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Shocking Tale of Misadventure

I’m itching to tell you about a faux par… a wasted innovation… a shocking tale of misadventure, and what I learnt from it.

Last week I received a call from a client for whom we produce award submissions who said their 2017 city business awards had just launched and the business chamber had introduced a new online entry process. “They promise it’s going to be easier to enter and more professional than last year – they’ve even applied a maximum length to each answer” he declared.

Fabulous, I thought! Anything that makes it easier to complete awards is a great thing, and applying a word limit to each answer ensures a level playing field and therefore a more equitable, credible awards process. It sounded so promising.

We (Awards Absolute) have an online awards management system that we use and sell, and hence we’re also always keen to see which system others choose if not ours. So it was with anticipation that I clicked on the entry link for these awards… and was taken straight to SurveyMonkey.

Wow. I was amazed. Have these tricky devils found a minimal-cost way to run an online awards program? How exciting! What innovation!

It was only as I started to get into the process more deeply that my excitement faded, my frustration bubbled, and I began displaying behaviour that less-than-polite colleagues described as “nutso”. (How rude!)

Very briefly, here’s what I found:

* 15 questions, but no explanatory text that indicated the maximum allowable length of any response.

* One-line boxes that displayed no more than 12 to 15 typed words, but which allowed you to keep typing ad nauseam.

* A typical SurveyMonkey survey that records your IP address to ensure that once you click “submit” you cannot complete the survey again.

Why is this important? Because if you want to write the best submission possible then you have to know how much space you have to answer the criteria.

In this instance the only way to do this was to produce a “test” submission. So I put in mega amounts of faux text in response to each question, crossed my fingers and clicked “submit”. Only then did the system tell me that I had gone over the allowable limit and displayed the length limit for each answer.

Frustrating and a time waster? Yes, but I sighed in relief because imagine how much worse it would have been had my mega amounts of test text fallen within the allowable limit. Suddenly I would have been facing a situation where the system had accepted a fake awards submission and, gulp, I could not have produced a real one because SurveyMonkey did not want me taking the “survey” twice.

Here’s the crux: Top points to this Chamber for trying to find a solution that brought their awards into the 21st century. Sadly, they made a rookie mistake. There are times when the idiom “you get what you pay for” is accurate.

What they should have done is some homework and spoken to people like you. Then they most likely would have concluded that, as busy businesspeople, you want procedures that allow you to:

Work on your submission when it suits, allowing you to log in and out as you want 24/7.See upfront what length limits apply to each answer so you don’t waste precious time.See what you’re writing – and edit it easily.

Entering an award with an online portal? Here’s a final tip: Find out the length limits for each question, write the text on your computer and when you’re 100% happy with your answers copy and paste the final text into the online system. Be aware though – software counts characters and words in different ways, so your computer may tell you one total word count and the online system might say another. So it’s always best to give yourself a little “wiggle room”.

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