not here, not taking calls,” etc., I soon settled down in to the first round experience and felt really refreshed afterwards – it was a welcome change of pace. I enjoyed the intensity of judging – just me alone, looking at all the marvelous ways cable has benefited its communities, and as I am every year, I was inspired by my industry and my contemporaries. So if you want that same kind of high, you should do it! You can spare that long afternoon. It’ll just fly by, I promise!
Judging the first round and the second are different experiences. The finals judging is more formal, more structured, but more collegial, too. It’s a great place and space to catch up with and to meet some of the best minds in public affairs in our industry. I gained partners in public affairs from the judging process, while always coming away with great ideas. I learned that just because a project doesn’t have great resources doesn’t mean that great minds can’t get really creative and take it all the way. And there’s something about being in a room with six or seven like minded individuals who do similar jobs looking at the projects of people who have similar jobs that really gets you in touch with what you do and how important it is!
As a seasoned judge, I always try to approach each entry with an open mind, but it’s hard not to be influenced by what similar projects in the same category have done with very similar campaigns. The three-page summary is usually the first thing a judge sees, so first impressions count. Make that readable (meaning grammatically correct, spell checked, but also with attractive, easy to read typeface) and you’re halfway there. I do get annoyed if the summary is lacking in any of the above, so I suggest you find yourself a trusted editor/other pair of eyes and just let them red pencil it without taking it personally. I always listen when someone else says they don’t “get” something. If they don’t, a judge may not.
A winning entry LOOKS good – you’ve paid attention to detail. It has the backup that proves the project was successful or is well on its way to being so. If you’re in the video business and you don’t have video, I wonder how that has skipped your mind – unless it’s a print category, etc., of course. A winning entry has all of this, but especially, it has HEART. Move us with your entry. We need to know how much it meant to not just the people of Haiti, for instance, but to YOU as well.