Guest post by Joe Baz. Check him out at Above the Fold, and follow him on Twitter!
On November 18th, MITX held the 2010 Interactive Awards ceremony at the Copley Marriot in Boston. Nearly 1,000 people showed up to celebrate the year’s finest advertising, marketing and design work from local brands, agencies, freelancers and in-house experts.
I had the honor and privilege to be one of this year’s judges for the MITX annual event. While the role of the judge is to be impartial, judges can also be swayed by presentation, and I can’t help but lend a couple of helpful tips to my peers. These tips aren’t a “secret sauce” that will allow you to clinch next year’s Interactive Awards, but they will make the judging process more accurate. After all, you’re displaying a great piece of work, and you want to be certain you’re giving it the presentation it deserves.
Keep it Real
Some submissions are complex, and as such require instruction along the way. It can be difficult to find the right way to guide the judges through your piece.
Winners of Best Search 2010: StudioCom (Photo by Jeff Cutler)
Do: Include your instructions in the essay portion, or present them in an opening screen in the video portion of the submission. This gives the judges some background before they even see the piece. Important instructions can then be repeated verbally during the video or throughout the essay.
Don’t: Overlay notes on top of the actual piece. This makes it difficult to evaluate the piece in its entirety as the user would see it.
Less is More
With so much to share about your piece, it can be tempting to create a long, detailed PowerPoint or Video submission. But where is the line between giving the judges a complete understanding, and losing them entirely?
Do: Highlight the significant points in under five minutes. Worried about giving enough detail? Do create a video and test it out on a friend or colleague to get their feedback.
Don’t: Try to share every single detail, at the expense of efficiency. One submission I received was a 40 minute long PowerPoint, and although it was beautifully done and held my attention, I had 35 other submissions to review within ten days!
Quality Over Quantity
Going back to the short amount of time we have to judge the submissions, similar rules apply to the essays.
Do: Follow the 3 C’s of writing: Clear, Concise and Compelling. Nail the pitch of your submission, and if it resonates with your work, it will help tremendously. Try creating an outline before writing the actual essay, to be certain you’ll be hitting all of your major points without becoming redundant.
Don’t: Overwrite your essay. Lengthy essays have more information, but they also tend towards redundancy, or else add so many details that they serve to confuse rather than clarify.
Show, Don’t Tell
As a judge, I am clearly not in the environment the actual end user is in when they come across your piece. Try to recreate your intended environment.
Do: Simulate the environment of the submitted piece. For example, if you are submitting interactive ads, set up a separate server that will host the interactive set of ads on a site. This will allow the judges to experience the ad in context. (Some submissions took advantage of eyewonder to simulate the interactive ad experience – another great option.)
Don’t: Assume you can make up for a lack of environment by describing the scenario in more depth in your essay. (See above: less is more!) This asks the judges to take what the essay states and imagine parts of it in the submitted work, which is much less compelling.
Do Usability Testing.
No, I am not trying to put a shameless plug for our company… I really do think every submission should invest time and energy into the user experience.
Do: Treat your judges as end users. Consider their potential knowledge base and cater to what they will need as they view your submission.
Don’t: Assume judges are giving leeway and taking into consideration that they are not your typical client base. User experience was prevalent in most of the judging discussions and rating, making us the end user for this situation.
Despite the short-comings of some presentations, my fellow judges and I were incredibly impressed with all of the pieces submitted. If you are a brand, agency, freelancer or in-house expert, please submit a piece next year for the MITX Interactive Awards. And take some of these tips with you so as to create user-friendly submissions. Appreciative judges can help in the end.